Columbus to Qatar

 Camel!

Camel!

Through a rather bizarre series of events (ask me about it sometime), I was recently invited to speak at Qatar University (at the pleasure of the Princess, no less) about creating communities that welcome bikes for transportation. I'd heard that "no one bikes in Doha", so of course I was curious to discover and document the dystopian hellscape that would cause this to be the case. 

 I know, it's awful, can you even believe it?!

I know, it's awful, can you even believe it?!

Spoiler alert: people DO ride bikes in Doha, just as people ride bikes basically everywhere in the world. And I found it quite lovely to get around there on a bike. But as ubiquitous as bicycling itself, are the many reasons why people believe people aren't bicycling: "The weather is too extreme." "The infrastructure doesn't support riding." "It's too dangerous for women to ride." Sound familiar? 

 People riding to the places they need to travel. (They were bemused at my question about whether they ride like this even in summer).

People riding to the places they need to travel. (They were bemused at my question about whether they ride like this even in summer).

 A person navigating Education City by bike.

A person navigating Education City by bike.

To be sure, it can get HOT in Qatar—108 degree average temps in July, yikes! (just like it can get COLD in Ohio—0-degree temps during much of January, yikes!). There isn't much bicycle infrastructure in Doha (just like there are many parts of Central Ohio without bicycle infrastructure). There can be personal safety concerns for cyclists in Doha, particularly among historically marginalized populations (just like...you got it, right here in Ohio!). And yet, people DO ride for transportation, facing current conditions, both here and there, and everywhere, whether for the joy of it or the necessity. In Qatar as in Columbus, there is a disconnect between perception and reality when it comes to who is riding, how much and where. As much as things are different, mostly they are the same.

 Bicycles, assemble!

Bicycles, assemble!

My Doha adventure reinforced to me how universal are perceptions of bicycling barriers, and how universally will people ride in spite of the real and perceived barriers they face. But regardless whether we're in Doha or Columbus, the risk is the same—when we fail to see the people around us who are riding, it makes it easier not to invest in improving their ride experience. So take a closer look to see what evidence of cycling is around you, even in environments that seem hostile. It will be there. And disrupt any argument along the lines of "people don't ride here because..."—it's not true, guaranteed. People are riding everywhere, no matter what, and it's important that they're seen!

"Mind the gap"

 Photo: ThisWeekNews.com, Lorrie Cecil

Photo: ThisWeekNews.com, Lorrie Cecil

“One of the things we know is that infrastructure plays a big part in people’s willingness to try to use a bike for transportation, particularly when we look at a large employer like OhioHealth.”
— Catherine Girves, Yay Bikes! Executive Director

"Mind the gap, trail users tell city leaders"

ThisWeekNews.com reporter Kevin Parks explores how Clintonville residents are planning to address a several-block gap in the Olentangy Trail.

"Real" cyclists

 Do I look like a cyclist to you?

Do I look like a cyclist to you?

Every few weeks I find myself in conversation with someone (let's be real—it's typically a woman) who shares their experience of bicycling and then demurs: "but I'm not a real cyclist" or "but I'm not super hardcore (implication: like you) or anything". And I'm dumbfounded, because they've just told me how they're now riding to work at least once a week, or they've figured out riding in freezing temperatures, or they're using their bike for some trips to the grocery store, or they're riding down the busiest street in the community. But it's not enough. It doesn't count. It doesn't make them a "real cyclist".

Now I know that "cyclist" is a loaded label, tied to an identity most people aren't willing to claim for themselves. Of 1,967 respondents of two recent surveys we administered, only 5.2% said they considered themselves to be cyclists, while 41.8% said they are "someone who rides a bike from time to time, but is not really a cyclist". And to some extent that's the bad rap cyclists have for being scofflaws or elitist or rude, sure. But also, what comes immediately to mind when I say the word "cyclist"? How about what not-coincidentally comes up first on a Google image search:

  Definitely  a cyclist. 

Definitely a cyclist. 

 Yep. Cyclists. 

Yep. Cyclists. 

Beautiful, fit, white, young, male, racer, hipster. THOSE folks are the REAL cyclists. And these folks—definitely not:

 Too big.

Too big.

 Too black.

Too black.

 Too old.

Too old.

 Too average.

Too average.

 Too lame.

Too lame.

Oh, but what if it's not so much the way you look as the fact that you're not working as hard as you think you should be? You only ride 2 miles to work. You don't ride in the rain or snow. You're slow. You drive part of the way and bike the rest. You take the easy streets, or even the path. Maybe if you were more like these guys:

 The fluorescence really kicks it up a notch.

The fluorescence really kicks it up a notch.

 Now this is hardcore.

Now this is hardcore.

Stop. Listen to me. Here I am, holding your shoulders gently but firmly, looking directly into your eyes. I'm waiting for you to hear with your whole heart what I'm about to say: 

Whatever you're doing—it's enough.
However you look—you belong. 
Wherever you are—it's the perfect place, to begin or continue or stay. 

You can be a real cyclist if you want. All it requires is riding a bike, and declaring yourself so. I'll believe you, I promise. At Yay Bikes!, we all will. Hardcore cheers to you, and to all of us who ride!  

"Cycling to a healthier you"

 Photo: Mark McCullough

Photo: Mark McCullough

Feeling nervous about riding with traffic, facing harsh weather, or navigating the city by bicycle? Yay Bikes! has you covered.
The Columbus non-profit provides a pretty extensive list of educational opportunities designed to get you riding no matter what your
experience level.
— Bridgette Kidd, Ohio Department of Health

"Cycling Your Way to a Healthier You"

Columbus Underground contributor Bridgette Kidd shares how bicycling is accessible and provides innumerable health benefits.
 

