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Posts Tagged ‘chic’

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.

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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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The weather for our ride was perfect, the evening of our Halloween Ride.  And to make it complete, my pals from Paradise Garage let me use their awesome Surly to which we strapped a wireless amp to the front and we jammed to music through the streets of Columbus.  Below are just a few of the incredible images that the amazing Jennifer Grimm took of our evening.  Our costume theme was simple:  black skirts and fun, crazy tights!  The girls had a blast and now I’m hooked on having music on every ride 🙂

Keep riding and be safe.

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A handful of months ago, I was on the bus and my phone rings.  It’s my friend Ruth.  Here’s a summary of that convo:

Ruth:  Hey, what are you doing Oct.11th?

Me:   Volunteering for you, for Tedx.

Ruth:  How would like to be on the other side – speaking?

Me:  Don’t tease me.

Ruth:  I’m not.

Long story short, I spoke at this year’s 5 year anniversary TEDx Columbus on Oct. 11th.  My talk was exactly the subject line of this post.  Women and families are going to be the determining factor in how cities can really gauge if they are thriving bike-friendly cities.  If cities really want to know how bike-friendly they, they need to quit with the surveys and get out onto the corners and start counting how many women are riding bikes.  

Thank you, Ruth for believing in me to speak about my passion.  TEDx has been successfully accomplished.  Next:  TED Talk 🙂

Be safe and keep riding

Enjoy.

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I’m late but I have a good excuse:  grant writing, presentation building for public speaking engagements and…. naps 🙂

July’s ride was super duper fantastic.  This month’s ride supported the one and only – Grass Skirt Tiki Room.  Easily 40+ women showed up on a glorious evening for our ride.  We slow biked from Grass Skirt and explored the Bexley neighborhood and it was one of the prettiest rides we went on.  The evening temperature was perfect and the Bexley streets were so quiet and filled with beautiful landscapes and extroardinary homes.  We made our way back by biking through Franklin Park Conservatory, Olde Towne, East, Downtown, and ending at Grass Skirt.

This random route was some of the ladies favorite thus far.  Among the wonderful comments of the evening, I received one that really stuck out.  One woman said she loved my rides b/c she gets to see neighborhoods she’s never been to nor biked through.  She loves seeing all the personalities of the neighborhoods on bike.  I loved hearing that b/c I always wonder if the ladies are enjoying the routes 🙂  The bicycle is so awesome in so many ways.  Bringing diverse women together, building women’s confidence to ride more frequently.  Creating friendships.  Exploring neighborhoods and getting a taste of local businesses they may never have heard of and now would go back and support 🙂

This is a good transition into another reason why my ride always supports 1-2 local businesses.  We still live in the mind frame where a car parked out front of a business means economic impact.  I want these businesses to have that light bulb go off and see that 16 bike riders parked in a parking spot brings a business more money and from a visual perspective, it adds life in front of that business and it peaks spectators interest who are driving past as well.  We need to let go of this idea that parking is ‘end all be all’ of businesses succeeding.  It can also help ease concerns from business owners should a nearby street be redesigned with bicycle facilities.  Any interest in joining this incredibile and diverse group of women on bikes, shoot me an email 🙂

Enjoy the beautiful pics taken by the lovely and awesome Jennifer Grimm

Be safe and keep riding

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We had a fantastic evening ride last night.  We began at Camelot Cellars (thanks, Janine) for our ‘meet & greet.’  As we rounded up, I walk outside and look to both my left and right and bikes were locked up to meters, trees, you name up; up and down the entire block.  It was a beautiful sight!

We rode about 9 miles and through a variety of neighborhoods.  As we were biking east on Long St. I stopped and counted 51 women riders.  I’m really excited to watch the ride continue to grow throughout the summer and beyond.

Enjoy!

Be safe and keep riding

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There’ve been previous updates on this but I just wanted to refresh y’all.  I saw these bicycle signs pop up in German Village yesterday and I was thrilled.

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More of these will continue to be installed along with the bike symbols on the ground to guide you on where to stop your bike at intersections.  Once you place your bike ontop of the symbol on the ground, it acts as a detector to change the light.  The city of Columbus’ Public Service Dept. plans to install both the signs and bicycle signals on the ground when you place a 311 request.  This is why it is so important to utilize this easy service-request system (http://311.columbus.gov/).  Our streets cannot get better unless we ALL are proactive in making them better.  I recently placed three requests through 311 and one of them is already in progress.

Next subject.

