Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why not every day?

East Hartford Bike to Work. Many of these folks cycled over from West Hartford.
Living in Connecticut and riding a bicycle for 90% of my transportation puts me in the curious position of being an extremely fringe element.  The thing that I do everyday, rain or shine, is something that the overwhelming majority of Connecticut residents consider absurd.  There is a small percentage (< 1%) that once a year think, "Hey! Driving to work every day is silly seeing that I'm less than 5 miles away and the weather is beautiful."  These open minded folks come out during Bike to Work Week in May, and try something new.   They have a great time and get their picture taken, but then the bike usually gets put back into it's marginal role of weekend recreational toy.  What is the mental block preventing more commuters from trying something that I've found to be an amazing alternative to single occupancy vehicle transportation?  Why not every day, or at least, why not many days?

Enjoying the camaraderie, food, and schwag
I'm torn between soul crushing frustration and the realization that this is a great opportunity.  The opportunity lies is the fact that only 0.3% of trips to work in Connecticut are by bicycle, that's even lower than the 0.6% national average.  That is a huge opportunity, a gaping hole of opportunity.  I was discussing with Pratt & Whitney's health and wellness coordinator our plant in Poland where 40% of the employees cycle to work.  How much healthier and wealthier would we be if just 10% of work trips were made using cycling, walking, or a combination of that with some public transit?  If anyone is interested in making that transition, or recommending a resource to a friend, they should check out www.ctrides.com.  CT Rides is a comprehensive resource for anyone trying to go "car light" - car pools, van pools, transit, telecommuting, biking, and walking.   Taking a two car family down to one car isn't rocket science, really.
Bikes overloaded the three racks by my office.  
In the interest of maintaining bike month momentum, I am organizing Dinner and Bikes on Saturday, June 7th.  You can get your tickets online, and tickets go up $5 at the door.  The tickets are sliding scale from $10 to $25.  The event is benefiting Bike Walk CT.  In addition to a vegan dinner, bicycle movie shorts, and a chat about Bikenomics, we will be highlighting Hartford Food System and local urban food production.
Because bikes deserve their own cultural events
The photo below has nothing to do with Hartford, expect that I rode my bike there.  This past Sunday I taught a Traffic Skills 101 course in Collinsville at the Canton Town Hall.  The support of cycling in that community was refreshing.  The attendees were sponsored by the local bike shop, Benidorm.  Folks were recreating joyfully on the Farmington Valley Trail.  The nearby coffee shop and deli was over flowing with bicyclists stopping in for a snack.  Bikes were organically taking over car parallel parking spots on the road.  Collinsville is looking to add bike corral parking, something I've suggested as a seasonal solution for Pratt Street in Hartford.  The East Coast Greenway is routed through Hartford, and would have a tourism draw and commuting utility like the Farmington Trail.   Instead of getting frustrated, I'm focusing on the opportunity.  Let's do this every day!

Not in Hartford, near Collinsville along the river.  Graffiti and rusty industry.


Kerri said...

Honestly? I think part of why so few people ride is that they are not given solid models. Not everybody wants to wear neons or racing jerseys. And, not everyone has the guts to be the odd person out, which is what it seems like when you roll up to a biking event and are one of three or four people wearing normal clothes.

It's the ongoing conversation I have about why there are so few people walking around in Hartford. Everybody wants this, but they'd rather bitch about it than be the person to do it.

I've been told that I'm stupid, that I'm doing something dangerous by walking around. Nobody seems to want to hear it that mostly, it's fine. They'd rather believe in the potential of hazard, especially for a woman.

I think it's the same with cycling. Instead of trying it out one or two or three times, it's easier to dismiss.

Tony C said...

I'm seeing a lot more walkers out and about in Hartford this Spring. Feels noticeably different.

Tony C said...

And I agree that human nature drives its to avoid being the "odd one out". The concentration on spandex and inadequate road bikes for commuting doesn't help.

Josh LaPorte said...

Good point from Kerri on the absurd outfits.

I walk everywhere. Like miles and miles a day. I own a bike, I try to use it, and it just fails. I am Not An Athlete and while I walk at a respectable 4 miles per hour I find that I get winded on small hills with the bike. I find it convenient for its speed but it's intimidating, uncomfortable, and just not enjoyable for me. Which is really too bad.

There are a lot of people who can conveniently walk to work or to run errands. There are a lot of people who have convenient bus commutes. There are people who love to bike on the weekend who could start biking for transportation. I encourage everyone to free themselves of the car in whatever way works for them.

Would love to see more bikers in regular clothes on regular bikes to send a message that you don't need a lot of fancy gear to use a bike.