As Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Well, the League of American Bicyclists – the nation’s oldest bicycle advocacy organization – sure lives by that advice. They never stop moving to get more Americans out on their own two wheels. This month, we’re thrilled to be along for the ride, partnering with The League to support a cohort of awesome bike initiatives from across the nation.
It’s no secret that we’re a little bike-obsessed, here at ioby. Maybe you caught our presentation at The League’s 2015 National Summit in DC, back in March? Bikes give us hope. Roads that aren’t too scary to bike on give us hope. Neighborhoods that have bike co-ops and repair stations give us hope. It’s like the writer H.G. Wells said: “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”
So please allow us to introduce the leaders of three of the initiatives, below. And don’t forget to check out the League’s campaign page, too.
Rockville Bike Hub Mobile Shop
Steve Andruski, president of the board of the Rockville Bike Hub, wishes everyone would get around by bike, but he’s particularly interested in bringing more women and more minorities into the vibrant Rockville/Montgomery County cycling community. “I think cycling in general has tended to be male-dominated and white,” he says regretfully. For women, there are several limiting factors. “They’re put off by the attitude of some men that you’ve got to be constantly competing and pushing,” says Andruski. “There’s also the lower level of encouragement that girls get in doing mechanical things.” And for some minorities in Rockville, the limiting factor can be the cost of repair and maintenance.
These are the groups Andruski hopes to serve with Rockville Bike Hub’s new pop-up bike repair shop, which you’ll find at the Rockville farmers’ market, starting in May. The shop will use a sliding scale pay model, turning no one away, and bike diagrams will be done in multiple languages, including Spanish. Andruski also hopes to use the shop to gather momentum for a women-cyclists’ night, taught by women.
LeTS Roll! Traffic Stress Mapping with the Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire
Here’s a dismal fact: New Hampshire is the only state in New England that does not have a complete streets policy in place at the state level. That basically means that in designing and maintaining streets, New Hampshire thinks not like a pedestrian or a cyclist, but like a driver behind the wheel. In other words, cars still rule the road. Which leaves advocacy groups like the Bike-Walk Alliance to do much of the thinking on behalf of pedestrians and cyclists. So Tim Blagden of Bike-Walk is all over the problem of how to get would-be cyclists (about 60% of us, on average, would bike if we thought the roads were safe enough) in the saddle.
An important part of the solution, Blagden believes, is a technique called Level of Traffic Stress (LeTS) mapping. That’s where you go out and collect a bunch of data on street widths, speed limits, parking patterns and so on, in order to classify each of a town or city’s roads according to traffic stress, or foot-and-bike-friendliness. This way, cyclists can easily find routes that won’t be death traps, and can avoid high stress areas like highways or tricky intersections. LeTS mapping is a relatively new concept, introduced in 2012, and already it’s been used in San Jose, Fort Collins, Ottawa, Portland, San Francisco, and lots of others. It’s one of the fastest and cheapest ways to make cyclists safer on the roads.
“It generates pretty darn good results without too much effort,” explains Blagden. “You don’t have to poll people. You just look at how the roads are built. The research has basically been done that says ‘if the roads are built this way, here’s how people are going to react to it.’”
Right now, the Bike-Walk Alliance is raising the money it will need to hire a summer intern extraordinaire, who’ll collect the data for a LeTS map of the 19 towns that comprise Central New Hampshire. Visit their campaign page to learn more.
Ride On! A new bike co-op for vibrant Leimert Park, Los Angeles
Contrary to the L.A. stereotype, the city’s Leimert Park has a large cycling community. Thriving cycling advocacy groups, like Black Kids on Bikes, meet there for weekly rides, and lots of residents bike to run errands, to get to work. In fact, what’s missing isn’t cyclists – it’s affordable repair shops. The single bike repair stand installed in the park last year by the city has gotten so much use that the pump is already worn out.
“I was looking at a guy yesterday on a bike and both of his brakes were shot,” says Adé Neff, a martial arts teacher and cycling advocate with Black Kids on Bikes, “and I’m thinking, how does he ride a single block? People are riding bikes out of necessity, and they don’t have the knowledge or the resources to go to the bike shop and pay for someone to have it fixed.”
That’s why Neff and his partners are creating a repair co-op in the area, for anyone to join. “To have a co-op in this area would help people so much because then you could just come in and for a minimal fee, you have somebody show you how to fix your bike, so now you’re empowered to be able to do it yourself,” explains Neff. He’s already run successful pop-up repair shops in the park, but wants something more permanent for the community. Check out his campaign page to learn more, and to donate toward new bike stands, wrenches, chains, pumps, lube, brakes, cables, and a self-sufficient next generation of L.A. cyclists.