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A few weeks ago, my friend and Editor-in-Chief of FIT Columbus Magazine (Chelsea Castle) reached out and asked if I wanted to write a piece on bicycling for the magazine and while I did, I took the opportunity in a different direction that I feel is a necessary direction;  beginning to dissect driving behavior and why we drive the way we do.  I’ve been borderline obsessed with driving behaviors and the disruption of routines; anonymity and assumed entitlement when it comes to the driving culture to where I feel if I can construct this topic in the right way, this could make for a thought-provoking TED Talk which I plan on trying.

Anyways…  here’s the beginning:

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When was the last time you were caught in a light, misty summer rain and loved every minute of it?  How about one of those Southwest-style sunsets that burst hues of orange, purple and pink, making it physically impossible to do anything but stop and be in it? Those are just two personal experiences I’ve had when riding my bike. The particular summer night when I was caught in the light rain, I smiled the whole time and never felt more alive. Those sunsets I’ve experienced, I literally lost my breath and had to pull my bike over because I couldn’t not appreciate what was happening.

Riding a bike has changed my life. From a health perspective, incorporating my bike as an everyday mode of transport, exercise has become as routine as brushing my teeth. The best thing is that it’s become so integrated, I don’t see it as exercise but as a vehicle to get me to my destination. We think we need high-intensity workouts to keep us in shape, when studies have shown that incorporating bicycle commuting into your daily life improves mental health, lowers risk for cardiovascular disease and can actually increase physical performance as much as specific training programs What if you switched out two errands per month using your bike instead of your car?  Try it.   

I was asked to write a guest piece on bicycle etiquette and safety, but I feel compelled to begin a bigger story; I advocate and fight like hell for safer streets in Columbus. But what does that mean? It’s simple: we need to design cities for people, not cars. For decades, the scales have been tipped in favor of car culture; five-lane-wide streets, one-way roads and very little urban beautification. When you have wide streets with nothing of interest to look at, you get in and get out as quickly as possible.  We drive based upon the design of our streets. Think about how fast you can drive on Broad Street then think about how fast you can drive on Gay Street.

When we combine streets designed for speeding cars with human beings going three to four times slower by way of walking or biking, the clash begins. Why? Why is there such hostility to the point of violence? Bikes are legally considered vehicles; bikers should be following the same rules. Most of us do. Some of us don’t, and as a bicycle advocate constantly fighting for safer streets, it pisses me off when I see unsafe behavior. But there’s a flip side to that coin; drivers are just as unlawful, sometimes more. Driving has become so commonplace and such a “thoughtless” task that we’ve become lazy and fat behind the wheel; corners are cut because we consider ourselves better than average drivers. 

What’s it going to take for us all to play nice in the sandbox? I wish I had the answer, but no matter which way you slice it, you’re always going to have the haters who can’t, or won’t, get along. What I want everyone who reads this to know is that when you see me riding my bike, I’m a twin sister and a daughter, a breathing human being and NOT a “cyclist” or a “pedestrian.” Maybe when we start to see each other as human beings instead of these polarizing, sterile identities, the curtain of animosity will be lifted away—forcing us to reintroduce empathy and acknowledge the individual trying to get to her destination safely, instead of just an object slowing us down.

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I recently had the great opportunity to blog for one of my favorite organizations: Project for Public Spaces.  If you’re not familiar, you should be.  Project for Public Spaces is a non-profit dedicated to create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities.  There are some cities doing wonderful projects that are putting life back into under-utilized streets.  While I love reading blog postings on this site, I was always frustrated because we’ve been doing some pretty cool things here and more people should about them.  So, here it is.

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I am one of the “zealous nuts.” I live in Columbus, Ohio and I think about Placemaking and Streets as Places all the time. You can easily catch me out in the neighborhood observing street-life behavior, or taking photos of things like benches (without backs) placed randomly on isolated and ridiculously over-sized slabs of concrete void of life and asking the question, “…Why?”

I don’t remember exactly when this passion (mixed with mild-obsession) began with wanting to re-create a city prioritizing people instead of autos. I’m sure the birth of it began while living in San Francisco in the late 90s/early 2000s. I had no need to own a car; I biked, bused, walked everywhere, and everywhere you went, people were around. Life was constantly happening in the streets. I remember I experienced my first diagonal crosswalk on New Montgomery Street and I thought it was the coolest concept, but also such an “A-HA!” moment: Convenience.

