Many San Francisco Bay Area cyclists know about Ellen Fletcher’s long history of promoting cycling in and around Palo Alto. She served on the Palo Alto City Council in the late 70s and as Vice Mayor in 1980-81, where she worked to promote cycling through changes in city code, and was instrumental in lobbying Caltrain to pilot bikes on board in 1992. It’s through her efforts that Bryant Street became a Bicycle Boulevard in 1982. Ellen still actively promotes cycling in Palo Alto through her citizen activism, volunteering at Bike To Work Day by handing out schwag at Palo Alto City Hall, and organizing volunteers for Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition valet bike parking at Stanford games and other events along the Peninsula.
Ellen has told me a little about cycling to her work in World War II London. As a young teen, she biked to her factory job. Until recently, I had no idea that she was among 10,000 Jewish children who were evacuated out of Nazi Germany through Kindertransport. She’s among the very very few who reunited with her parents after the war, eight years after she left them in Germany.
Ms Fletcher was invited to speak at a Jewish school on Friday. At 82 years old, she still rides her Breezer Villager to get around, and she rode her bike to the school in spite of the cold rain yesterday.
You can read about part of her story in todays Mercury News: “A Holocaust kid shares story of escape with students.”
It takes more than sporadic showers to stop Ellen Fletcher from riding her bike around Palo Alto. So when a Jewish school in town asked her to speak about her escape from Nazi Germany as a kid, she showed up on a rainy Friday ready to go.
England offered safety, but the Jewish children still were classified as “enemy aliens” and not refugees. At school and play, English children teased Fletcher because she was German. “To them, I was a Nazi!” she said. “They called me Nazi!”
Props to Carlos.
Update: The original story at the San Jose Mercury News has expired. A copy is available here.