Reintroducing, Peter Gray!

You may be familiar with me as an advocate for WABA, especially from my ten years as a member of the WABA Board of directors.  But what many of you might not know is that for the past few years, after I retired from my federal legal career, I have been volunteering with the WABA Advocacy team.  I have been active on transportation issues in Montgomery County and in Maryland as a whole.  

Leaving the Board, I felt it was time to formalize my role with the WABA staff and am pleased to announce my new position as WABA’s Maryland Organizer.  In that role, I will be an unpaid member of the WABA Advocacy team, working on our advocacy for equitable active transportation matters in the region, but focussed on these issues in Montgomery County and at the Maryland State level.

This means I will take my experience in working with elected officials, transportation agency employees, WABA advocates and bike/ped advocates throughout the state of Maryland to help create more equitable and usable networks of biking and walking infrastructure.

My journey as an advocate for people who walk and bike began with my interest in biking as a child in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I discovered that biking was a great way to expand my geographic horizons (ie – get out of the house!),  have fun with my friends, and see the city from a different point of view.  I renewed my interest in biking decades later when I moved with my family to take a job as a trial attorney for the US Department of Justice Antitrust Division in 1990. I slowly got back into bicycling around my neighborhood near Sligo Creek in Wheaton/Silver Spring and accessing the Georgetown Branch Trail to make a circuitous commute to my downtown DC office.  Over 20 years ago, this led to my attending a meeting of the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail to complain about poor trail conditions, which in turn led to my becoming part of the CCCT Board and leading the Coalition as Board Chair for five years.  That stint as Chair of the CCCT introduced me to the joys of Montgomery County politics, testifying in front of the County Council and engaging with the great professionals who work for the County’s Planning and Transportation departments.

In 2012, I was pleased to be asked to join the WABA Board and over the past ten years have come to learn and love everything about WABA and its advocacy relating to active transportation and safer streets. More recently, I have been heavily involved in projects like the Bicycle Master Plan, Silver Spring Circle, Fenton Street Cycletrack, and many more trail and protected bike lane projects.  I also have been involved in organizing the creation of Montgomery County Families for Safe Streets.  I look forward to hearing from all of you who walk, bike, and use all mobility devices to get around Montgomery County.  Contact me at peter@waba.org!

Meet WABA’s new Executive Director!

by Joanne Neukirchen, President, WABA Board of Directors

WABA’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Ludwig Gaines starts today as WABA’s new Executive Director.  

Ludwig brings a wealth of experience to WABA—he has guided nonprofits through periods of growth and change, built deep relationships with historically marginalized communities to grow movements, and grappled with the complex reality of changing policy to improve people’s lives here in the region. He is a 21-year resident of the City of Alexandria, where he lives with his wife Crystal, son Bryce and daughter Laila. Ludwig is a Howard University School of Law graduate and studied at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He has received numerous public service awards. I, and the Board, can’t wait to see what he accomplishes at WABA.

Getting here hasn’t been a short road. We worked closely with staff and a team of consultants at Nonprofit HR to build a shared understanding of what WABA needed in a new leader, and launched a nationwide search in July of last year. We spoke to many, many experienced and thoughtful candidates, and I couldn’t be happier that our rigorous hiring process brought us to Ludwig. 

Ludwig’s professional career includes over a decade of service in local government as an elected and appointed official as a member of the Alexandria City Council, Planning Commission, Human Rights Commission, and Metro Washington Council of Government’s Transportation Planning Board. He established the African American Leadership & Engagement program at Planned Parenthood, led a regional nonprofit for many years, and has worked as a consultant in a variety of capacities supporting nonprofits and businesses regionally and nationally.

I want to express my gratitude to WABA’s staff, and in particular to Kristin Frontiera, who stepped in as Acting Executive Director, for keeping WABA healthy and moving forward through this transition, and setting our new Executive Director up with a strong foundation for success. I’m sure you’ve gotten emails recently about the steady stream of advocacy wins and the growth of our Trail Rangers outreach program. I know many of you read them, because we just wrapped up our strongest year-end fundraising campaign ever. I am so excited to introduce Ludwig to this generous, passionate community.

I’m sure you’ll hear more from Ludwig and our staff in the coming weeks. It’s going to be a busy few months and we’re working on some opportunities for you to get to know Ludwig better, so stay tuned.

Meet Jeslyn Zakes, Our New Membership and Database Coordinator

Hey there! My name is Jeslyn Zakes and I am the newest member of the WABA team as the Membership and Database Coordinator.

Since childhood, I’ve held a very intimate relationship with biking. As a teenager growing up in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where there is minimal public transportation, my bike became a means of freedom. I remember the excitement my family felt when an offshoot of the Empire State Trail—a 750 mile bike path that connects Buffalo to New York City,—was extended to the park at the end of my street. Since then, this trail has become pivotal to my family’s outdoor recreational experience, from long dog walks to bike rides along the Erie Canal.

When I arrived in DC five years ago for college, I was immediately inspired by the variety of ways that residents use bikes to better their lives. I still have a lot to learn about bicycling, but am lucky to be a part of such a vibrant community full of passion and knowledge.