I moved back to Columbus in 2002 and quickly realized I wasn’t in “convenience, multi-modal-land” anymore. I bought a used car. My car did its job for a good six years. During that time, I would attempt to bike to certain destinations, but quickly learned first-hand how unfriendly our streets were. I also realized that when I was living in San Francisco, I used my bike as a mode of transportation – not merely as a recreational item when I merely felt like it. I didn’t fully grasp this until I moved back to Columbus and experienced how much harder it was. You see, in a city as dense as San Francisco, with its various integrated modes and speeds, drivers always have to be aware and drive more cautiously. In Columbus during that time, you rarely saw a person walking or biking; cars were the dominant mode and like the majority of cities and towns across the U.S., streets were designed to seduce you to speed. I’m all for being seduced but not while biking on an arterial road that I have to “share” with cars going 40 mph.

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As it turns out, history ALWAYS finds a way to repeat itself. Adult onesies are hotter than before, video arcades are the “in” place to hang out, and also revitalization – yes, revitalization – to resuscitate a space that’s lost its vigor, is having a comeback in a major way. In the past ten years, we’ve seen a boom in Downtown Revitalization Projects that are attracting people to once again move in instead of out. Columbus is one of those cities and we’ve made incredible strides in the past ten years. We have an amazing urban park in the center of our downtown that fills with life and concerts and various organized sports during the spring, summer, and fall months. We have a riverfront that has been transformed into a destination (and is currently being expanded) for residents and tourists with a cityscape view that’ll take your breath away. And in 2014 our downtown living soared from 4,000 residents to 7,000. People are coming back and I’ve loved watching our downtown find its heartbeat again.

So, where do I come in? Well, I love Columbus but one thing has constantly nagged me about this city:  One of the most repetitive adjectives I hear when people describe Columbus is, “potential” – including myself. “Columbus has such potential if only…” I want to stop being an awesome city IF and start being an awesome city that IS, and that means DOING. So, with a little talent, hustle, and guts, I’ve been DOING.

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The concept of Placemaking here in Columbus is only about four years new. One of the “primer” projects that opened up people’s eyes and minds to the possibilities of what could be was a 2013 project called CBUS FOTO. This collective engagement project organized through Columbus’ Center for Architecture and Design, and led by the vision of Michael and Sarah Bongiorno with a group of talented young designers, asked citizens of Columbus to photograph empty, overlooked spaces and buildings in the city and come up with creative ways on how to fill them. The hope was to inspire citizens to understand that we are surrounded by under-utilized public spaces. These “overlooked” public spaces that we walk through every day and bike past everyday are blank canvasses awaiting rejuvenation. The value of this ephemeral project activated people’s imagination to see public spaces differently, as more than meets the eye.

mike and ryan

2014 was a very fulfilling year for me as two of my passion projects were launched to the people of Columbus:  The Columbus Parklet Project and Open Streets Columbus. Our team piloted Columbus’ first parklet for one month in September, 2014 with the help of nine business supporters. The public and nearby businesses embraced the 4th St Parklet and in 2015, we plan on implementing two more. Fred Kent said it best, “when you give people an interesting place to gather, they’ll gather.”

I fell in love with parklets years ago. I remember when I was flying to San Francisco, one of my “to-do’s” was to “hangout” in a parklet. Let that marinate in your brains for a minute.I’m headed to another city and one of my destinations is a parking space. But, I was drawn to them and I knew people in Columbus would be drawn to them too. They were unique and exciting and I loved that people filled up the space in front of a business instead of one car.Life was added.  The Columbus Parklet Project creates small yet powerful actions that will continue to show people that streets have a “double-duty” responsibility – that they are necessary for getting us from point A to point B, AND they can be places.

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Another team I led was Open Streets Columbus. After three years of work and meetings and a lot of “no’s,” Columbus finally launched its first Open Streets event in September of 2014. We closed 0.8 miles of downtown streets and it became an urban playground for people of all ages (and wages). We’ve become submissive to the ‘Arrogance of Space.’ The Danish-coined term simply implies that there’s just too much space allocated to cars and drivers, and not enough for anything or anybody else. We’ve been told for so long that roads are made only to be driven on and outdated, myopic street design proves this. Open Streets initiatives turn the outdated thinking upside-down and gives the space back, allowing people to explore, connect, and realize on their own that equitable street design can happen.