People constantly ask me ‘where is the best and safest place to ride my bike?’  The honest answer is, is that there is no real answer but there are better practices than others.  I tell people that if there are multiple travel lanes going in each direction, I always take the far right lane b/c there’s still another full lane(s) of travel.  Now, what about a street like High St.  There’s one travel lane, sometimes a dedicated left turn lane, and a far right lane that has buses, right turns, and now – parked cars.  Engineers reinforce that this lane can be ‘shared’ and let’s face it, most drivers DO want us on the most far right lane as possible, so they can continue about their destination, not having to slow down.  The fact is, is that that far right lane is 12ft wide (I counted) and clearly NOT enough for both a bike rider and an open car door to safely exist together.  Take a look at the pics below:

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Many car windows these days have tint to them leaving it as either a guessing game or a ‘Hail Mary’ for us bike riders riding in this lane.  As you can clearly see, there’s a variety of width of these cars.  I don’t care what people say, this is clearly not enough room.  I’ve been door’d and I’m still intimidated at times.

We learn in drivers education to be ‘predictable’ when driving.  Having drivers be able to anticipate your next move is both courteous and safe.  You dont want a driver to abruptly turn right and not signal or a car to change lanes with out adequate space and time.  The same goes with us on bikes.  We want drivers, buses, and walkers to be able to anticipate our moves.  Weaving in and out of lanes isn’t predictable.  I would rather anger the driver behind me b/c I’m slow and predictable than create this bike rodeo of weaving in and out of lanes and parked cars.  I know it’s engrained in us (slower traffic stays right) but when it comes to safety, drivers are just going to have to deal.  I hope these images help along with my quasi-clear explanation.  Again, its really difficult to answer b/c there are so many different levels of confidence when riding however, I hope these images give you a better idea of why its always not in the best interest to appease the cars behind you and for you to maintain the lane until the far right lane frees up for you to move into.

Be safe and keep riding.

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About eight months ago, I had my two friends Mimi Webb and Jeannie Martin join me for a beer so that I could present them with an idea.  I went to California the end of last summer for two separate Bicycle Conferences.  At both conferences, there were specific ‘women forums’ to continue to forward efforts of increasing women ridership here in the U.S.  Leaving California, I was both inspired and new what I had to do in Ohio.  Fast forward to the evening with Mimi and Jeannie.  I told them I planned to organize the first statewide ‘Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit’ and would they be interested in joining me in this effort.  Immediately, they said ‘hell yes!”  So, for eight months, Jeannie, Mimi, and myself met and planned out this Summit.

Interest and excitement generated, immediately.  Our main sponsors, ROLL and Trek were absolutely incredible.  Then, Detroit’s ‘Autobike’ got in touch with us.  ARC Imaging donated printing costs for us.  And last but not least, food trucks!  OH! Burgers! and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams sponsored and killed it during lunch time 🙂  Green Bean Delivery covered all of the yummy fruits during the Summit.  Thank you to all the talented and incredible speakers:  Lisa Hinson, Tammy Krings, Marjorie Shavers, Lindsay Sherman, Lindsey Bower, Emily Burnett, Ohio’s First Lady Karen Kasich, Julie Walcoff, and Rep. Teresa Fedor.

72 women from around the state of Ohio and two women from Indiana.  The overwhelming positive responses from both the attendees and the presenters was absolutely amazing.  The Summit ran without any huge hiccups.  Women were learning, asking questions, laughing, meeting new women, and just enjoying themselves.

I’m grateful for such an amazing first Summit.  This will turn into an annual event.  My main focus is making our city inviting and safe to more modes of transportation.  Men, women, and children deserve ‘choice’ to be able to move about our cities and feel safe doing so.  Us advocates can provide the education; can organize bike rides to build confidence; but there are other components in making people feel that ‘choice,’ in moving around is priority:  political will and infrastructure.  Our wide, arterial streets need to be road dieted and designed with protected bike lanes.  The perception of safety is what I feel a lot of our engineers are missing.  I’ll say it until the light bulb goes off, ‘sharrows do not invite families to ride and feel safe on arterial streets that are four + lanes across and each lane 12+ wide.  Road diets, the narrowing of lanes, and an integrated bicycle network of green lanes, protected lanes, bike boxes, etc. will announce that our leaders are serious about inviting people of all ages to move around the city.  Our leaders making decisions need to be okay with hearing complaints instead of trying to please everyone.  When you create change, you’re gonna hear complaints but the only way to change behavior is to change the infrastructure.  You’re NOT changing the infrastructure when you lay down sharrows.

We have a long way to go and we’re doing better but…  we could be doing even MORE.  We can be building and piloting innovative and bold infrastructure that IS WORKING in other cities.  If we continue to remain status- quo as a city, we’ll continue to get left behind.

Some photos from the first ‘Ohio Women’s Bicycling Summit.’

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Be safe and keep riding!

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