The Year of the Woman

 12 Year of Yay! rides, 12 women leaders. 

12 Year of Yay! rides, 12 women leaders. 

2018 Leaders & Themes

With a nod to our current essential/unfortunate/exciting/'bout-timey national conversation, I present to you a very special Yay Bikes!–style celebration of women's leadership. Our 2018 Year of Yay! ride series will be led by 12 FAB women (and, ok ok, 3 token men). And wouldja check out these leaders and their themes:

JAN = Catherine GirvesStretching
FEB = Sarah RiegelWinter Sports
MAR = Bertie Ford—Wine
APR = Marie Rineveld/Nic Binger—Bike Bingo
MAY = Louise Perry/Casey Nickles—The Future is Electric
JUN = Kathleen O’Dowd/Craig Clark—Simple Living
JUL = Taryn Wilson—Flower Power
AUG = Kaitlin Clark—Radio
SEP = Bethel Yared—Art Hop
OCT = Shyra Allen—Clowns
NOV = Vonjia Shannon—Veterans
DEC = Meredith Reed—Believe It or Not

We are so grateful that these women have agreed to lend their time, talents and creativity to these rides. Representation is critical to getting more women riding bikes--because envisioning yourself doing a big new thing often begins with seeing someone like you doing it first. Columbus has more women riding than most places, but we can always stand to bolster our numbers. Next year, let's take that on in a big way. Join us to ride with these women, and bring your friends!


2018 button art

Stay tuned...!


2018 Start/End Location

And finally, without further ado—our 2018 start/end location will be....

luckysmarket_logo_vector.png

That's right, in Clintonville--2770 North High Street, Columbus OH 43202. Rejoice! And see you there soon for a ride. 

John's Yay Bikes! Journey

Yay Bikes! Journeys recount how Yay Bikes! is transforming lives and communities, from the perspective of those we’ve impacted. In this installment, we hear from John Cresencia about how Yay Bikes! has helped him and his family cultivate a rich, active social life here in Columbus. 

 Baby on board! (You now have NO excuse! ;) Photo credit: Catherine Girves

Baby on board! (You now have NO excuse! ;) Photo credit: Catherine Girves

When you first asked me what Yay Bikes! had brought to my life, I honestly didn’t know. But now that we’re talking, my family and I have actually gotten a whole lot out of our involvement! Huh! Interesting!
— John Cresencia

MAKING CONNECTIONS: "If I ever move again the first thing I'll do is hook up with the local bike community. It's the quickest way to learn a place and make friends."

Growing up in the Asian nation of Brunei, John loved riding his bike to local beaches and nearby neighborhoods—like many kids, he found the independence and freedom it granted him intoxicating. He continued riding through childhood and university and, upon moving to Columbus in 2009, found his way to the Tuesday Night Ride series led by Ray George. And then made his way to the Year of Yay! series for its second-ever ride in February 2012. As a newbie to the city, he found that exploring by bike and meeting new people really jumpstarted his new life—with friendships he continues to enjoy to this day. (A similar thing happened, he notes, when he faced long-term travel for work to Detroit—the Slow Roll community there got him acclimated right quick.)

 John chats with Nick & Oulanje on an early Year of Yay! ride. 

John chats with Nick & Oulanje on an early Year of Yay! ride. 

 He's in there somewhere. Photo credit: Bill Ferriot

He's in there somewhere. Photo credit: Bill Ferriot

SPREADING THE JOY: "I hope it's not too cheesy of me to say, but...bicycling has brought a lot of joy to my life. And I really enjoy helping others experience the same."

As the years went on, John became a Yay Bikes! regular, riding most rides and stepping up to lead some, checking folks in at a Ride of Silence, being a Bike the Cbus jack of all trades and helping park bikes with Yay Valet!. John's wife Evy isn't always able to ride, but she also joins in whenever she can—it's just that great of a community, they say, regardless of what type of rider you are, or how "hardcore". They both love spreading the joy of bicycling in whatever ways they can. 

Speaking of which, John says, "The cool thing people may not realize about Yay Bikes! is how much it spawns so much more awesome within our bike community, where people gain confidence riding with the group and then split off from it to offer their own unique thing. I've even led a few rides myself. It's good to have a group out there that shows people the right way to lead a ride so that everyone feels safe and welcome."  

 It's a family affair volunteering at the 2017 Ride of Silence. 

It's a family affair volunteering at the 2017 Ride of Silence. 

 John, with fellow Bike the Cbus volunteers. 

John, with fellow Bike the Cbus volunteers. 

BIKING WITH BABY: "I've learned a lot from people on Yay! rides that's helped me figure out how to ride with my son."

One of the things John values most about his time with Yay Bikes! is the exposure he's had to a wide diversity of riders (most not in spandex!) and, more specifically, the breadth of expertise they're able to offer. "Getting out and riding with people is the best way to learn how to do things—ride roads, fix your bike, figure out routes, whatever. I see things and think, 'Hey, people here in Columbus, that I know, are doing this, and I think I can do it too'. It's how I figured out how to ride with my baby and make it work for both of us." He says, "If you don't know how exactly to ride, just do your best to make it to a ride and people there will take care of you."

 Beating the rain at Bike the Cbus 2017.

Beating the rain at Bike the Cbus 2017.

 All bundled up and oh so happy about it. 

All bundled up and oh so happy about it. 

Yay Bikes! is grateful to John for his kindness, his easy conversation and his even easier "yes, I will!". We especially appreciate his willingness to share that darling baby with us (and all the wisdom he's gaining about riding with him). 

Helmets off to you, friend!

 Yeah, we love ya!

Yeah, we love ya!


To share your Yay Bikes! Journey, contact Meredith to set up a chat!

December 2017 activity report

 Our Executive Director Catherine Girves (center), with Columbus' Director of Public Utilities Tracie Davies (left) and Director of Public Service Jennifer Gallagher (right).

Our Executive Director Catherine Girves (center), with Columbus' Director of Public Utilities Tracie Davies (left) and Director of Public Service Jennifer Gallagher (right).

Welcome to the monthly feature in which we round up all our events, earned media, program delivery, meetings and speaking engagements for the month. Representation and outreach like this is what you fund with your membership dollars and major gifts, folks! Behold, December:

December 2

Met with leadership of Bike Wheeling to discuss advocacy strategies relating to bike infrastructure

December 4

Chaired the regular meeting of the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission's Community Advisory Committee

Strategic Planning Committee meeting of the Yay Bikes! board

December 5

Finance Committee meeting of the Yay Bikes! board

December 6

Meeting with Columbus' Director of Public Service Jennifer Gallagher regarding bicycle infrastructure

Meeting with Columbus City Engineer James Young for a new sewer grate thanks

December 7

Coffee With Catherine

December 9

Year of Yay!, "Art of Giving" theme

December 12

Attended the retirement party for Randy Bowman, outgoing Assistant Director of Public Service for the City of Columbus

December 16

Attended a meeting of the Comfest Grant Committee, on which our Executive Director serves