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We had roughly 600 people come out and explore their city streets, free of all obstructions. It doesn’t sound like much but it was a great success, especially for a city that has a long way to go when it comes to bike/ped friendliness. The people who came out absolutely fell in love with Open Streets Columbus and in 2015, we’re planning to grow from one to two events. We are confident that with repetition and time, Open Streets Columbus will grow into a sustaining, thriving initiative every neighborhood embraces.

Years in the making and worth every moment.

I guess I wanted to write this blog for a couple reasons. I wanted to share some of our small successes here in Columbus because I’m proud of them and we’ve only just begun. I was tired of reading article after article about cities that are thriving, partially in part due to the presence of creative Placemaking projects and Columbus not being listed. Well, we now stand out, too, and I hope that can be an inspiration for other cities like ours. Lastly, Columbus has given me the support to take these risks. I say it’s a risk because for many people, especially decision-makers, as this is still uncharted territory. But, I believe these risks (and others) must be taken by everyone in order to not be a city that’s “status-quo.” I refuse to live in a city that’s “status-quo,” and I’m ‘all in’ to stand up to make the changes I want to see. We still have quite a ways to go but I think Columbus, and smaller and larger cities, are embracing the efforts of humanizing our streets again.

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It’s been five months since my last public confession 🙂  After five insanely busy months, I have the time to breathe and update those on what I’ve been consumed with.

For almost three years, I had been persistently and patiently working on two dream projects of mine:  to bring the first ‘Open Streets’ to Columbus as well as piloting Columbus’ first ‘parklet.’  For those reading this that don’t know, ‘Open Streets’ is a free initiative that temporarily closes streets down to autos and opens them up for people to engage in fun, healthy activities like yoga, biking, breakdancing, and more.  It’s all about experiencing streets as public spaces.  When I was a kid, I played in the streets ALL the time.  I rode my bike with my best friends and that’s just what we did.  These days, streets are too dangerous.  Playgrounds are built far away from the streets because the dangers of motor vehicle speeds and distracted drivers have reigned supremacy.

The ‘parklet.’  A ‘parklet’ is when you convert on-street parking spaces into ‘people’ spaces.  I remember having this conversation with my friend Liz over two years ago.  We met for coffee and I said, ‘Liz, I wanna pilot a parklet and I want to use one of your places.’  Without hesitation, she said, ‘absolutely.’

As one of my favorite people says, ‘Sometimes you have to turn things upside down to get them right-side up’ (Fred Kent).  I whole-heartedly believe this with every ounce of my being.  My two dreams projects did just that, turned things upside down.   When it comes to parking and road space we’ve given too much to the vehicle that when we try to do what’s right and step in and change it, people go cray!  The idea of closing downtown streets to cars to let people of all ages and abilities ‘play’ in them raised eyebrows.  No matter if I came to them showing them the data of other cities putting on ‘Open Streets’ and how ridiculously successful it was/is.  Successful from a public health angle.  Successful from a business economics angle.  Successful from a community engagement angle.  Successful from a broader encouragement of multi-modal transportation.  ‘Open Streets’ has transformed cities across the U.S.  Aside from the hard data, I had the privilege of experiencing Los Angeles’ ‘CicLAvia’ last April.  When you think Los Angeles, you think of boxtox and traffic; ‘carmaggedon.’  Los Angeles’ CicLAvia / Open Streets has been such a raging success that they put on 3 / year and close anywhere between 6-12 miles of Los Angeles streets.  That is not a typo people.  The one I experienced last April, tens of THOUSANDS of people came out and participated in playing and owning their streets – free from motor vehicle danger.  What resonated with me, as I stood in the middle of Wilshire Blvd was that so many families and people of all ages and backgrounds wanted to come and have a safe place to ride or play.  There aren’t enough safe places to ride and we just don’t slow down enough to appreciate our environment.  We have the ability to change our built environment when we realize the TRUE potential.  That’s why Open Streets has been so important to me.  I’ve seen what it does to people and cities.

