August 24, 2021

Riding Along with Paul Selden

Paul Selden (left) presenting a grant to Portage Mayor Patricia Randall to purchase lights for Portage’s Bike Light Giveaway Program (August 17, 2021).

Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature founder and President of Bike Friendly Kalamazoo (BFK) Paul Selden. [On September 18th, BFK is hosting Ride For A Reason, a multi-charity bike event that will benefit CIS and other worthy organizations. Ride on, er, read on to learn more.]

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Paul has called Kalamazoo home for close to 50 years. His wife Mary worked in Kalamazoo Public Schools for nearly 30 years as a teacher for the deaf/hard of hearing. Prior to founding Bike Friendly Kalamazoo back in 2011, Paul owned a company that provided support to users of large-scale corporate computer systems with integrated documentation, help desk services, training, and awareness-building services. He started Bike Friendly Kalamazoo as a way to give back to the community after being side-swiped (but fortunately, not injured) on a bike ride. This happened to be around the same time his interest in cycling ramped up while trying to get in shape for one of his son’s wedding.

Alright, Paul: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

Pop Quiz

As the founder and President of Bike Friendly Kalamazoo, you also serve as Kalamazoo Bike Week’s Chair. It’s clear biking is a big part of your life! What is your first memory of biking? Was there a particular moment when you fell in love with biking?

Like many kids, I fell in love with bicycling when I got my first two-wheeler. I loved the feeling of freedom when the training wheels came off. I biked to school almost every day.

With the pandemic, more people began looking to engage in healthy, outdoor activities, and as a result, bike sales sky-rocketed. I recall reading in Encore that it was almost impossible to get a new bike early on in the pandemic. Is that still the case?

Yes, bicycles are in short supply. Bike sales grew quite a bit during the pandemic, just as it became more difficult to ship them to dealers. So there is some stock in local bike shops, but it is more limited. If you want a bike for next spring, now would be a great time to start looking and order in advance.

How have you seen this pandemic shape the biking culture?

It’s clear that bicycling, in general, has gained a larger audience. It’s a wholesome activity the entire family can enjoy. This is a complex question that connects with a growing environmental awareness and how great bicycling is for the mind and body. Speaking for myself, the pandemic caused me to become more aware of how Bike Friendly Kalamazoo could offer our brother and sister charities a way to help fund their programs though an outdoor event in the fresh air during a time when other avenues are closed off or restricted.

What one piece of advice would you give to those of us driving behind the wheel of a car or truck as to what we can do to help keep bikers safe?

The best simple advice I can give motorists is to give bicyclists at least five feet of safe passing room—just slow down and wait to pass safely when giving more room is not possible. In general, motorists can practice the golden rule when behind the wheel by offering bicyclists the same kind of courtesy they would like to receive on the road.

Bike Friendly Kalamazoo is organizing Ride For A Reason as a way to build community through bicycling. This first-ever local event will benefit fifteen organizations, including CIS. Thank you for including us!

It’s truly my pleasure.

Tell us how this Multi-Charity Bike Event, which will be held on September 18th from 9 a.m. to noon came to be and what you hope to accomplish? [The ride will start and end at the timber-framed Vicksburg Community Pavilion next to the Vicksburg Historic Village and has its own web page here.]

The Ride for a Reason Multi-Charity Bikeathon came about as a simple idea. During the height of the pandemic it was not clear how many charities in our area were going to be able to raise funds for their programs at a time with the need for their good work in the community was greater than ever. What was clear was that their traditional fundraising activities were being severely curtailed. It occurred to me that BFK could give back to the community by using our experience in organizing bicycling events and by inviting other charities to piggyback off an open slot in our Fall Bike Celebration Weekend lineup. Those that are participating agreed it made sense, and here we are. Working with so many wonderful organizations like Communities In Schools has been deeply gratifying for me personally. The feeling of working with so many big-hearted community leaders made those dark days of winter fly by.

What are you currently reading?

Help screens for learning how to use Facebook! [Paul chuckles.]

What is your favorite word or phrase right now?

Wonderful. It’s great!

Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been one of your caring adults?

Aside from my mother, father, and wife, some of my most memorable and caring adults have been the teachers who answered my questions with patience and understanding. I’ve been lucky. There are too many to single out just one. I try to pay that quality forward once in a while!

Thank you, Paul, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000+ Kids.

If you would like to be involved in some way with the upcoming Ride For A Reason event, click here to learn more. If you would like to Ride For A Reason for CIS of Kalamazoo, join our team by visiting this page.

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