Month: February 2011

Safe Routes and Joyrides

The volunteer work I will do with biking involves serving on a town advisory committee called Safe Routes. It started as part of the Safe Routes to Schools national campaign, but in our town encompasses traveling safely by bicycle or foot the entire town.

I meet with one of the founders of the group and I have my work cut out for me. Jared gave me a huge map of our town with proposed safe routes mapped out already. I love maps! It is a thing of beauty, 2′ X 4′ with green and blues lines drawn for proposed routes.

My plan is to start biking/walking all the routes, see how they fare and see about getting them marked as such. Some involve creating paths through right of ways where cars could not go, but bicyclers or walkers could.

I have a lot to learn about the the language of planning. And I need to call a meeting of the committee and see if I can get more people on board.

Meanwhile… I keep reading and thinking about all of this. (AND PATIENTLY wait for the snow to melt) Right now I am reading Joyride by Mia Burke. Burke was Portland, OR bicycle coordinator from 1993- 1999 and led a time of rapid growth of Portland’s bikeways. While I do not find the book as well-written as Pedaling Revolution it is a great read and the more I read and understand what the possibilities are and why, the better an advocate I can be. And. I believe she will be here in May at Union college!!!

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The Pedaling Revolution: on being a spoke on wheel

While I watch the snow fall, the wind blow and the streets ice over yet again, I am taking time to read whatever I can to try and understand why at this moment I have become obsessed with biking again.

Our town has a committee called Safe Routes whose history and information I will write about in a later post. In attempting to re-energize it since a number of people responsible for it have moved, I told one of our town council members that I believe that there are lots of people interested in this. (What remains to be seen is if they will come on board this committee) I am not radical. I am not starting something new. I am more like a spoke on a wheel that’s been turning and is gaining momentum.

I have been thoroughly enjoying Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities, by Jeff Mapes. It is an excellent read, really well-written. I am learning a lot.

Like, New York City is pioneering a new kind of street that allows bicyclists to pedal mostly separated from cars and trucks. In 2007 NYC began consulting with Jan Gehl  a legendary planner considered the father of Copenhagen’s livable city movement.c

So while I was happily pedaling away in Tucson in the 1990’s enjoying how good it felt to get around by bike to work and play, a revolution was happening in transportation funding in Washington DC. It was combined efforts of  people who had been biking for a long time and had developed connections and political acumen to bring bicyclists to the political table.

As I read and savor this book I am thinking about how revolutions are not necessarily violent overthrows, as we may think of them.  Revolution comes from revolve, a turning. Like wheels on a bike, this pedaling revolution can grow and create a healthier society by spinning a little more each day.

Commuter biking or, my “AH HAH” moment

Part of why I started this blog what what I would call either a “duh” or “ah  hah” moment. Ah hah probably sounds nicer.

I lived in Tucson for 9 years. I loved Tucson and I biked to my classes at the University of Arizona. Then I biked to my job at the Food Conspiracy Co-op. I biked to work through my whole pregnancy. When my son was born we biked to La Leche League meetings and to friends’ houses. I had an awesome Burley trailer that a friend loaned me and my son rode in while I pedaled. They were good times. I was also in the best shape I have ever been in. I know Tucson more by bike than I do by car.

It’s now 13 years later and we are very settled in upstate New York. And, I am not in the best shape as I live in these middle-age years…I still remember the first time I took my son in his trailer to a nearby park. THE HILLS!! I realized how flat Tucson was that day.

Since then I have biked some and mostly in the summer. And I miss it. So I recommitted myself to biking and this year will start biking in March, 2011. (I am still slightly wimpy about cold and afraid of ice.)

We have an awesome bike path nearby which I have often biked and walk on all seasons. What I figured out was that that was not what I was as concerned about. I want more bike racks in town. I want to bike to Upper Union street and have a bike rack to lock my bike too. Currently there are zero. I want to encourage commuter biking and do more of it myself.

It was an AH HAH moment for me because I have felt guilty for my lack of participation as a “Niskayuna Bike-Hike  Path trail ambassador”. When I ride, I ride to work or on an errand. I don’t ride on the bike path as much I bike to work and home.

What I have recently learned, is that there’s a whole world of people who bike to work. There are even all kinds of  different styles of bikes where you can sit more upright, wear nice working clothes, and have the chain covered.  AH HAH!!!