After almost three years, organizations such as People For Bikes, Transit Columbus, Jeni’s, New Belgium Brewing, Capital Crossroads SID, Columbus Public Health , CD 102.5, Mt. Carmel East, Eccolyfe Designs, CDDC, Skreened, ID2014, and the Great Photobooth; stepped up to the plate and said, ‘we get it and they all invested.’  On Sunday, September 21st, Columbus joined the long list of other Open Streets cities.  We closed 0.8 miles of downtown Rich St.  I have to say it was a fantastic FIRST Open Streets for this city.  Columbus still has a long way to go in order to be a contending ‘bike-friendly’ city.  We’re making great progress but we have a long way to go.  We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback about Open Streets Columbus.  Our goal is to aim for ‘2’ Open Streets next year.  Success with an initiative like this cannot come overnight.  It must be recurring so people understand the concept and purpose.  With all the people and kids that came out and enjoyed the day, they now understand why Open Streets is so effective and successful.  All of those people will be future cheerleaders- spreading the Open Streets Columbus love as we put on future events.

I loved seeing how many kids were there.  I loved watching the parents not have any fear b/c that fear had been removed.  People laying a blanket out in the middle of the street b/c they could.  Getting people to look at their streets differently; seeing their streets as public spaces instead of only cars and parking is why Open Streets is so effective.

Here are some fun photos from Sept. 21st:

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We had about 18 high school students from the Mosiac school volunteer.  They loved it and we loved having them!

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Early on jenga users

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Headstand challenge at the intersection of High and Rich.  I can bet  this is something you don’t see everyday!
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So many people loved having the Rich St. bridge all to themselves.  Headstands, hangtime, biking, breakdancing, ska

teboarding and more. photo 3

POGA Columbus held their last ‘pop-up’ yoga for the summer at Open Streets.  What a great crowdphoto 4

Our ‘Scioto Beach’ was one of the biggest successes of Open Streets.  Yep, we built a small beach on the Rich St. Bridge.  Kid approved!zeke open streets

 

The comment above is the reason I have fought for Open Streets for so long.  This is exactly how we want people to feel.

Switch gears to the ‘Columbus Parklet Project.’  We had the great opportunity to unveil Columbus’ first parklet at the great Independents’ 2014.  Getting more eyes and butts in the parklet would only help generate more buzz for the 30 day pilot over at Dirty Franks downtown.  It sure did. It just so happened that unveiling the parklet at ID2014, was the same weekend as Open Streets Columbus.  Needless to say, I was stressed, excited, anxious, and hopeful.  No NEW project would be complete without its obstacles and we sure had some of those.  But, you push through and you take every moment as a teaching moment which I did.

The parklet was a great success at ID2014.  The following week it was moved outside of Dirty Franks Hot Dog Palace where it’ll be there for one month for the public to embrace (hopefully).  Again, this is a concept happening in other cities that are getting people and businesses to re-imagine the potential within our city streets.  Over 82% of drivers are single occupancy.  You drive your car to Dirty Franks, you park right out front and its YOU…one person.  You remove that parking space, convert it to ‘people space’ allowing people to sit, eat their lunch, converse, and just be visible to other drivers passing by, you automatically create buzz.  If you’re a business owner giving people a place to sit and stay for while, chances are they’ll spend money.  The idea of the one month pilot is to introduce the concept to both the people of Columbus and business owners.  The sky won’t fall if you remove one parking space usually taken up by ONE person and you convert it to where 12+ people can share and enjoy it.  We’ll collect data over the month during different times of the day as well as public feedback.  Thus far, its been super successful (minus a few haters and there always will be).  The Columbus Parklet Project had great support from businesses such as: MKSK Designs, Dirty Franks, Kaufman Development, Creath Landscape Design, Drift Industry, DRAC, Eccolyfe Designs, Columbus Eye, Square One Salon & Spa, and Wolf’s Ridge Brewing.  What really catches my eye is that every one of these businesses has nothing to do with the other.  They all come from different backgrounds yet they all see the Columbus Parklet Project as a great, fresh concept and are willing to invest.  Our goal is to get buy-in from this 30 day pilot to where we are able to expand and build new parklets with new designs in different parts of Columbus.  These small ‘interventions’ within our streets can become ‘destinations’ for people.  Parklets are part of the ‘lighter, quicker, cheaper’ strategy that many cities are embracing.  When people can be a part of a project from beginning to end there’s more personal investment that happens and a sense of ownership and pride.

