Tribute to Deb Hubsmith

We are taking a moment to mourn the passing of one of our movement’s great leaders, Deb Hubsmith, who died peacefully on Tuesday of acute myeloid leukemia. She left us too soon. The loss of her energy and wisdom and leadership is a terrible one to endure. We shall also take a moment to celebrate her life, and let her inspiration survive and push us to fight harder for a better world.

Dedicated to social change her whole adult life, Deb turned to bicycle advocacy in 1998 when she founded the Marin County Bicycle Coalition. So many accomplishments would follow, for which we are forever indebted to her. Working with the California Bicycle Coalition, Deb led the effort to create the nation’s first state-level Safe Routes to School program, redirecting more than $115 million in federal safety funds over five years to help kids walk and bicycle safely to schools throughout California. She took her leadership to the national level and working with Congressman James Oberstar and other advocates, she played a key role in the 2005 victory of a national Safe Routes to School program that dedicated $1.1 billion for Safe Routes to School in all 50 states.

Deb was a visionary among visionaries. In 2005, she worked with Oberstar to include an innovative program in the federal transportation bill that serves as inspiration for our 2015 agenda. The National Nonmotorized Pilot Program provided grants of $25 million to four communities across the country to demonstrate the substantial number of trips people would take by foot or on a bicycle if a community made a significant investment. Today, the California Bicycle Coalition is lobbying for a new program that would do the same for communities across the state.

Finding a legislative author to carry the language to fund this program is the top priority of our state Policy Director, Jeanie Ward-Waller. She and our Executive Director have both worked closely with Deb Hubsmith over their careers. In a quick briefing today on the campaign, they shared their sadness over the tough loss of a good friend and ally. Then Jeanie said, “if Deb were here, she would be chasing after legislators on the street and tackling them until they agreed to carry our language. I feel her with me challenging me to be just as tenacious.” With that, they quickly adjourned the meeting and went back to work, fighting for this program, and the safety of people walking and bicycling, as Deb would want.

Deb Hubsmith will always be an inspiration to us.