Susie was a well-known bicycle and pedestrian safety advocate. She served as the Executive Director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington in Seattle from 1994 to 1998, traveled extensively around the world, and made a lasting impression on the lives of many. She was a beloved daughter and driven by a positive optimism that will not be forgotten. Her accomplishments and her love of life inspired her mother Nancy to begin The Susie Forest. Each tree planted signifies the magnitude and importance that one person’s life can have not just on those around them but on entire communities and generations.
Susie followed Jack into the Stephens family in Louisville on April 16 1965 (five and a half weeks late and on her namesake’s birthday). After Becky arrived, the family moved to Lexington and Susie encountered the first important tree in her life. It was a big tree and twenty feet up in it was a tree house. She watched her older brother and younger sister climb up the ladder, but she was afraid. On the day the Stephenses got ready to move to California her mother (also afraid) climbed up with her and spent some time watching the neighborhood and talking on the play phone.
The family moved back and forth across the country and Susie dodged lemons thrown by the boys next door in California and watched the men in the neighborhood fight the kudzu in the trees in Georgia. During this time the second important tree came into her life at her grandmother’s new home in Maine. It was a great tall tree with branches sweeping down to the ground and Susie and Becky hid from Jack and played house in the little “room” by the roots.
After a short stay in New Jersey, the family arrived in Spokane in December 1973. The next year the city put on a six-month long welcoming party (EXPO 74) and the Stephenses decided that if Spokane felt that way the wandering would stop. There were important trees in Spokane too. In front of the new house were two hazelnut trees and there are pictures of Susie and Becky climbing them.
Susie began her love of traveling the world with trips to Japan with the Girl Scouts and Rotary while in high school and a year in Asia while attending the University of Puget Sound. After college she spent two years teaching English in Japan and a refugee camp in Thailand. She journeyed to Europe to attend transportation conferences. And she spent six months biking in New Zealand and Australia.
Her working life was spent primarily with non-profits, as the director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, a founder and first director of the Thunderhead Alliance (now the Alliance for Biking and Walking), and the program director of the Methow Conservancy.
She began her own consulting business and was on her second job when she traveled to St Louis. She was hired by the National Center for Bicycling and Walking to lead a workshop on alternative travel for the National Forest Service. She walked across the street to make copies and get a cup of coffee. On her way back she was hit by a bus.
To learn more about Susie please read the selected articles:
“Susie was a bicyclist, an environmentalist, an activist, and a world traveler. She was dedicated to educating others about bicyclist and pedestrian safety, and she was killed in 2002 after being struck by a bus while legally walking across the street in St. Louis. The Susie Forest is a living, growing, legacy to my daughter Susie and her commitment to creating livable communities.”
“Susie had joyful enthusiasm… unflappable optimism in humanity… endless energy, joyfulness, enthusiasm, and positive spirit… an amazing ability to pull people together to do good work.”
“Susie was a passionate activist… a bright light in any group.”