I had some incredible people step up to help make this first parklet a reality: Ryan, Michael, Carey, Jess, Jerry, and Sarah.

Here are couple photos.  I encourage you to take a jaunt over to Dirty Franks within the next month.  Purchase a dog and have a seat in the parklet.

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The beginning stages.parklet progress

 

Setting up before the big ID2014 weekend.

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Lots of traffic during Independents’ weekend.  first parklet DF

Ryan and Michael finishing up moving the parklet from Franklinton to downtown
safe_imageThe Columbus Dispatch published a piece on the parklet this past weekend.

And those are two of the projects I’ve been up to:)  These two projects have meant so much to me and I believe that with time and iterations of both, the people of Columbus will embrace.  I look forward to both Open Streets Columbus and the Columbus Parklet Project expanding and becoming initiatives that people support and want to be a part of.

 

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This is going to be my one and only blog written about helmets.  This topic, in my personal opinion is a waste of my time but I feel the need to balance current statements that have been made regarding a recent photo that was taken and published in the Dispatch:

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As many of you know, the three of us just recently executed our first and very successful statewide ‘Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit.’  This was the photo published  in the Dispatch and you can imagine the comments and judgments that took place once this photo was released.

Only in America does it seem like there’s this war regarding helmets so let’s stop and figure out why.  Why do we wear helmets?  We wear helmets for ‘protection,’ right?  Who are we protecting ourselves from:  drivers and our cities that have been built to solely accommodate the automobile.  If you wear a helmet – you’re a safe bike rider.  If you don’t – you’re reckless.   I’m as safe of a bike rider as they come.   I wear a helmet about 98% of the time I’m on my bike so when I make that CHOICE to not wear a helmet, why do you take it upon yourself to judge me and reduce my safe bike riding; because I don’t conform to your standards?  Just because I don’t wear a helmet, that doesn’t make me more reckless of a bike rider or less credible of a bicycling advocate.

The staunch opponents out there need not be so quick to judge and think about a few things:

  1. Helmets help save lives, however, they do NOT prevent crashes from happening.
  2. We need to stop wasting time on the ‘blame game’ of who is and who isn’t wearing helmets and move forward to trying to change our infrastructure and slow down our streets.   The only way to change behavior is to change the infrastructure.   When you slow down a street with traffic calming elements, road diets, bicycle infrastructure, and pedestrian infrastructure – it not only increases livability within the street, it increases more walkers and bikers which in result increases safety and decreases crashes.
  3. Steve Barbour, Michelle Kazlausky,  Dr. Deborah Ehrlich and William Crowley are just four folks that come to mind whom all except Dr. Ehrlich were fatally hit AND were wearing helmets.  Dr. Ehrlich barely survived.  She was right hooked by a semi.  Again, infrastructure.

The focus must be moved to redesigning and changing our infrastructure which slows down cars and safely allows all users to move about.  Are you going to stigmatize me and anyone else who hops certain lights b/c they don’t detect us?  Do you know that if an intersection goes through two cycles w/out detecting a bike rider, we are legally allowed to hop the light or are you going to immediately make the judgment like most ppl do that I am a reckless rider and not take into consideration that our infrastructure has been built solely for the auto?   If you’re unwilling to see that ‘we’ a car-centric country has created these dangerous cities in which people die and that it is the way our cities have been built and not whether someone is wearing a helmet or not then I’m happy to be your scapegoat.

I’d like to also insert that in 2008, 4,387 pedestrians were killed in traffic and nobody is suggesting for them to wear helmets.  Where is the outrage in pedestrians being killed by motor vehicles?  It’s an increasing epidemic and yet there has been no public outrage.   Bicycling needs to be seen as both safe and fun and that everyone can do without special clothing or gear or feeling the need to ‘armor’ up (perfect example here – a national bicycling webpage:  http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/send_a_pro-bike_letter_to_your_local_newspaper).   Over the age of 18, we as adults have the ‘choice’ to either wear a helmet or not.  I don’t need to feel looked down upon or targeted should I choose on rare occasions to not wear my helmet.