December 18

Yay Bikes! board meeting

December 28

Bike the Cbus planning meeting

December 30

Strategic Planning Committee meeting of the Yay Bikes! board

Bike / race

 A very happy birthday ride, with one unfortunate bummer. Photo credit: Deltrece Daniels

A very happy birthday ride, with one unfortunate bummer. Photo credit: Deltrece Daniels

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, outside of Akron, OH, September 30, 2017

Glorious day, bike with friends, birthday celebration
Stopped for a rest, exuberant
Dozens of bikes parked everywhere
One small bike rack, a woman from our group put her bike there
    Near another bike already parked—handlebars touching

Our group congregated there, jovial
Stranger with toddler retrieves her bicycle
    Angrily
    Others are disrespecting her property (handlebars touching)
Friend who parked near her bike, responds
    Frustrated
    Can’t we all just enjoy this beautiful day
Conversation continues back and forth
    Heated
    Voices rise
Stranger with toddler: “You people…always ruin everything…”

Oh

She means: “You black people always ruin everything.”

Me, to Stranger with toddler (white woman to white woman): “Have we met?”
Stranger with toddler: “What?”
Me: “You don’t look familiar but you say you know how we always are. Have we met?”

Stranger with toddler, riding away in a huff, yells back to the group: “Black ghetto…”

Group: Unsurprised; deflated

Maybe, if you are a white person unaccustomed to riding with people of color, you are not aware that this sort of thing happens. Or that it happens so often it is the subject of morbid jokes, masking fear as folks ride through certain spaces. You could be forgiven for not knowing; after all, racism arises mostly in the presence of someone believed not to belong.

But if you are one of those people, I am telling you now that people of color and the white folks with them are confronted by explicit racism while riding bikes. I’ve experienced it and I’ve heard more stories than I can count. It is more prevalent than you might expect.

I wrote my Battle Ready article this past February:

Our movement, which has focused on achieving infrastructure that promotes safety, needs to become more attuned to the culture in which people have to ride. Let us now understand that not everyone who rides has the same experience of their ride, regardless of the infrastructure available—some of us, due to our sex, body shape or skin color, assume more risk than others. Our community must rally around to forcefully denounce these threats.

With renewed urgency I return to this theme and expand upon it.

First, I acknowledge that racism is a sensitive subject in this country. Emotions are heightened. Tensions are amplified. I get it. Most of us are exhausted from reckoning with it. Given that, some of you might be thinking, “Please can we not make this a racial thing? I’m just trying to escape into a bike ride, the one thing in life where I can get away from it all and have some joy and peace.”

It might feel easier for us bike folks to keep our heads down and ignore the topic altogether. Surely there is enough to do in the realm of bicycle infrastructure and bike rides and safety education, no?

Actually–no. The oppressions that permeate our culture, permeate everything. Even bike rides.

It is true, that all cyclists are sometimes subjected harassment from people driving in motor vehicles; we are all vulnerable as we ride. Some of us never feel more fearful or less powerful than when we’re on a bike.  

And yet, beloved friends, can we take a moment, without judgment, to imagine what it must be like for our fellow bike comrades, whose ordinary fear of cars and their drivers is too-often compounded by the your-type-doesn’t-belong-here statements and (yes, even) threats of violence? Can we close our eyes, breathe deeply and just be with that for a moment? I hope upon doing so that you arrive at the same conclusion I have: we cannot let this stand, we simply cannot.

This organization’s mission is to influence the conditions that help people safely and comfortably ride bicycles for transportation. For our part, Yay Bikes! promises that we will continue to speak forcefully on difficult issues, like racism and other forms of oppression, as they pertain to the bicycle community. We are committed to the premise that all who join our rides, attend our events and encounter us elsewhere are respected and extended a generous welcome, and that action will be taken when our standards of conduct are not met. I hope you'll join Yay Bikes! in "taking a pedal" against bigotry in all forms.

Bike rides are among the very few spaces in our society where we've got nothing but time to chat about life, where difference can melt into camaraderie. People can be known. Relationships can be built. Healing can occur. I hope you’ll join us for some bike rides with friends, new and old. 

'Birding' ride recap

Thanks to ride leader Alex Fleschner for his ride leadership and this write-up!

November’s theme was “Birding,” something that I had started to get interested in with my children. I figured if my kids were interested in it, maybe others might be as well! And there were some interesting birds in the area to highlight as well. 

 No drop means no drop! Here we stand awaiting a comrade who stayed behind to help someone whose bike broke *right* as we exited the Whole Foods parking lot. Photo credit: Shyra Allen

No drop means no drop! Here we stand awaiting a comrade who stayed behind to help someone whose bike broke *right* as we exited the Whole Foods parking lot. Photo credit: Shyra Allen

We left Easton Whole Foods and got onto the Alum Creek Trail, heading north towards Inniswood Metro Gardens, our first stop. It was cold—the weather only got above freezing in the afternoon—but there was no wind or rain, and the sun came out a few times. Given the weather, we didn’t see many birds, though you could hear them along the trail.

 We ride by a nest on the Alum Creek Trail. Photo credit: Shyra Allen

We ride by a nest on the Alum Creek Trail. Photo credit: Shyra Allen

At Inniswood, I discussed how we got started, as well as tips from the National Audubon Society on how to get started birding. I also discussed some of the apps available. One water break later, we were on our way along the Chipmunk Chatter Trail to our next destination, the Hoover Dam Reservoir.

 Alec talks about how his family got interested in birding. Photo credit: Shyra Allen

Alec talks about how his family got interested in birding. Photo credit: Shyra Allen

At the reservoir, we discussed the bald eagles that nest in the area. Bald eagles are feed mostly on fish and require large, tall trees for their nest, which makes the reservoir a great spot to see them in action. We didn’t get to see any during our quick stop, but the view was still great!

 Clear skies! A great day for birds and bikes alike! Photo credit: Shyra Allen

Clear skies! A great day for birds and bikes alike! Photo credit: Shyra Allen

Our last stop took us to Blendon Woods Metro Park, where naturalist Jamie Kidwell talked turkey to us. The wild turkey flock at Blendon Woods is quite large, measuring in the dozens. A word of caution, though: male turkeys have spurs on their feet. And they can fly, though not far, so don’t be too surprised if one takes to the air if they get scared!

