The Heat is ON for U.S. Bicycle Infrastructure

A friend just forwarded me a link to a resolution adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, held in late June in Miami, Florida.


Exciting news…perhaps politicians will really start to get on board with this and realize that bicycling is one of many great solutions not only to ease traffic congestion on U.S. roads, but also as a solution to America’s obesity epidemic, general quality of life decline and other facets that we commuters all know and love about riding a bike.

Read the full text of this inspiring resolution by going to the U.S. Mayors Conference website.

What do you think about this? Are we really going to start seeing accelerated improvements on our streets? As always, we welcome your comments and thoughts.

Tampa’s First Critical Mass Ride

On July 25th, a historical event took place here in Tampa — the city’s first Critical Mass ride. Our sister city on the other side of Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, has had a CM ride for at least a year now…but like so many bike-friendly things, the folks on the Tampa side of the Bay lag behind.

Our friends from the Tampa Bicycle Co-op helped get this event up and running. Well over 50 cyclists showed up, from kids to mothers, senior citizens, punks and everyone in between — a nice mix from all cycling disciplines. The ride began at the Lowry Park Zoo and the route took the group from there to Channelside, Ybor City and other city highlights before looping back.

The group begins to gather and tires are pumped…
a little pre-ride maintenance

We had to wait out a bit of rain before getting underway — and that was a good time for the group to mingle and catch up with each other. I ran into some familiar faces and met a bunch of new folks (even some faithful readers!). When the thunder and lightning died down, Co-op cofounder and CM ride “leader” Lily Richeson said a few words, encouraging participants to be friendly and courteous to motorists, to be safe and to have FUN. Then we were off.

Florida Ave.

The chosen route was a good one — multiple travel lanes in both directions. That way, the group could use a full road lane and still leave at least one other lane for cars. This seemed to work out well, and we didn’t have any incidents. In fact, I was surprised at the positive reaction from motorists; we got a lot of “hello” honks, whistling and cheering from passing vehicles. Who knows? Maybe we blew their minds — Tampa motorists are notorious for not really knowing what is going on around them. Perhaps they thought we were some sort of Tour de France parade or something!

(photo by Inertialily)

And now for a little commentary: As you can see from the photos, the group took up an entire lane. Is this in violation of Florida’s “two abreast law? Yes. At intersections with stop lights, did “corking” take place to keep the group together? Yes. Did we stop at every stop sign? No. Is the world going to come crashing to a halt because of this? Absolutely not. Naysayers can say what they want, but it has been my experience that in EVERY group ride, club ride and charity event I’ve ever ridden in for the past 25 years (literally HUNDREDS of rides), the very same actions take place. These “bendings” of traffic laws are not unique to Critical Mass rides, despite the many negative press articles about CM events. In some circumstances, bending the rules keeps the group together, thereby safer. Think of it as one really l-o-n-g vehicle than 60 or more individual vehicles.

Does it make me uncomfortable to bend (or break) traffic laws? Sure it does…nevertheless, I strongly feel that this group didn’t go out of their way to interfere with traffic flow like so many other CM rides I’ve heard about do. There was plenty of hand-waving and shouts of “thanks” in spots where traffic was briefly held up to allow the group to pass through major intersections, and I feel that motorists probably appreciated that if they gave it any thought. Bottom line is — I firmly believe this group is on the right track in terms of road behavior. Certainly, as the subsequent monthly rides attract more and more cyclists, there will come a time when things could get out of hand — it takes only one stupid incident to ruin the “vibe” for everyone. Let’s pray that the organizers (whose hearts are firmly in the right place) continue to encourage participants to get out there and do the right thing — otherwise, motorist hostility, police crackdowns and all those other negative aspects come into play.

rain rollin'
(photo by Inertialily)

I’m already looking forward to next month’s ride!

Interesting Passage from “Pedal Power”…

I’m currently reading Pedal Power: The Quiet Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life by J. Harry Wray (thanks, Mindy, for the recommendation and stay tuned for a full review in the coming days). I came across a passage that I wanted to share with you:

“…despite the bike’s minority — possibly even fringe — status in our society, several things favor bike advocates. First, groups pushing for more bike-friendly policies are widely dispersed geographically, giving the potential to influence an array of congressmen. Second, they are well organized, as substantial effort goes into organizing and expanding local groups and connecting them. Third, by federal standards, they are not asking for much. Bicycling is so efficient that it does not take huge outlays to increase bike friendliness.