Before you continue to waste both my time and yours judging me on the basis of my not wearing a helmet during a photo shoot, use that energy and write a letter to your local representatives advocating for safer bicycling infrastructure and enforcement of lowering our traffic speeds within our cities.

From 1997-2006, there have been 424, 840 motor traffic fatalities (NHTSA), maybe drivers should start wearing driving helmets:

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This is in fact an actual helmet for driving.  When a bicyclist is fatally hit or seriously injured, the first question asked shouldn’t be, ‘was she/he wearing a helmet?’  It should be about the environment of where the accident took place.  Did you know that the majority of accidents happen in urban main arterials of cities? (NHTSA)  This leads me to once again acknowledge infrastructure.  Our inner- city streets are nothing short of inner-city freeways; five lanes across, no less than 12ft lane width, infinite sight distance, and let’s not forget the timed traffic lights working as an accomplice to speeding and safety concerns.

Our society has become fat and lazy when it comes to putting cars in their place.  Tailgating on freeways going 75mph is the new ‘black.’  Complete stops have become ‘rolling stops.’  ‘Stop bars’ aren’t paid attention to and if a crosswalk is more than six feet deep, that apparently gives a car permission to stop INSIDE the crosswalk and we continue to let this happen.

We need to move beyond whether a person on a bike was armored up with a helmet or not.  Once you understand that it’s not about the helmet – that it’s about our unsafe infrastructure then maybe you’ll put forth your efforts to creating a more ‘people-friendly’ city.  Hopefully soon, our cities’ infrastructure will be balanced enough to where you may walk out of your house, hop on your bike and in mid-riding say to yourself, ‘I forgot my helmet.’  We need to encourage, not discourage.  Our cities need the voices of people who ride bikes to unify and fight as allies, not judgmental enemies.  Again, this post is written based upon my personal opinion, on my personal blog and nothing more.

Be safe and keep riding.

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I’ve been sexually harassed, I’ve had a water bottle thrown at me, I’ve been driven off the road, I’ve been hit, I’ve been door’d, I’ve been cut off and this past weekend, I can add that my life was threatened-verbally.  I was riding east on Gay St. with a friend.  Gay St. is a two-way street; one travel lane in each direction and I maintained my lane.  A pick-up truck behind me was revving his engine; speeding up and slowing down to get my attention and probably to get me to move to the right but I had no intention b/c I had every right to maintain the lane.  At the red light, he sped up beside me, proceeded to spit on me and said I should ‘share the fucking road.’  I said, ‘how do I do that, I am legally allowed to take this ONLY lane?!’  He continued to be antagonistic, wanting me to ‘hit’ him.  I said, ‘I’m not going to hit you.’  He said, ‘I’ll end your life, you white bitch.’

A few more words were exchanged, the light turned green and since he was finally ahead of me, he was able to again maintain his driving cadence of 25 mph as oppose to my 15 mph.

I got home and couldn’t shake this particular instance.  I’ve had ppl intimidate me with their cars and I’ve never had anyone verbally threaten that they’d end my life.’  I rang a friend of mine who really helped me put this situation into perspective.  I could have handled the situation differently and I was beating myself up for it.  But, my friend told me that that person was my teacher – teaching me how I can improve myself the next time b/c there WILL,  inevitably be a next time.  Thank you, JLa.

I’ve written a ‘Will’ in case I die and its b/c I ride a bike.  How many drivers have written a ‘Will’ b/c they drive a car?  I bet I could gamble and say ‘not a whole lot.’  I constantly think and obsess over WHY, we are in such hurries that when we are slowed down, it infuriates us.  Why, as drivers, when we are slowed down, we have such anger and violence within us that we want to kill, intimidate, drive off the road, spit and harass.  How did we become so disconnected with each other and we don’t see the ‘human being’ component.

I am a daughter, a twin sister, an aunt, a cousin, a best friend, a human being.  When did we as human beings become so transparent that our destinations became more important than the safety of human life?  You’re wanting to END MY LIFE b/c I slowed you down for less than two minutes?  Let’s take a moment and really digest that sentence b/c that’s what I deal with on a regular basis.