 Jamie Kidwell gets us up close and personal with a turkey wing. Photo credit: Shyra Allen

Jamie Kidwell gets us up close and personal with a turkey wing. Photo credit: Shyra Allen

With that, we headed down Cherry Bottom Road and back to Whole Foods to warm up and recover. Thank you to everyone who joined us on the ride!

 Riding down Cherry Bottom Road. See ya next month! Photo credit: Shyra Allen

Riding down Cherry Bottom Road. See ya next month! Photo credit: Shyra Allen

November 2017 activity report

 Tabling at the annual meeting of the Capital Crossroads and Discovery District Special Improvement Districts. Photo credit: Jeff Gove

Tabling at the annual meeting of the Capital Crossroads and Discovery District Special Improvement Districts. Photo credit: Jeff Gove

Welcome to the monthly feature in which we round up all our events, earned media, program delivery, meetings and speaking engagements for the month. Representation and outreach like this is what you fund with your membership dollars and major gifts, folks! Behold, November:

November 7

Met with staff of Bike Miami Valley to discuss a statewide advocacy agenda

November 8

Led a Ride Buddy ride with 5 Ohio Department of Aging employees

November 9

Coffee With Catherine

November 11

Year of Yay!, "Birding" theme

Yay Valet! @ OSU v Michigan State

November 13

Delivered 2 Professional Development Rides for the ODOT District 7 office

November 14

Attended the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission's Summit on Sustainability

November 16

Attended the Ohio Active Transportation Plan leadership team meeting

Attended and tabled at the annual meeting of the Capital Crossroads and Discovery District Special Improvement Districts

Led a Ride Buddy ride with 3 Ohio Department of Health employees

November 18

Yay Valet! @ OSU v Illinois

November 20

Yay Bikes! board meeting

The Columbus Dispatch: Berliner Park will sport first mountain bike trail inside I-270

November 21

The Marietta Times: Professional development rides sponsored by ODOT

 

Going small

 Me (far right), making time for long bike rides with loved ones. Photo credit: Shyra Allen

Me (far right), making time for long bike rides with loved ones. Photo credit: Shyra Allen

(Gulp…) So I never thought I’d say this but…I think I’m a recreational cyclist now. All the signs are there: eagerly planning long bike rides, going on long bike rides, enjoying long bike rides. And if you know me, you know this is SUPER weird. I work, I don’t play! I ride my bike for utility, not fun! Admitting that I ride recreationally now, just for fun—well, it’s like I don’t even know myself anymore.

This may have been a natural progression for me. I mean, I am the Executive Director of a bicycle advocacy organization (albeit one focused on transportation cycling), after all! But I do wonder if the acceleration my path to recreational riding this year isn’t somehow tied to the topsy-turvy nature of USA 2017. I’ve been frustrated a lot this year. Pondering how to be of use in this moment, wondering if perhaps I’m going about it all wrong. I’m still out there every day, advocating with all my heart for the big stuff—peaceful streets and better bicycling conditions. But is seems I’ve also been heeding a call from deep within to “go small”. It’s been a time of nurturing relationships; exploring, learning and reflecting; meeting new people; moving my body—a time, yes, of long bike rides. 

There are ways in which our bicycle movement absolutely speaks to the broader, more fraught issues of our time—more on that next month—but it also offers us a rare and necessary space in our society for healing. Rebuilding frayed nerves and relationships, one pedal stroke at a time. Connecting folks from different neighborhoods, one corridor at a time. What could be more important than this? This is The Work that I and Yay Bikes! are called to do. If you're feeling overwhelmed, sad, angry, hopeless, I encourage you go small with me. Not so small that you go into hiding. Just small enough for a restorative bike ride with friends new and old.

Much love to you all.

Smooch! 

Getting some respect

 Cyclists following all the laws, likely still pissing people off. Photo credit: David Curran

Cyclists following all the laws, likely still pissing people off. Photo credit: David Curran

Every time you get on a bike, from this moment forward, obey the letter of the law in every traffic exchange everywhere to help drivers (and police officers) view cyclists as predictable users of the road who deserve respect.
— "Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists?", The New York Times

The above quote reflects an idea with seemingly widespread acceptance, which is that cyclists could overcome drivers’ hatred and earn their respect if we would all just follow the rules. Respect for cyclists, in this view, is predicated not on our legitimate, law-given right to the road, but our ability to perfectly, “in every traffic exchange everywhere”, obey the letter of the law. Never mind that drivers and cyclists break the law at roughly the same rate—the perception is that cyclists are the scofflaws, and damn rude to boot. And so many of us have taken to policing our fellow riders, blaming them for our pitiable station, or begging the police to more often ticket law-breaking cyclists. This I consider unfortunate—because the sad truth is that cyclists can never be perfect enough for motorists to willingly give up the space and speed they feel they’re entitled to. It’s time for us to try a different way. 

The politics of respectability

The concept of respectability politics, through which Black social critics have made the case that "acting right" will never command respect for Blacks in American society, is a useful frame for all marginalized groups, including bicyclists. 

Respectability politics...refers to attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous, and compatible, with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for its failure to accept difference.
— wikipedia.org

You might recognize a respectability-oriented argument from comments by Bill Cosby and Charles Barkley, who insist that a lack of personal responsibility and conformity with mainstream culture, not white racism or hundreds of years of oppression, are primarily to blame for the black community's continued struggle. If (poor) blacks would pull up their pants, speak deferentially to cops, stop acting like thugs, etc., etc.—then they'd thrive. Unfortunately, as many of us know from hard experience, being respectable does not necessarily translate into being respected. Plenty of "respectable" black folks still face discrimination and, indeed, outcomes as disparate as those of America's white and black communities suggests something more is at play here.       

Of course respect can be earned, no one is disputing that. But when a power imbalance exists—caused and reinforced over many years by policies that benefit one group over another—the more powerful group comes to feel entitled to their privilege, and blind to its true cause (i.e., not their own inherent worth but an entire system stacked in their favor). They are not so inclined to grant respect (i.e., equality) to those they believe would halt the gravy train. 

And so it is with bikes v cars. If we believe that stopping at stop signs is going to reverse the impact of decades of car-prioritizing policies in the U.S., we are tragically naive. Again, cyclists can never be perfect enough to get motorists to willingly give up the space and speed they feel they’re entitled to. Many motorists don't want us on the road, period. They don't want to have to drive slower and pay better attention and re-learn traffic law and adopt a new transportation paradigm that encompasses all comers. I’m not mad about that—change can be uncomfortable, and there’s no denying that this change is a doozy. What’s crazy-making is the pretending.