As the Membership and Database Coordinator, I hope to share the excitement that I once felt about a simple bike path with every member, and every bicyclist that I connect with. If you’d like to chat about bikes, databases, membership, or anything really, feel free to reach out via email at jeslyn.zakes@waba.org. Nice to meet you!

Meet Jonathan Kincade, Our New Communications Coordinator

Hi all! My name is Jonathan Kincade and I’m excited to be the new Communications Coordinator here at WABA.

I’m fairly new to the DC area and love its diversity of transit options. I grew up riding a mountain bike around spread-out Georgia neighborhoods and didn’t hop on my first road bike until well into adulthood. That exploration was followed by an intermittent relationship with biking and it had been a few years before I started riding again. Now I ride both to commute and just for fun. Riding a trail on a sunny day, stopping for a picnic at some point, is a fantastic way to spend a Saturday. It brings back the intrepid feelings I experienced as a kid.

As Communications Coordinator I get to link my passion for creativity with my love for doing things outside. I’m happy to be part of a team whose work often involves keeping city biking fun. I’m excited to interact with you and hear your stories too—about biking or anything else! I’m always happy to chat and can be reached at jonathan.kincade@waba.org.

Meet James Brady, Our New 20 X 20 Campaign Organizer

Hi!  My name is James Brady and I’m excited to be taking on the role of 20 X 20 Campaign Organizer with WABA.

My fascination with bicycles started  when, as a twelve year old, I saw the movie Breaking Away in 1979.  Soon after my friends and I had all managed to acquire 10-speeds with which we terrorized the city because there were no protected bike lanes and none of us understood weird concepts like “right of way.” Despite the danger of street riding without a helmet (which, to be fair, no one wore at that time) I survived to move to DC in 1992 where I have lived and worked ever since.  My background is in environmental activism so I’m happy to be able to continue combining bikes, outreach, and action like the time I organized a bicycle blockade to shut down Olympic events in Beijing. Just kidding. I mean, I did do that but that’s not what I’ll be doing here at WABA.

I’m excited to work on the 20 X 20 campaign because it’s an opportunity to support not only street safety but issues of access, opportunity, and equity in DC and the surrounding area.  As the parent of a thirteen year old who regularly bikes all over the city, I’m happy to be a part of ensuring that he and his friends have safe and protected places to ride and are as safety minded as is possible considering that they are a bunch of unsupervised thirteen year olds who believe that they are invincible.  I’m equally happy to be engaged in looking for ways to improve all forms of access in the city for all of our residents whether that means safer streets for drivers and cyclists, better walkability for pedestrians and families, or any of the many other transportation issues that DC needs to address on the regular.Our goal is to have 20 more miles of protected bike lanes in DC by the end of the year so if that seems like a campaign you’re interested in feel free to contact me at James.brady@waba.org.

Meet Anna McCormally, our new Events Coordinator

I remember my first time riding my bike in the city. It was 2013, my first year in DC. I got off the Metro at McPherson Square Metro and rode north on 14th Street to Columbia Heights.  It was a little scary, but I felt powerful and free, alert to my surroundings, present in my body…and completely hooked on bicycles! Since then, whether I’m exploring the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail with a friend, training for a race on Beach Drive, or just enjoying the sun on my morning commute, my bike has gotten me wherever I need to go. 

My first experience with WABA was as a participant in the 2014 50 States Ride. Group rides are a great way to  build community, explore the city, and grow your confidence on a bicycle, and I can’t wait to share the 50 States Rides and WABA’s other signature rides with you in my role as events coordinator. We’ll buckle our helmets, hop in the saddle, and celebrate the work that WABA’s advocates, members, and supporters are doing to make the DC area safe, fun, and accessible to bicyclists.

Want more details about one of WABA’s signature rides?  Interested in volunteering to create an awesome experience for your friends and neighbors? Feeling unsure which of our rides is right for your level of bicycling?  I’d love to talk about that and anything else related to WABA events. Drop me a line at anna.mccormally@waba.org. I can’t wait to go on a bike ride with you.

Meet Sydney Sotelo, our Adult Education Coordinator

Hello! My name is Sydney Sotelo, and I am very excited to be joining WABA as the new Adult Education Coordinator.

A true lover of all things outside, in my free time you can usually find me biking, hiking, rock climbing, backpacking, camping and playing outside with my dog, Waffle. For the past six years, I have worked as an Outdoor Recreation educator, helping people to get outside, learn new skills and invest in the natural world around them. I believe that public lands, parks, trails and paths can teach us so much about ourselves, and I am passionate about using the outdoors as a catalyst for personal growth and change.

I come to WABA with an eagerness to inspire others to try a new skill. I believe that with a supportive, encouraging environment, effective teaching and a whole lot of stoke, anyone can learn to do anything. I value hands on teaching as an opportunity to engage with others and create meaningful, transformative experiences. So, try something new! You might learn a little bit more about yourself along the way.

If you would like to get to know me better, learn more about my teaching philosophy, or just need to get over the fear of taking that first step to getting on a bike, feel free to reach out to me by email. I am happy to sit down for a chat and brainstorm new ways to learn! Check out all of our Adult Education classes online and feel free to reach me at sydney.sotelo@waba.org.