Why is it drivers have more patience for school buses or public transportation buses when they make frequent stops yet they are ready to cut off and /or harass a person on a bicycle?  What is the difference?  The operator in any of these mode of transport is still a human being so why the fortitude with one and not the other?

Our streets began with people owning the streets – not cars.  Now, driving has become such a part of our DNA that this sense of entitlement and ownership has taken over our streets and our neighborhoods to where people will kill over it.

I’m willing to die in order to change this mentality.  I have been brought up to be a leader, not a follower.  Streets are suppose to be mini theaters- acting out life experiences and this can’t happen when cars control streets.  Families should want to take their kids on walks after dinner.  Families should want to sit on their front porch or stoop and talk to neighbors about how ridiculous ‘Honey Boo-Boo’ really is.  Nobody wants to do this when their front yards are three lanes wide and cars speeding at 40 mph.

I look forward to the day when we realize that some congestion isn’t always a bad thing and that life WILL NOT END if you have to slow down.  I look forward to the day when more people see change as a good thing and not fear it and react recklessly.

 

 

 

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So, back in November, I organized my monthly ‘2 Wheels’ night to be a basic mechanics evening.  Ladies were very interested and asked if I could set something up and of course I did.  It was a super successful evening at Paradise Garage.  Emily Burnett and Sarah Elizabeth were fantastic in teaching the ladies the basics about their bicycles.

Well, post holidays, I received requests about another basic mechanics evening since folks missed the first one as well as folks just learning so much from the first one – they wanted another.

So this time, Trek Bicycle Store off of Lane Ave hosted us.

42 women showed up last night.  Women ranging from 11 yrs old to 50’s and older.  Numerous ethnic backgrounds and riding abilities.  All women wanting to know best practices, the ‘dos’ and ‘don’t’s’ when riding your bike.  Trek’s Raeda and Rhonda took the ladies through the basics of changing a flat, shifting gears, lubing your chain, cleaning your bike due to weather, riding clothing, as well as a few safety tips.  I’m very conscious of ending these events around 9pm.  We’re women and we have numerous responsibilities let alone, we seem to always over extend ourselves.  Well, last night women were asking such wonderful questions that even after the event, women stayed to continue to ask questions.

This kind of an environment was so humbling to be a part of.  It was comfortable, and nobody felt foolish when asking their questions.  The environment and the experiences that took place last night are exactly why I do this.  There IS a need for empowering women and providing women with these kinds of environments so they can build their confidence to ride more.

I feel like women left last night really excited about what they learned and about what’s to come for Women on Bikes -2013 in Columbus.  I look forward to weather being beautiful and the ‘2 Wheels & Heels’ ride being out of control, over populated with women coming from all over wanting to become more confident in their riding.

Women make up over 85% of the decision making within families today.  We are the majority when it comes to volunteering in our communities as well as when it comes to taking our kids to school.  If women are confident and excited about riding their bikes, its going to be that much easier to funnel that excitement to their kids.  The bike needs to be ‘normalized’ and women will be the one’s to do this.

Enjoy the photos from last night’s mechanics.  Thanks again to Trek Bicycle Store of Lane Ave.  If you’re a fb user, be sure to search ‘2 Wheels & Heels’ and ‘LIKE’ us.  Also, search for ‘Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit’ as myself and two other colleagues are organizing the first statewide women’s bicycling summit – here in Columbus, Ohio.

Be safe and keep riding.

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Opinions are like assholes – everyone has one.  When it comes to bicycle infrastructure, assholes seem to be the reigning force.  I, of course have my opinions as well.  However, a big deal for me when I discuss my ‘opinions’ is that I do the research first.  I ride the current topic of infrastructure discussion instead of just ‘winging’ it.  I’ll go to that area, ride around, sit and look at human interactions with that area, desire lines, parking, signage, lighting, speeding, speeding, and speeding.  Once, I’ve finished my research, I’ll make my conclusions and give my ‘opinion.’  I’d rather give you m opinion based on actual experience than sitting behind a desk and thinking I know what I’m talking about b/c I live in the next neighborhood over and drive through it everyday.

Change is the number one constant in life.  People HATE change.  People get really sensitive when you come into their neighborhoods advocating for better streets; safer and slower streets.  I’m car-free and so are many of my friends and more and more are choosing to take this way of life.  I can’t live in all neighborhoods but I sure as hell bicycle through many of them.