I remember on two separate occasions when I was stopped at a red light and the drivers behind me honked their horns, waved frantically and yelled at me to get over so they could make a right turn—which I did not oblige, because I was headed straight. They were both over-the-top mad about it. The second time it happened, I remember wondering if he would have pretended to be as mad if I'd run the red light as he was actually mad that I was stopped there, delaying his turn. Prior to those incidents it had not occurred to me that people might (subconsciously, perhaps) pretend to care about cyclists following the law in order to mask their rage at cyclists existing in their space...but what other explanation could there be? 

Countering power and privilege

Of course it's good practice for cyclists to observe the law—it upholds the predictability upon which safety in traffic depends, and it's generally safer for us. But let's not pretend that it will earn us the respect we crave, and let's not waste time policing cyclists who aren't compliant. Instead our movement should turn our attention to helping motorists, who wield a disproportionate ability to harm, move into a new paradigm of transportation. How? Widespread motorist education. About this, Yay Bikes! has some thoughts—and also, some original data. Which is back up by yet more data

During our 2015 Ride Buddy pilot program, we rode with people to help them figure out how to ride bikes on trips to and/or from work. We followed up with participants six weeks after their Ride Buddy experience, to see whether and how their behaviors and attitudes had changed. A couple of things we were curious about was how riding with us influenced both their impression of bicyclists and the way they drove their car. Here's what we found:

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 1.23.38 PM.png

In terms of how, exactly, their impression changed, the majority of survey respondents (61%, n=41) reported that they "better understand why [bicyclists] make the choices they do", while others said they "feel less hostility towards them" and even that they "think they're kinda heroic, actually".

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 1.23.21 PM.png

The majority of respondents (61.5%, n=39) reported that they "give cyclists more space when passing", while others said they "are less anxious and more patient"—and also that they drive more slowly and less distractedly. One even wrote, "I'm way more patient with cyclists now. I understand what they're doing.”

Although it's a small sample size, these results suggest something interesting—that a one- to two-hour guided bike ride experience can change both the way people drive and how they feel about bicyclists.

In fact, I have come to believe that the only way for cyclists to get more respect is for more motorists to become bicyclists, even for a very short period of time. Ideally, a preponderance of the population would participate in educational rides like How We Roll or Ride Buddy or Professional Development Rides. But how? It can be hard for people to overcome their fear of riding with traffic, their inability to see themselves as a “cyclist”, logistical challenges, etc. So anything that compels participation is likely a no-go. But an idea from former Yay Bikes! founding board member Ken Cohen provides a compelling alternative. What if we could get insurance companies to provide a discount to customers who participate in an educational bike ride? If we could demonstrate safer driving through bicycle education, I bet insurance companies would consider it. And if people could save money on their car insurance by becoming more attuned to how their driving impacts more vulnerable road users, I think they'd jump at the chance.  

The final word

People who ride bicycles yearn for respect out there on the roads, and no wonder—our lives can depend on it. The mistake we sometimes make is believing that we can earn that respect by acting right and following all the rules. We cannot. As much as we should ride lawfully (and we should), sadly that is not the path to legitimacy. We need to cultivate empathy among those who drive. We need to get them to ride with us. And with the proper incentives, I believe we can. 

October 2017 activity report

 Ohio Department of Health employees participating in a Ride Buddy ride. Photo credit: Deo Martinez

Ohio Department of Health employees participating in a Ride Buddy ride. Photo credit: Deo Martinez

Welcome to the monthly feature in which we round up all our events, earned media, program delivery, meetings and speaking engagements for the month. Representation and outreach like this is what you fund with your membership dollars and major gifts, folks! Behold, October:

October 2

Attended an introductory meeting with a Lime Bike representative

Chaired the regular meeting of the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission's Community Advisory Committee

October 4

Athens NEWS: Advocates: Make Athens bike again

October 5

Sentinel-Tribune: BG adds graphics to remind drivers to share the road with bikes

October 6

Joined an Engineer's Ride with City of Columbus engineers, to look at portions of the proposed Clintonville Bikeway Network

Led a Ride Buddy ride with 3 Ohio Department of Health employees

Participated in the CoGo Bike Share quarterly stakeholders meeting

October 7

Yay Valet! @ OSU v Maryland

Spoke about effective advocacy on a "Fireside Chat" panel at the 2017 G.I.R.L. Conference

October 10

Coffee with Catherine

Attended the annual Ohio Transportation Engineering Conference

October 11

Led a Ride Buddy ride with 2 Ohio Department of Health employees

Drop In with Deo

October 12

Showcased bicycling at a "Career on Wheels" event at Liberty Elementary School

October 13

Delivered 2 Professional Development Rides for Elyria professionals

October 14

Year of Yay!, "First Dates" theme

October 15

Yay Valet! @ Columbus Marathon

October 16

Delivered 2 Professional Development Rides for Kettering professionals

Yay Bikes! board meeting

October 18

Candidates Forum, in partnership with DRAC (the Downtown Residents' Association of Columbus) and the Franklin County Consortium for Good Government

October 22

Led a How We Roll ride

October 23

Delivered a Professional Development Ride for Marietta professionals 

October 24

Delivered 2 Professional Development Rides for Marietta professionals 

October 26

Delivered a Professional Development Ride for McConnellsville professionals 

October 27

Led a Ride Buddy ride with 5 United Way of Central Ohio employees

Delivered a Professional Development Ride for Marietta professionals 

October 28

Yay Valet! @ OSU v Penn State

October 30

Participated in the Community Shares of Mid Ohio Audit Committee meeting

Chaired the regular meeting of the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission's Community Advisory Committee

October 31

abc6onyourside.com: New bill could stiffen distracted driving penalties, some safety advocates want more

 

'First Dates' ride recap

 Ride leader Aliceanne Inskeep introduces the ride with her sweetie, Ken Cohen. Photo credit: Keith Mayton

Ride leader Aliceanne Inskeep introduces the ride with her sweetie, Ken Cohen. Photo credit: Keith Mayton

A big Yay Bikes! thanks to Aliceanne for a fantastic ride! 

Aliceanne Inskeep put together a lovely ride for October's Year of Yay!, during which we recreated her first date with Ken Cohen. Our group of 20ish traveled 17 miles on a perfect 70-degree day, exploring downtown Westerville together.

