Founder’s Story

mark-deathvalley1stdaySouthwest Bike Initiative is a collective effort made possible by my life experiences, education and training, and also the connections I’ve made through work and my cycling life.  The pivotal moment for me came in 1996 when I was 21 and training to be a professional driver.  I spent three months full time in commercial driving school, and then went over-the-road in an 18-wheeler.  Our experienced driving school teachers–one of them had driven a million miles–told our class that we were the most powerful vehicle on the road, therefore we had the most responsibility to take care of our vehicle and drive in a way that protected the public.  As I drove from coast to coast across the country and observed road designs and culture, I increasingly realized that we were not preparing the general population well enough and equipping people with the knowledge, skills, training and resources required to be safe

Since commercial driving school I’ve driven over 200,000 miles as a commercial driver (about one year over-the-road, and two years as a local truck driver), and I’ve bicycled even more miles than I’ve driven truck.  My extensive experience as an operator of all kinds vehicles, including bicycles, allows me to make important contributions to transportation planning, design, and operations teams.  I understand the value of good infrastructure to encourage healthy travel.  When I started cycling in Reno, Nevada my place of employment was off a busy arterial street called Rock Boulevard.  If Rock didn’t have a bike lane, I’m not sure I would have felt as comfortable traveling there.  I like bike lanes, and work to encourage safe use.  My goal with SBI is to deliver the best of all services, and combine them for the most effective approach.  In addition to encouraging designs that welcome walking and cycling activities, SBI delivers education to help users gain more confidence and be knowledgeable so that we can all be proactive about our safety, protect everyone, and take care of ourselves.   I continue to bicycle and walk daily, and drive our family automobile as well–my wife and I love to travel–and this experiential perspective informs the work that I do.  In the case of bicycling and walking, I’ve realized we can do a better job including these travel modes in all phases of transportation planning, design, and operations.  In fact, including walking and cycling benefits everyone, even those travelers using other modes.  I study the area of sustainable transportation with sincerity, and I’ve learned specific ways we can make things work better.  SBI is all about trying out new, collaborative, comprehensive approaches to uplift our communities and make our travel environments places where our families, children, and elderly populations enjoy spending time.

The timing is also right.  There are national initiatives aimed at addressing pedestrian and cycling safety, and an abundance of evidence our country and the world needs walking and cycling now more than ever.  A few things make SBI’s contributions stand out.  We use a systems approach, and this was part of my training as a geographer in college.  We look at all the interconnected parts and their relationships.  This is much more effective than managing projects piecemeal, or focusing on only one transportation mode.  A systems approach produces a cohesive and coherent travel environment that flows smoothly for users, while reducing mark-irontransportation costs and maximizing benefits to society.  I spent five years working with people of different abilities, including autistic individuals, and that experience helps me tune into the full spectrum of human sensitivities present in the travel environment.  When we attune road and sidewalk designs to the most sensitive users, and align our mobility services to the broadest range of users, we get a better product for everyone and a more inclusive, welcoming place, that feels more like us and moves us toward our vision of realizing the communities we desire to live in.  I also worked in an interdisciplinary unit at a university for five years, and that experience taught me about the power and effectiveness of truly diverse teams.  We need that in transportation because there are so many skill sets required to ensure the maximum return on our infrastructure investments, and deliver the widest range of value, including security, for the citizens of our diverse nation.  I love New Mexico and the Southwest.   Known for its multiculturalism, stunning landscapes and strong cultural heritage, we can let our dignity and mutual respect shine through as we travel.  Our amazing air and beautiful landscapes are calling us to get outdoors and enjoy life.   We can be leaders in securing our liberty to travel in sustainable, healthy ways with mutual respect as we pursue happiness, and live with dignity in a very important public place that connects every part of our lives together, the public road.

Yours Truly from Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A.

Mark Aasmundstad


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