This leads to a fourth advantage: the absence of significant opposition. The kinds of changes bike advocates push for are so tiny that they mostly pass beneath the radar of the auto industry, for example. A bike lane here, bike racks there, kids riding bikes to school — such small things do not rouse the ire of potential opponents. Bike advocates hope that the cumulative effect of these changes will someday lead to significant reductions in auto usage, but each change in itself seems not to matter very much. Finally — and this advantage should not be discounted — is the transparent rightness of the cause. There are other just causes against which advocates must compete for limited dollars, and power can extort support for unrighteous causes, but the collective and individual advantages of biking are such that it is difficult to imagine a legislator opposing increased support for biking based on the merits. The other side of this coin, but equally important, is that a legislator rarely gets into trouble supporting bike growth. This is an important bargaining chip for biking interests.”

I’m convinced the author is correct — after all, this book is exhaustively researched and compiled and so far makes a great argument for the bicycle’s blooming importance in American transportation. So, if these advantages are there for bike advocates, why does it seem like we’re fighting an uphill battle? Sure, plenty of cities are getting it right — Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, Davis, Louisville, NYC, etc., but so many others are behind the times. What could we, as bicycle users and armchair advocates, do to help spur these processes along? Discuss! I’ d love to hear your thoughts on this topic…

Just Ask Jack — Deflecting the Naysayers?

Here’s an interesting question…and one I’m pretty well stumped on. Readers, we need your help with this one! If you’ve had experiences like those mentioned in the article, please leave your comments so we can help Karen out.

Karen submitted the following question:

“My husband and I live in Northern Arizona where it is quite expense to live even a modest middle class lifestyle but having no kiddos we just squeeze by. With the price of gas though, we looked for ways to cut back and since we live less than 5 miles from our work, we decided to sell one of our cars and buy bikes. We’ve been at it for over a month and probably bike in 3 – 4 days per week. It has really reduced our time at the pump since we also geared up with panniers and saddlebags. We make brief stops at the grocers from time to time rather than haul the car out of the garage. Since we also run the biking has been great cross-training.

Although we know several people at our work who also bike in we also get some remarks from a few people who seem to subtly suggest that we are trying to make a political statement or trying to look ‘hip’ or ‘holier than thou’. Yes, I am a liberal but I am also a hair and makeup girl and getting to work slightly messed up has been a mental barrier I had to overcame solely because I can’t stomach or afford $4+ a gallon – we have a mortgage to pay.

Do you ever get this?? If so, how do you handle it? Some of this comes from people who are a little higher in rank at work than us. I am a little tired of it but don’t feel like poor mouthing when so many other people are in far worse shape than us.”

We’re all pretty aware of how hot it is to be “green”…everywhere you turn, there’s some celebrity spouting off about how they’re making a difference. While that’s great — people coming around and realizing that living a more eco-friendly lifestyle makes sense — the incessant media attention on “outgreensmanship” gets kind of tiresome. On the whole, the bike commuters we’ve had the pleasure of riding with and communicating with through are not evangelical about their choice of transportation. We just do it because, for the most part, we love to ride bikes! And, of course, we’re getting exercise, reducing our carbon footprints and saving money.

So, my first “gut reaction” response to Karen was that negative comments like this arise from jealousy. While I’ve never personally been accused of being “holier than thou” (well, at least about bike commuting 😉 ), I’ve perceived a fair bit of jealousy in comments from coworkers, neighbors and friends. It’s something we’ve talked about around here for a long time — the folks who “would try to commute by bike, but…”

As far as the higher-ups with negative or snide attitudes, I sense that there’s a bit of territoriality at play here. After all, they’re the supervisors or senior staff members…THEY should be the ones with the brilliant ideas and the smart solutions — not some slightly-rumpled junior partner (who, by the way, is looking mighty fit and healthy these days)!

So, I’ve thrown out a couple of ideas as to where these comments come from, but I’m sure there are more. As far as solutions go, I try to stick to a fairly modest tactic my wife uses at work: “Why do I bike commute? Well, I can’t really think of anyone who couldn’t use some more exercise…and I’m saving money, too.” It’s better to deflect gently rather than to get hot under the collar (something I am NOT good at doing). Gentle deflections beat evangelicalism any day!

