Archive for May, 2011

Bike Advocacy: Encouraging New Cyclists

Ride participants hang out by the bay during last Saturday's ride. Vikki (middle left) is holding up scones she made for the riders.

Mobilians on Bikes (MOB), https://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_120942041277691&ap=1, is a utilitarian bicycling group in Mobile, AL.  The group focuses on encouraging the use of the bicycle as a vehicle for urban transportation.  Many short (< 5 mi) trips can be accomplished using a bicycle and bicycle use can partially address a variety of social ills.  These ills include pollution, traffic  congestion, and the poor health of the community.   MOB creates an encouraging and fun environment for those who may initially be too nervous to ride on their own.  MOB weekend rides focus on fun and strive to show folks that “regular” people wearing “regular” clothes and of a “regular” fitness level can ride a bike.  The purpose is to dispel the myth that bicycles are only for sport.  This way the group hopes to convert people one by one.  Each driver that begins riding a bike, even if only every so often, will be a more empathetic car driver in the future.

One recent success story is that of Vikki Finch.  Vikki got a new bike (Rivendell Betty Foy of all things!!) and began re-learning to ride a bike just a few months ago.  Her husband, Bill Finch, is a prominent member of the Mobile community and an avid cyclist.  I figured he got her the bike in order to spend time together.  Well Vikki would practice riding around my neighborhood and when I would see her I would encourage her to come on some MOB rides.  She would politely decline saying she wouldn’t want to slow us down and that she was too nervous to ride in a group.  Hah!  Like our 8mph rides are too fast and intimidating.  Well I’m proud to say that Vikki is now not only riding with MOB but is leading a weekly Saturday morning ride down the western side of Mobile Bay.  On the last ride she made scones for everybody.  What a ride leader!  She jumped from newbie to ride leader in only a few months.  Her unassuming, positive personality will bring in new bike riders who are looking for a stress free, social and fitness oriented bike ride.

Riders pose in front of one of the few things Mobile has done for bicycling.

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Saturday, Warm Weather, Birthday Party, Friends, Bikes !!

The title of this post says it all.  What a Saturday!  My son Alex is celebrating his 4th birthday and my wife Megan planned a low key, stress-free birthday party with friends for him and friends for us.  We are fortunate to live very close to a nearby square that offers a lot of shade from impressive live oak trees.  This is particularly important since we have no backyard space for entertaining.  We also live in a neighborhood that is very bikable.  Four families biked, 1 family walked, and 1 family drove.  That’s not a bad rate of sustainable, healthy transportation to a birthday party.  While we were there we saw other folks, some friends and some strangers, out and about enjoying the great weather or going about their errands on their bikes.  This got me to thinking about what makes a neighborhood truly enjoyable and what characteristics give its citizens a sense of community and well being.  Having a public square that is easily accessible is important.  This allows people to meet, converse, and

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enjoy a public space together.  The bikability and walkability of our neighborhood builds well being and a sense of community because they foster active lifestyles and impromptu meetings with neighbors and friends.  Even if it is a casual wave and saying “how do you do?”, these things are important for building a sense of connectivity in a community.  At one point during the day I was thinking about these things and how it is really the small, inexpensive, simple things that are truly important.  At one point I thought to myself “this is the good life.”