The ninth annual Bike Palo Alto event this Sunday will feature a celebration of the life and legacy of former Councilwoman Ellen Fletcher, whose advocacy for the two-wheeled mode of transportation sparked a chain reaction throughout the city now known for its welcoming attitude to bicyclists.
The afternoon gathering will also commemorate the newly renamed Fletcher Middle School, which was formerly known as Terman Middle School until this school year.
Fletcher was a longtime advocate for safer bike paths and bridges, and encouraged citizens to choose biking as their main mode of transportation. Kathy Durham, co-founder of Bike Palo Alto and Fletcher's friend, credits her with the increase in cycling residents, with over 40 percent of Palo Alto middle schoolers choosing to bike to school.
"It's because of (Fletcher) and the people that worked with (her) through the '70s, '80s and '90s that we were able to make the encouragement of bicycling successful," Durham said.
Bike Palo Alto will begin at 1 p.m. at Fairmeadow Elementary School where participants can choose from three self-guided routes: the red route, the blue route and the yellow route. The red and yellow routes both utilize the Ellen Fletcher Bike Boulevard, and the red route will pass by Fletcher Middle School, formerly Terman Middle School.
"We are encouraging more people to choose biking more often," Durham said.
This sentiment is reflected in Fletcher's life and achievements, particularly her passion for the improvement of cycling routes throughout Palo Alto.
"Maybe that is Ellen's legacy," Audrey Gold, president of the Fletcher Middle School PTA, added. "Ordinary people (can bike too), you don't have to be a fitness guru."
The celebration will be held at Fletcher Middle School featuring remarks from Mayor Liz Kniss; Fletcher's son Jeff Fletcher, who will speak on behalf of the family; and others who knew the late councilwoman. The 15-minute program beginning at 3 p.m., open to the public, will also include refreshments and a display assembled by the school library.
"This event is really just celebrating the remarkable person that Ellen was. … She really made a difference in the Palo Alto community," Gold said.
Fletcher's advocacy for cyclists as well as her life will also be honored at the campus library, which will introduce books to their collection that staff believe reflect her story.
"(Fletcher's impact) is a lot more than this one-time event," Gold said. "This is a part of a big picture, but we're just taking a moment here out of our busy lives to celebrate and have fun."
Bike Palo Alto is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30, at Fairmeadow Elementary School, 500 E. Meadow Drive. High school and middle school students must have waivers signed by their parents or guardians to participate. The renaming dedication will take place at 3 p.m. at Fletcher Middle School, 655 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto.
For more information, including maps of each route, visit bikepaloalto.org.