Catching up with Charleston Moves’ new leader, Katie Zimmerman
Katie Zimmerman commutes downtown daily from West Ashley, with a yoga mat slung over her bicycle bag.
“The first question anyone asks me in a meeting is, ‘Did you ride your bike here?’” says Katie Zimmerman, who in April took on the role of executive director for bike and pedestrian advocacy group Charleston Moves. Her answer is most always “yes”: the College of Charleston grad has primarily gotten around on two wheels for a decade. But that doesn’t mean she considers her daily commute safe.
CM: What’s Charleston Moves’ biggest accomplishment thus far?
KZ: Bulking up our “people power.” For example, we have 58 people signed up for our new Neighborhood Ambassadors program, which encourages and trains people to advocate for safer walking and biking conditions in their own neighborhoods.
CM: What other successes has the nonprofit had recently?
KZ: We assisted with the new bike-share program at One80 Place and reinvigorated the Battery2Beach plan, as well as People Pedal, a peninsular bike plan we’re working on with the City of Charleston. And since transportation touches everything, we’ve collaborated on projects with Enough Pie, Keep Charleston Beautiful, and other entities.
CM: Are you really car-free?
KZ: Yes. I haven’t driven at all since 2007. Driving has always scared me; my parents had to make me get a driver’s license before college.
CM: But you’re not afraid of using your bicycle for transportation?
KZ: Not as afraid as I should be. I go over the Ashley River Bridge maintenance path every day, and that is not even remotely safe. I had an incident on King Street where the bolts holding my saddle snapped and I flew off and hit the ground. If I’d been on the bridge when that happened, I’d be dead.
CM: What will it take for walking and biking conditions to change?
KZ: Every time I ride, I think: if an elected official had to bike, walk, or use mass transit, things would be vastly different. We’re not going to solve any traffic problems—real or perceived—unless we start giving people choices so they don’t have to rely solely on their cars.
CM: Do you feel pressure in your new role?
KZ: Yes. I do not want to fail the community—or myself. I am relying on Charleston Moves to help me get around safely as well.
CM: How do you cope with that pressure?
KZ: A lot of yoga
Lives: In West Ashley
Past employment: She worked at Coastal Conservation League for eight years, including more than three as the air, water, and public health program director.
Go-to ride: Zimmerman has been getting around on the same Specialized bike, lovingly dubbed “Fernando,” since 2006.