Ellen Fletcher rode a bicycle in 1979

Bike activist Ellen Fletcher runs for Palo Alto City Council in 1979.

Ellen Fletcher Palo Alto City Council 1979

Ellen Fletcher is one of my personal heroes. In this photo she’s running for a City Council seat in Palo Alto, California. In the early 1970s, Palo Alto began building a bikeway system. (John Forester vociferously fought bike facilities begining in this time period after police ticketed Forester for riding in the street and violating Palo Alto’s mandatory bike path law.)

Fletcher was instrumental in the creation of the nation’s first bike boulevard in 1982, and today the bikeway is named in her honor.

She’s 80-something years old now and lives in a retirement home off of Middlefield Road, from where still rides a bicycle to get around town.

Photo from Palo Alto Historical Association.


  1. R.I.P Ellen. What a wonderful photo of an amazing woman who shook the sensibilities of her car-oriented small city and wouldn’t back down. Anyone who travels by bike through Palo Alto or surrounding communities can thank her for the pleasant bike-friendly streets and roads we enjoy.

    I’d like to know more the mandatory bike side path law in Palo Alto. I’ve read bits and pieces online, but do you know which streets they marked the sidewalks on to keep bikes out of the roadway?

  2. Palo Alto had a mandatory bike path law in the early 1970s. The city marked the sidewalks along Middlefield and parts of Embarcadero as “bike paths,” after which Forester filed suit.

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