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Our group kicked off by rolling through friendly neighborhood roads and making our way towards Westerville. Once we arrived, we dismounted at the Westerville Bike Shop and took the next 40 minutes to explore State Street's shops, cafes and bakeries—and people definitely took advantage! 

 Spooky cyclist @ Westerville Bike Shop. Photo credit: Keith Mayton

Spooky cyclist @ Westerville Bike Shop. Photo credit: Keith Mayton

 YUM! Photo credit: Keith Mayton

YUM! Photo credit: Keith Mayton

We then took our two-wheelin' selves and made way to Westerville Cemetery (Of course! Because all good first dates include a cemetery visit!). We learned that Benjamin Russell Hanby, a composer in the 1850s who wrote the classic Christmas song "Up on the Housetop", was buried there. After a bit of a history lesson from Aliceanne and a failed attempt singing the song as a group, we headed back to our starting point.

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We made a quick stop to take a group picture at the Alum Creek park amphitheater. The way back was spent mostly on the Alum Creek trail.

'New Americans' ride recap

New Americans was the theme for this Year of Yay! ride, which exposed us to the lives of people who are not from this country. The people we encountered on this day were mostly new to the ways of American tradition and customs. Sometimes in order to understand people, you must jump knee deep in their culture, and that's just what we did. All in all, the ride went beautifully! The route went through various easy-going neighborhoods with kids waving and good vibes.

 Who needs Morse Rd?!?! Photo credit: Pete Heiss

Who needs Morse Rd?!?! Photo credit: Pete Heiss

The weather was nice and the riders were ready. The day graced us with temps in the 70s perfectly fitting for the 17.9-mile ride ahead of us. The first stop on our cruise was Global Mall, a marketplace where you can find several different imported goods and gifts. Along the aisles, you could purchase colorful Somali garments, ceramics and even groceries that you wouldn't find in a conventional supermarket.

 Perusing the Global Mall. Photo credit: Keith Lugs

Perusing the Global Mall. Photo credit: Keith Lugs

 Ride leader Nancy Niemuth considers a garment. Photo credit: Keith Lugs

Ride leader Nancy Niemuth considers a garment. Photo credit: Keith Lugs

Next up was Masjid As-Salaamah, a mosque on Cleveland Avenue where Madhi Warsama was nice enough to speak to us about their place of worship, Islam and the daily life of Muslim people. He even let us take a peek in the men's prayer hall! He closed out with giving us info about various CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) Central Ohio activities and programs.

 Hearing from Madhi Warsama Masjid at As-Salaamah, a mosque on Cleveland Avenue. Photo credit: Keith Lugs

Hearing from Madhi Warsama Masjid at As-Salaamah, a mosque on Cleveland Avenue. Photo credit: Keith Lugs

The last stop on our journey was the Columbus Global Academy, which houses the Columbus City School district's ESL (English as a Second Language) programs, which teach young immigrants to speak English. The principal wasn't available to speak, so our ride leader, Nancy Niemuth, talked to us in-depth about what the program entails and how it impacts the lives of students.

 At the Columbus Global Academy to learn about their ESL program. Photo credit: Pete Heiss

At the Columbus Global Academy to learn about their ESL program. Photo credit: Pete Heiss

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the adventure, and especially Keith and Pete, who captured it so beautifully in picture and video, and Nancy for creating such a fascinating experience. See you next month!

The bicycling State of Ohio

 A crew of ODOT employees discovers how easy it is to bike the West Side. Photo credit: Meredith Joy

A crew of ODOT employees discovers how easy it is to bike the West Side. Photo credit: Meredith Joy

Over the past couple months, in a pilot program similar to the one we offered in 2015 (results here), Yay Bikes! Ride Buddies Meredith Joy and Deo Martinez have ridden with 48 state agency employees. We don't yet have the data from this round of programming fully collected or analyzed, but what we have so far reaffirms for me the value of a human touch in our work. After an extremely short ride experience, at least 2 people are giving up their parking passes; almost 30 have purchased annual CoGo bike share memberships; several have begun riding again after many years and more! Entire workplaces are being transformed as 10+ people within them have learned how to ride and gained access to bike share during their work day. As always, it's been magical. 

This was a great experience! I don’t think I would have felt confident enough to ride on the road without this. I hope more people take advantage of it!
— Ride Buddy participant
 Wellness Ambassadors from several agencies are partners in getting people out to ride with us. Photo credit: Ben Ko

Wellness Ambassadors from several agencies are partners in getting people out to ride with us. Photo credit: Ben Ko

What they learned

I always find it fascinating what people learned from riding with us. Again, this is an extremely short ride we're talking about—1 hour, 3ish miles. But what it opens up for people is nothing short of extraordinary. People come out of the rides understanding bike law and their right to the road, how to use various forms of bicycle infrastructure, where to access amazing parks and trails, why people who ride make the choices they do, about local resources that can support their ability to ride, how to use hand signals and on and on. It does make one wonder—what would happen on our streets if everyone had the benefit of some on-road bicycle education. Hmmm....! 

Consider my mind blown that riding a few feet to the left of where people assume they should ride their bike makes an extremely stressful situation into a normal traffic experience.
— Ride Buddy participant
 Ohio Department of Health employees putting their bikes where their mouths are...uhhh...or something like that! Photo credit: Meredith Joy

Ohio Department of Health employees putting their bikes where their mouths are...uhhh...or something like that! Photo credit: Meredith Joy

What they were surprised by

Even more fascinating is what people find surprising on the ride. Two recurring themes are that people are surprised by how many rights they have as a cyclist, and by how much less stressful it is than expected to ride on the road. People have built up a lot of fear about what it must be like to ride in the street, but the come to discover that, for the most part, drivers are quite lovely. In the proper lane position, they find they are like rocks in a stream, with faster traffic flowing around them peacefully. Busy streets previously inaccessible to them are suddenly in play.

[I was surprised to realize] the large downtown streets are actually ok.
— Ride Buddy participant
 The Ohio Departments of Education and Higher Education booked 3 rides with us! Photo credit: Jeff Gove

The Ohio Departments of Education and Higher Education booked 3 rides with us! Photo credit: Jeff Gove

Their favorite part

Of course, we here at Yay Bikes! don't just ride for the sake of it. Bicycling is what you experience and discover along the way! Fittingly, many of our riders have cited our ride through Scioto Audubon Metro Park and the trail into Downtown along the Scioto River as their favorite part of their experience. Between the goldenrod blooms and the breathtaking waterfront views of Columbus' skyline, it's no wonder! Many of our riders had never visited the park, and many others weren't aware of how a bike path connects it so readily to Downtown. Win! 