Meet Trey Robinson, our DC Bike Ambassador Coordinator

I am Trey Robinson and I am the new DC Bike Ambassador Coordinator at WABA!

I began riding bikes in college to get to and from classes and now use biking for transportation, fitness and fun. As a Maryland native, I first started biking in DC as a Trail Ranger with WABA. I did not know my way around the city but soon learned how to navigate by using various trails and bike lanes. I now bike through the city with confidence while using the resources that keep people on bikes safe. I can now lead friends on bike rides throughout DC, showing them all the resources that make cycling a fun time.

In my free time, I ride bikes with kids in the neighborhood and help fix small bike repairs to keep people riding.  I’m always sharing information about the various bike rides and trails in DC because riding bikes in DC is so fun! I’ve formed some great relationships with many people because of our common joy of cycling.

WABA has showed me that riding bikes is more than an occasional ride on the weekend. Cycling is a great form of transportation, exercise, and fun way to enjoy the outdoors. DC has the best places to ride and you also get to pass some historical places with beautiful scenery on your route. Biking in DC is a rewarding experience when you realize how much more efficient it is than driving.

As a DC Bike Ambassador, I’m eager to interact with people and share the benefits of riding bikes. I’ll be reaching out to pedestrians, motorists and bicyclists to encourage shared road use. I’ll also continue to do my best to model good behavior and respectful, safe road use for everyone. I hope my encouragement helps get more people bicycling in their daily lives. The DC Bike Ambassadors will help educate more people about some of the ways to make biking easier, fun, and safer.

I’m looking forward to speaking with more people to help them learn more about biking in DC. If you have questions or would like to become a DC Bike Ambassador, you can reach me at trey.robinson@waba.org.

Meet Tessla Wilson, our new Business Partnerships Coordinator

I am Tessla Wilson and I am the new Business Partnerships Coordinator at WABA!

I was raised by an industrious and extremely hardworking single mother of two. Being that my mother’s time and resources were extremely limited, teaching me to ride a bike was at the very bottom of her list—and in the absence of an older sibling, I was left to my own devices to learn. I spent many years being envious of the freedom that the neighborhood kids enjoyed riding bikes. They were able to explore beyond our street and build friendships that I was unable to join in on due to my lack of mobility on two wheels.  

It wasn’t until thirteen that I turned to the younger kids to teach me to ride. Being that none of them were WABA instructors, I lost a lot of skin (and pride) that day, but eventually succeeded. As my little family grew older, riding bikes became a cherished family past time that allowed us to explore our city together.

My college and early career was shaped by my desire to be an advocate for those who were not afforded the same privilege that I grew to have. It became my mission to not only be a voice for the marginalized but also to take an active part in shaping the future to one of equity and access for all. That same desire brought me to WABA, and I am so excited to work towards WABA’s vision of a healthier region (for both our environment and our bodies) with our local and national business partners! If you own or work for a company that is looking for partnership or sponsorship opportunities, I would love to chat or meet up for coffee. You can reach me at tessla.wilson@waba.org.

Meet Jonathan Oliver, our new Education Coordinator

Hello! I’m Jonathan Oliver, WABA’s new Education Coordinator responsible for running our adult education programs serving adults in the DC/MD/VA metropolitan region. I’m excited to join WABA’s mission to improve bicycling in our area. My primary goal is to help both new and current adult riders achieve their riding goals while having fun and being safe. About me: Riding BMX bikes as a kid with my neighborhood friends was when I first understood the sense of community, freedom, fun, and health benefits that bicycling can provide. I’ve always been interested in learning, helping people, and solving problems so it seemed natural to share knowledge through bicycle and fitness-related organizations and activities. Before coming to WABA, I worked in research & development engineering and program management. My focus was always learning and doing new things that might help people. For several years I’ve been an active volunteer with bike organizations, including WABA, doing rider and Ride Marshal training, working with newer riders to achieve their goals, developing and executing ride events, and pretty much anything bike-related. You’ll find me on everything from casual social rides and bike commuting to faster-paced long distance rides. Looking ahead: Imagine if everyone that wanted to ride could ride? If every rider had the comfort and skill level that they needed to safely ride on streets and trails? If every driver was safe and friendly to bicycles and always shared the roads? To help achieve these visions, I’m working with WABA’s excellent team of instructors to help adults learn to ride bikes and all riders to ride safely and comfortably on city streets, suburban and rural roads, trails, and while bike commuting to and from work. My efforts include planning, coordinating, and implementing several key WABA programs such as our Adult Learn to Ride classes, City Cycling classes, Community rides, Everyday Biking seminars, Bicycle Friendly Driver seminars, and other great offerings. I’m also working to bring bicycle education to areas not already served, identifying areas of need, and helping to implement effective programs to meet those needs. There’s a lot of work to do and a lot of biking fun to be had. If you or someone you know wants to learn how to ride, improve riding skills, and generally have fun on two wheels in a safe and supportive environment, please contact us at education@waba.org. Hope to see you on two wheels!