When I began this journey in January, one of the first books I found was Mia Birk’s book, Joyride, Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet. I loved it and took the advice to heart. So I felt it was really a matter of fate when I read that she was coming to speak at Union College as part of their Minerva series.
I marked my calendar months in advance, because this was something I was not going to miss. I sat with 100 + people and heard her talk this past Wednesday. Because I had read the book, I knew her story. The focus of her talk was not to reiterate her book, it was to talk about keys to success in the work of encouraging bicycling as a form of transportation a the local community. She was an excellent speaker and for the area in which I live I took away these points.
This will depend of a ground- up movement. I do not see political leadership in our area around this issue, which is really too bad. Lack of political leadership means less opportunities for funding and staffing which is important to really move this work forward.
We need more advocacy programs. Schenectady has almost nothing. Albany and Troy seems to be doing things with groups like the Albany Bicycle Coalition and Troy Bike Rescue, just to name two. Schenectady has people who ride. It has put money into and received grants for making areas more bikeable, and streets as “multiuse,” but we need to get to the “how” part. I think people generally get that biking is a good idea. We need to let them know how to do it. Mia called these “intensive encouragement programs.”
Loved this idea: Send out a survey asking if people are interested in biking opportunities locally. If they respond, you have a tote that you drop off at their house by bike that includes in it: a family -friendly bike map, leg bands, coupons for helmets and lights, a patch kit… I am thinking this would be great to try out through our town and maybe grow it from there.
I really, really wish we had a local bike shop that catered to commuter biking, a bike rescue organization and a “Schenectady Bikes” advocacy group or Schenectady Bicycling Coalition. I occasionally fantasize about starting a website and getting bike shops and bike groups to post and maybe building momentum that way.
We need to create a plan and get community buy- in. We have possible local funding with a grant program called “Community and Transportation Linkage Planning Program.” So high on my to-do list is to follow-up with my contact in the county to propose this. Keeping track of numbers, counting, seems really, really important too.
After Mia Birk’s talk I spoke briefly with her and had her sign my book. I had planned to ask if I could get a photo with her to put in the blog, but at the time I became more focused on who I talk with in our community to keep these ideas moving forward. She pointed out two people across the room and at that moment it seemed more important to go have a conversation there and any notion of pictures fell out of my mind.
So the picture is Nott Memorial, a very beautiful building on Union college where Mia Birk spoke. Along with her excellent ideas I also took away this: any change requires a lot of work, a lot of attention to details and a “thick skin.” There will be push back. There will be resistance, that just comes with the territory.