[My favorite part was] the beauty of the Audubon area and seeing how it connects with the Scioto Mile.
— Ride Buddy participant
 Riders discover how easy it is to use CoGo to ride into Downtown from Scioto Audubon Metro Park. Photo credit: Deo Martinez

Riders discover how easy it is to use CoGo to ride into Downtown from Scioto Audubon Metro Park. Photo credit: Deo Martinez

 Riding the path into Downtown from Scioto Audubon Metro Park. Photo credit: Ben Ko

Riding the path into Downtown from Scioto Audubon Metro Park. Photo credit: Ben Ko

Yay Bikes! is grateful to the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Health for their extraordinary commitment to active transportation. This program would not be available without their support and investment. As of this writing, funds are available for several more rides. If you work at a state agency in or near downtown, contact Meredith to schedule a one-hour ride experience for you or your team. It's magic, I tell ya.

Bertie's Yay Bikes! Journey

Yay Bikes! Journeys recount how Yay Bikes! is transforming lives and communities, from the perspective of those we’ve impacted. In this installment, we hear from Yay Bikes! board member Bertie Ford about how Yay Bikes! is helping her advance the many cycling communities she leads and enjoys.

 If ever a photo captured the spirit of a person...! It's Bertie! Photo credit: Ben Ko

If ever a photo captured the spirit of a person...! It's Bertie! Photo credit: Ben Ko

Yay Bikes! is a way to connect several bicycling communities
important to me and get more people riding like I do,
for fun, fitness and camaraderie!
— Bertie Ford

FILLING A HOLE: "I was devastated when a knee injury forced me to give up running. Luckily biking was there to save me!"

Bertie Ford, an oncology nurse, has always been a cyclist, riding around her college campus, carting her son around by bike and enjoying Bike the Cbus and other trail rides. But bicycling has increasingly become a passion of hers over the past 10 years, especially since she injured her knee training for and running a marathon in 2014. When Bertie learned about the organization Black Girls Do Bike, she was quick to launch a Columbus chapter, which now boasts 266 members. She's found in bicycling an
endless source of fitness, fun and camaraderie—as well as an outlet for her natural leadership skills.

 Bertie, rocking a mountain bike on the first-ever Bike the Cbus in 2008.

Bertie, rocking a mountain bike on the first-ever Bike the Cbus in 2008.

 Black Girls Do Bike Columbus riding 2017's Bike the Cbus. Photo credit: Ben Ko

Black Girls Do Bike Columbus riding 2017's Bike the Cbus. Photo credit: Ben Ko

ENCOUNTERING A KINDRED SPIRIT: "Catherine is my idol. People from every cycling group in Columbus know and respect her leadership."

When Bertie met Yay Bikes! Executive Director Catherine Girves in 2015, she instantly felt bonded to her. A "Force of Nature" herself, Bertie knew a powerful woman when she met one. Over the next two years they got to know one another—Catherine joining Black Girls Do Bike rides, Bertie enjoying Year of Yay! rides, the two traveling together to the Five Boro Bike Tour in NYC—and found they shared a passion for bicycling, a worldview and even the unique experience of mixed race families. Bertie admired Catherine's tenacity, her energy, "everything about her, really!", and loved that she sees the big picture, to the benefit of the cycling community as a whole. So when Catherine invited her to consider Yay Bikes! board leadership, Bertie was all in. 

 Bertie and Catherine, poised to head out with Black Girls Do Bike to the London Strawberry Festival.

Bertie and Catherine, poised to head out with Black Girls Do Bike to the London Strawberry Festival.

CONNECTING THE COMMUNITY: "I view myself as a vessel to be filled up with the wishes of my communities, so that I can help communicate them to higher levels."

Bertie is the type always compelled to go above and beyond herself for the sake of her communities. She considers herself vessel of communication and advocacy for the groups to which she belongs—Yay Bikes!, Black Girls Do Bike, Major Taylor, Steady Pedaling and CycleNuts.—and an ambassador for African American cyclists, who many people in Ohio are not accustomed to seeing. She's proud of the African American bicycle community in Columbus, which has grown exponentially in the past couple of years and would be, she says, more in line with what you'd expect from a place like Detroit or Atlanta. 

 Members of Black Girls Do Bike, Major Taylors, Cycle Nuts and Yay Bikes! before chowing down during a ride to London OH.

Members of Black Girls Do Bike, Major Taylors, Cycle Nuts and Yay Bikes! before chowing down during a ride to London OH.

RAMPING UP YET AGAIN: "Joining the board of Yay Bikes! is a way for me to expand my ability to increase the number and safety of cyclists out there."

With a goal to increase the number and safety of cyclists in Central Ohio, and a leadership itch needing scratched, Bertie joined the Yay Bikes! board in August 2017. Among other things, she views board service as an opportunity to better promote and advocate for her Black Girls Do Bike chapter, and hopes to mentor new leaders within the group to expand the number of rides they offer even when she's not available to coordinate them. 

 Happiness on a bike, riding with Team Buckeye during Pelotonia 2017. Photo credit: Darrell McGrath

Happiness on a bike, riding with Team Buckeye during Pelotonia 2017. Photo credit: Darrell McGrath

Yay Bikes! is grateful to Bertie for her enthusiasm, spunk, organizational knowledge and leadership. We especially appreciate her role as a Connector who brings people together for bike rides—and ultimately helps them accomplish so much more. 

Helmets off to you, friend!


To share your Yay Bikes! Journey, contact Meredith to set up a chat!

Etiquette, schmetiquette!

Why bring the best movie of all time into this?!

They’re some of the rudest people I’ve ever encountered. I hate to say it, but I’m just going to be bold—they’re some of the most self-centered people navigating on highways, or on county roads I’ve ever seen. They won’t move over. You can honk at them; they think they own the highway.

