If there was somewhere to get to, William Lee "Bill" Dooley Jr. would more often than not hop on his commuter bicycle to get there. A well-known advocate for bicycling and for bike safety, Dooley regarded cycling as superior transportation that didn't harm the planet and could be good for riders' health, in particular for the Black community, said his wife, Susan Dooley.
Dooley, who will be honored next week when bike safety legislation bearing his name gets a hearing at the State Capitol, died Dec. 23 at age 73. The cause was a rare and fast-moving cancer.
Dooley had already spent a career in the insurance industry and as a lobbyist when he retired at age 55 to spend more time on causes he cared about. His years of lobbying left him well-versed in the inner-workings of state politics and the drudgery of work by committee, a difficult but necessary process that he seemed to relish, said his friend Dorian Grilley, the executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.
"He was a strong voice that always spoke for what he believed in, but always took the time to listen and amplify the voice of others he was working with. He was patient and understood compromise," Grilley wrote for Dooley's memorial service.
A reader and consensus builder, Dooley frequently sent articles he found interesting or relevant to family and colleagues, said his friend Louis Moore, president of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota.
"Bill was the kind of person who was very much into seeking out the faction and forming the community," said Moore, recalling how Dooley ran a monthly breakfast at Maria's Café on Franklin Avenue for a group of African American men. The group discussed a wide range of topics and after the meetings, when the men got home, they invariably found an email from Dooley with more information pertaining to the discussion they just had.
"He was very friendly, very upfront, almost to the point of being jolly sometimes," said Moore. "Just a great communicator."
Born April 28, 1949, in Chicago, Dooley grew up reading the newspaper in part because it was the family business: His father ran a newspaper distributorship. He met his wife while attending Northern Illinois University. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2021.
They moved to Minneapolis, and Dooley fell in love with the city, said Susan Dooley. He graduated from William Mitchell law school and then worked in government affairs.
His work as a bicycling advocate included time served on the Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee and as a board member of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota and a member of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club.
The Bill Dooley Bicycle Safety Act would, among other things, mandate bicycle safety classes for all schoolchildren in Minnesota. Dooley felt it was important for kids to learn how to ride safely, said Susan Dooley.
She said they were returning from one of Dooley's chemotherapy treatments last year when they spotted a bicycle class at Kenny Elementary School not far from their house. "There were 100 kids with bikes and helmets, and kids going on rides with teachers. He was so excited about that," said Susan Dooley.
Dooley was preceded in death by son David, who died as an infant. He is survived by his wife, daughters Laura Glenn and Shana York and seven grandchildren. Services have been held.