Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Adding Bike Infrastructure is Easier Public Transportation Fix

Really, it's not that challenging for cities to add protected bike lanes. 

In fact, this spring the federal government made it easier for cities to add protected bike lanes. 
"The new rules open the door to treatments like road diets, bike lanes, and street trees — the kind of street designs that lead to a safe pedestrian environment, not high-speed traffic."
Adding bicycle infrastructure builds the livability of a city, making it easier to get around without a car. And when cyclists and pedestrians have easier access to streets, local businesses get more business!

With relatively flat cities like Milwaukee, with wide streets, it should be easy to create a highly-bikeable cities. Bublr Bikes, the Milwaukee bike share program, continues to expand around the city. 

Not only is it critical for increasing cycling traffic, building bike infrastructure could help bridge racially and economically divided cities. 

Crumbling Infrastructure Creates Divisions in Cities

City Lab dissects how a crumbling public transportation infrastructure in many American cities, including Milwaukee, creates a deeper division between rich and poor. 

Since many urban poor can't afford cars and funding is decreased for busses, a way to bridge this division is through bicycle infrastructure. Cities can more affordably build protected bike lanes and put bike-share facilities in under-served neighborhoods. 

Pittsburgh has Ambitious Plan for Cycling Infrastructure

Pittsburgh, PA, has embarked on an ambitious plan to make the downtown area more livable through more pedestrian access and converting traffic lanes into two-way protected bike lanes. Here's an article from Streetsblog about the changes in Pittsburgh and other places. 

Here's a video of the Pittsburgh mayor talking about the city's future plans. Pittsburgh was able to quickly create a protected bike lane, then let the public fully review the process before starting more, as detailed in this post

Bike Pittsburgh continues to work to develop more viable bicycle infrastructure in the city. 

Other Cities Plan Networks for Bike Lanes

New Orleans is adding protected bike lanes as well, and urban planner Emilie Bahr has a book for women cyclists in the city.

But unlinked bike lanes won't help solve the problem. You don't want to have your protected bike lane suddenly end in a busy street full of traffic! Seattle is working on that problem

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Black Soldiers On Historical Bike Journey Teach Grit

I have new heroes.

The heroism arises in terrible, racist conditions, but what the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps did in 1896. 

Since the 25h was an all-black company, they were selected to test out the feasibility of using bicycles in warfare instead of horses. 

Upworthy first brought this story to my attention. 

Black soldiers were second-class soldiers, so the U.S. Army reckoned they were expendable on a dangerous journey. 

The 25th set on bicycles in Missoula, Montana en route to St. Louis. 

Mind you, they rode heavy fixed gear single speed bikes with another 55 pounds of gear strapped to the bike. 

They rode in snow, pushing the bike; they rode up mountains where there were no roads; they rode on train tracks because the roads were so bad. 

These guys were seriously bad-ass. 

Here is a more complete history of the 25th's historical journey from HistoryNet.

The white Commander, Lt. James Moss, said this about his soldiers at the end of the 1,900-mile journey. 
‘There was no condition of weather we did not endure, no topographical obstacle that we did not overcome,’ he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In his official report, Moss commended his men for the’spirit, pluck and fine soldierly qualities they displayed.’ He stressed that’some of our experiences, especially in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, tested to the utmost not only their physical endurance, but also their moral courage and disposition.’

These marginalized black men proved their strength and determination when others expected them to fail. 

It's history we need to understand today. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tolerance of Parade Float Reveals Acceptance of Bike Hate

In a week marked by stupid bloodshed, it seems silly to write about a parade and a float. 

But the same intolerance, lack of empathy, and anger that seeps through the underbelly of America reared its ugly intolerant head in Columbus, Ohio last week. 

In a normally fun, irreverent event known as the Doodah Parade,  one man decided to turn his SUV into a float with a bike in the grill and an effigy of a cyclist in his sunroof. The sign on the door says "I'll share the road when you follow the rules."

Spencer Hackett on Twitter

The Twitter world erupted with justified anger at this idiot who clearly is threatening cyclists with his several thousand pound vehicle. 

The Doodah parade is an annual event that celebrates the weird and fun, and I'd love to join something like this if it came to Milwaukee. 

Parade Float Neither Funny Nor Weird

But this was neither weird nor fun. It's criminal, hateful. 

As a cyclist, I'm a little more sensitive to this than others since I was hit by an inattentive driver who shattered my leg and shoulder. I only survived because the incident happened right in front of a convenience store. 

I carry this reminder of the driver:

So when I see this kind of purposeful antagonism toward cyclists who are only trying to get somewhere or ride their bicycles, I get a little upset. 

Mayor and City Council Silent

All of my emails and tweets to Mayor Andrew Ginther and city council members went unanswered, except for one. Michael Stinziano first wrote this in response to my email:

"Thank you for your email and for sharing with me your concern about this “float” as well as your personal experience and accident.

"Indeed the parade that the photo is from is an entirely politically incorrect parade. It is called the Doo-Dah parade and it is done in absolute jest and participants certainly intend to stir discussion/controversy and get a rise out of individuals.  I have learned over its many years, no one is intending to personally attack anyone.  The City of Columbus does not host the parade per se and I would encourage you to contact the Doo-Dah organizers however you feel appropriate.

"Please do not hesitate to contact me further regarding this or other issues I may be of service in addressing."

City Council Needs to Step Up to Decry Behavior 

I took issue with his hands-off comment - when the City issues the permits and the former mayor is the "grand marshall." 

"Without city officials publicly declaring their opposition to this, the reputation of the city is still tarnished," I wrote. "I would encourage you to step up and publicly decry this kind of behavior."

His response?
"I think you walk a very fine line when any government official hinders freedom of speech (regardless of how bad, offensive and deplorable it is).

"As someone who has participated in our local Ride of Silence numerous times, I understand the concern this “float” raises but am confident our community is handling their response appropriately."

Wrong. You call it out. You say, "This is wrong. We're all about building relationships, not tearing them down."

Dianne Kiener Helps Organize Doodah Parade

The organizer of the Doodah parade is a real estate agent named Dianne Kiener, also known as Ms. Doodah. The business office address is 581 Reinhard Avenue, Columbus, OH 43206, phone number (614) 228-0621. She has not responded to any contact.

Columbus Underground published this piece about the "float." 

“Everyone’s humor is different and there are around ten different forms of humor,” explained organizer Deb Roberts. “The people who enter the parade are not professional comedians and give it their best shot. Sometimes their humor is on target, sometimes it’s a near miss, sometimes it’s a total dud. I am sorry to those who get offended by some of the humor, but that is what Doo Dah is.” 

No, it's not humor. It's danger and anger. 

It's not naive to believe that cars and bikes can co-exist. Bikes don't violate laws any more than cars do. 

So much research is out there that bicyclists bring economic growth wherever protected bike lanes are built. And when protected bike lanes are built, more cyclists hit the road. 

City council and public officials should the first to sound off when members of their community are threatened in any way. 

I'm still waiting for the "appropriate" response from Columbus.