I don’t think I need to remind anyone who reads this that we have an obesity issue here in our city; adults AND kids.  When it comes to playing outside, its night and day difference when I was young.  Its sad.  I work with youth therefore, I’m attending Elementary Schools and Middle Schools regularly and there are days I’ll get home and just become a pile of sadness b/c of how overweight some third grader is and they are already getting their fair share of fellow student heckling.

Our streets in our neighborhoods need to be updated so families and kids can feel safe playing and WANT to be outside.  Bicycle infrastructure helps.

If you all have been asleep with regards to what I’m passionate about, open your eyes and read this:  I’m passionate about making our streets enjoyable, slower, and safer in order for more families and women to feel confident enough to make the choice to ride their bikes to the YMCA instead of driving (arbitrary destination I chose).

Engineers still design roads in the mindset of men, why – b/c most engineers ARE men.  Another profession still heavily dominated by men.  We need to alter that to where they are thinking:  Will my grandmother feel safe riding this street to get to church?  Can Molly take her two kids on this street to get to Magic Mountain?  8 to 80 – the age range that engineers need to have burned in their brains when redesigning streets.

So…..  along with my bigger ‘2 Wheels & Heels’ ladies ride, I’ve come up with another more intimate ride.  Lots of new infrastructure is being built here in Columbus and a lot MORE will be popping up -very soon.  I thought a good idea would be to take small and intimate groups of women to experience the new infrastructure around town.  I take them there, we ride and then at the end we discuss.  They discuss.  They tell me how THEY feel – as mothers, as sisters, as grandmothers – as WOMEN.  I actually write up their experience as detailed as I remember and submit them to our city engineers which they HIGHLY appreciate.

This recent ride was experiencing the newly built and very contested Tamarack Circle roundabout bike lanes.  Residents are saying that congestion is happening b/c a travel lane has been removed in order to have a dedicated bike lane built.

I’m from this area, I was raised on the north side of town.  When the new infrastructure was built, my mum drove me over here so that I could see it.  Again, driving next to it and actually experiencing it – two different animals.

So, this past Tuesday, myself and four other women were able to make time and ride over to the area to get a feel of this new infrastructure.  We parked at the YMCA and rode down the new lanes on Sandalwood and then took our time and rode the roundabout. The final result in our evening was overwhelmingly unanimous.  The ladies were extremely pleased with the infrastructure.  The bike lanes were a comfortable six feet in width.  There is a buffer throughout the roundabout that separates the parked cars from the bicycle lane.  That buffer is a comfortable six feet.  This gives not only the person on a bike comfort that they won’t be door’d but it gives peace of mind to the driver who gets out of their car as they have ample room to get out and not immediately be in the bike lane and worry about any conflicts.  The cars were courteous.  They slowed and yielded to us when they needed to make any right turns.

I think the successor of the evening was the buffer.  Normally, you see three feet buffers between parked car lanes, bike lanes, and / or travel lanes so have six feet of buffer was like riding on puffy clouds.  Buffers give off that extra sense of safety that so many folks are looking for.  Again, this isn’t just directed towards people on bikes, its directed towards the drivers exiting / entering their cars as well. The drivers who need to keep their door open to strap in their child to the backseat child seat.  Even with three foot buffers (which is about the length of a car door) they don’t need to feel rushed in order to not impede a bike lane.

We all rode with leisure.  We rode slow, with no feeling of having to ‘hurry up’ for the cars behind us.  I rode with my hand in my back pocket.  We took our time and laughed.  When you create streets in which people riding bikes can ENJOY, that street then becomes a  destination.  And yes, the street will be the destination and not a ‘pass through.’  That’s what makes city streets come alive – when you make the streets themselves a destination place of their own.

Be safe and keep riding

The lovely ladies who joined me.  Thank you

 

Shot of the six foot wide bike lane down Sandalwood.  ROOMY

 

Clearly marked.  Proper boundary width.

 

Entering Tamarack roundabout

 

You can see above the parking lane and the six foot wide buffer and the bike lane.

 

We all pulled over and discussed how we were feeling and now we’re hoppin’ back on our bikes.

 

 

A shot of the girls with a car next to them.

 

Six foot bike lane with the buffer to the right

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