Now it’s your turn: have you faced these kinds of comments? What is up with that kind of attitude? And, what do you do to deflect the naysayers? Please leave your comments below.

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.

Tampa BayCycle After-party

Every year after Bike To Work Month has come and gone, the good folks at Tampa BayCycle hold an after-party/awards ceremony for participants. This year, as with last year, the party was held at Splitsville at the Channelside Bay Plaza in downtown Tampa — Splitsville is an upscale combination bar/restaurant/pool hall/bowling alley…in short, a FANTASTIC place to have a party!

splitsville interior

I was there with my family to cover the event for and also to receive my award (and also to eat free pizza, suck down a couple beers and play some pool…it’s how I roll!). There was a table full of swag and assorted prizes for award-winners, many of them donated by Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium, one of the most commuter-friendly and professional bike shops I’ve ever patronized. Big winners came away with NiteRider MiNewt headlight sets, while “individual challenge” winners could choose from new helmets, U locks, blinkie sets and other goodies.


Jim Shirk, dedicated Tampa Bay-area bicycle advocate and good friend to all cyclists, was recognized by Tampa BayCycle as “Bicycle Advocate of the Year”, a title he richly deserves. Jim gave a brief speech after accepting his award. Here he is getting his “trophy” from Gena Torres, chairperson of the Hillsborough County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Right behind them is Julie Bond, longtime friend of and a formidable advocate in her own right:

Jim Shirk

This year, I received two awards…one for recruiting others to participate in Bike To Work Week and one for participating in the “Individual Challenge” by riding 4 out of the 5 days during that week. Here’s my boy holding up my certificate…a boy quite proud of his bike-ridin’ Daddy:

proud boy

In addition to the certificate, I scored a new Kryptonite U lock and a Planet Bike front/rear blinkie set; both will be very useful for continuing our car-lite lifestyle. My wife even won a raffle, securing a Cateye wireless cyclocomputer for her bike…she’s always winning cool stuff at any event she attends!

Here’s a complete list of the winners (as provided by Tampa BayCycle’s website):

Individual Challenge (most miles):

1st Paul Kavan, Individual, 160 Miles

2st John Walker, Individual, 158.3 Miles

3nd Tom Krumreich, Individual, 132 Miles

4rd Bob Wise, Individual, 100 Miles

5th Steven Rickert, Individual, 92.83 Miles

6th Greg McClain, Individual, 66.9 Miles

7th Scotty Graham, Individual, 60 Miles

8th Diane Vega, Individual, 51.2 Miles

9th Gabriel Tinnaro, Individual, 50.75 Miles

Individual Challenge (most days in no particular order):
Each rider will receive a prize.

Nico Stearley, 5 days, Veronica Mayne, 5 days, Jonathon Scott, 5 days

Alyssa Simko, 5 days, Brett McDavid, 5 days, Ruth Pettis, 4 days

Marie Andrews, 4 days, Rick Stutzel, 4 days, Jack Sweeney, 4 days

Company Challenge (each member of the team will receive one prize):

1st — Pinellas County, 356 miles logged:
B. Reed, B. Bauer, C. Kuntz, D. Palonder, G. Miller, J. Wider, N. Durbin, M. Hanger

1st — Tampa Bay Lightning, 354 miles logged:
G. Bradley, G. Wold, M. Milne, R. Ramsey, R. Campbell, S. Henry, W. Bedkowski, W. Anderson

2nd — Moffitt Cancer Center, 186.2 miles logged:
Lisa Adair, Maj-Linda Selenica, Nicholas Griffiths, Scott Mears

3rd — MacDill Airforce Base,136 miles logged:
Chris Lulei, Drew Hunter, Woody Josey

4th — Action Wheelsport, 100.5 miles logged: Phillip Schultz, Robert Petersen

5th — Bicycle Outfitters, 90 miles logged: Timothy Dubyak

6th — Butler Pappas Weihmuller Katz Craig LLP 58 miles logged:
Bill Lewis, Heather Lammers, Louis Schulman, Scott Chrabas, Trish Cohen

Everyone had a great time — we all shared stories, talked about bikes and enjoyed each others’ company. I’m really pleased that Tampa BayCycle does this for local riders…it demonstrates their commitment to bicycle advocacy in our area and gives us a nice, warm feeling of appreciation for our efforts.