— President of the Montana Senate Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, opposing a proposed safe passing bill for the state

"Not wrong, just an a**hole"

I was reading the comment section on a bicycle-related newspaper article one day (I know, I know…) and noticed an interesting pivot in one of the comments. Someone had defended a cyclist’s right to be on the road—yay!—but then, channeling The Dude from The Big Lebowski (please do watch the clip above), went on to say that while cyclists “aren’t wrong” to be on the road, “they’re just a**holes” for riding there. Well now. That took a turn, didn’t it. 

It does seem to me there’s been a shift in the discourse lately, with more people understanding that cyclists have a legal right to be on the road. But the cultural attitude about that remains entrenched—it’s damn rude to do it. And so people who ride are faced with a choice. Do we physically remove ourselves from the flow of traffic when our presence slows motor vehicles, currying favor with drivers and maintaining our status as decent, etiquette-respecting human beings? Or do we stay safe? 

Yes, the choice between “rude” and safe is that stark. Safety for cyclists is largely a function of how visible we are to people driving cars, and the best way to be visible is to position ourselves within a driver’s line of sight (keeping in mind that they can’t see as well, or process information as quickly, from within their speeding box). Nevertheless, we are subjected to a near-constant chorus—of frustrated motorists but also fellow cyclists who think giving up space on the road will gain us acceptance and respect—that slowing the speed of car travel is deviant. Here’s what I say to that: 

Our roads ain’t no place for etiquette. Particularly the bicycle kind.

etiquette (noun) : the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.
— dictionary.com

Etiquette is the proverbial grease to society’s chain; it’s the spoken and unspoken rules about how we should behave in a given context to get along with others. Knowing a group’s rules and acting accordingly is essential for anyone who wants to fit in and thrive. So, as people who ride, “bicycle etiquette” should be a useful concept, leading us toward a common understanding of how we should conduct ourselves, yeah? Well sure, in the context of trail and group riding, where clear codes of conduct are important for not just politeness but also safety, etiquette is essential—for example, everyone should understand how to pass others without frightening or injuring them. 

Where the notion of bicycle etiquette becomes trickier is in its application to people riding roads. A quick Google suggests the phrase is a mash-up referring to many different things: riding tips ("No shoaling!"), safety advice ("Wear a helmet at all times"), admonishments to follow the law ("Don't ride against traffic"), truly random stuff ("How to poop on a ride") and calls to get out of the way of other vehicles ("Two abreast? Surely you jest.”). Clearly, there is no clear consensus about what it means. And I’d argue that’s because etiquette in the context of road riding is nonsensical. The group into which people riding roads are attempting to “fit in” is not fellow cyclists but fellow travelers (aka “traffic”)—and all travelers are governed by traffic law, not the laws of polite society. 

Sharing isn’t caring

Keeping peace on the streets is often regarded as a function of all users extending kindness towards one another, or "sharing the road”. This is problematic for many reasons, not least that our understanding of how to behave in traffic breaks down even when people are trying to be kind (I see you there, 'Unnecessary Samaritans', braking for me as I wait to cross the street, forcing an awkward “Are they really stopping for me? Oh, OK, looks like it, guess I’ll have to perform a little shuffle-jog to demonstrate I don’t take their kindness for granted” situation). More troublingly, when we view traffic from the perspective of "polite" or "rude", as opposed to "legal" and "illegal", we set expectations for the behavior of people who ride bicycles that run counter to their interests and safety.

Transportation engineering in the United States has historically prioritized speed and efficiency, and all of us have, to some extent, internalized this ethos. The consensus in American society is now that it is “rude" to slow traffic, meaning that even perfectly legal behavior on the part of a cyclist (riding in the middle of a lane of traffic with cars queued behind) becomes cast as deviance. The “polite” thing to do is move to the right, sharing or forfeiting the lane, at the expense of our own bodies and well being. 

The following analogy may be crude, but it can help us understand how inappropriate it is to think of a bicyclist’s right to travel in terms of etiquette:

People born in the United States have been granted the right to "pursue life" (thanks, Forefathers!). But at times this right may prove inconvenient to others. Say you've spent the past several years caring for an ailing parent. You love them and you're as sympathetic as you can be, but… this is taking so much longer than expected! It’s kind of jamming you up a bit! HOWEVER. Is it “rude” for them to keep living? Of course not! They are exercising their fundamental right to life, not breaching a social contract. Their need for extra care to sustain life does not constitute a claim to "more rights” to life than anyone else. They’re just living as best they can, for as long as possible, regardless your feelings about it.  

Likewise, Americans have a fundamental right to travel (to be distinguished from a right to travel as speedily as we may desire). And at times, depending on the vehicle we’ve chosen, our exercise of this right to travel can be inconvenient for others. It can take more time for them to get to where they’re going when our vehicle is slower than theirs. They may have strong feelings about this. But each individual in our society gets to choose their vehicle from among any of the road-legal vehicles in our state traffic codes, and one type of vehicle has no more or less right to the road than any other. Public roadways are first-come, first-served, period. Taking more time to travel them does not equate to taking “more rights” to the road. We’re all just trying to make it safely to our destinations, as best we can.

The fact is that Ohioans have the right to ride a bicycle literally anywhere on the road, going any speed, regardless of traffic conditions. We cannot “impede traffic”. We need not ride “as far right as possible”. We do not have to “share”. And we are not “being rude” when we take the time and space we feel we need to be safe. Period. 

 Cars queueing behind cyclists, alllll good.

Cars queueing behind cyclists, alllll good.

Meanwhile, back in the real world

OK sure, but one might argue that, back here in the real world, law and etiquette coexist, and the legality of an action does not preclude people from evaluating it in light of cultural expectations. Plenty of legal behaviors are considered rude, after all (e.g., speeding up to prevent someone from entering the flow of traffic), just as plenty of drivers employ niceties not proscribed by law (e.g., braking to allow someone to enter the flow of traffic). So assuming it’s safe to do so, people who ride roads should be willing to move aside from time to time to let traffic pass—a simple, no-skin-off-my-back way to generate good will from motorists. Doesn’t have to be a big deal, doesn’t have to mean anything, just a simple act of kindness extended to a stranger to keep things copacetic. Right?! Well…no. 

It is not OK for acceptance into the “legitimate road users club” to hinge on someone physically removing themselves from traffic to suit someone faster than them. We can acknowledge our current reality—that we face a cultural norm around speed on our roads, and flouting that norm can upset people—and also refuse to grant it the power to dictate where we ride on the road. It may not feel fair that we, as the more vulnerable road users, have to take this on, but fortunately we do have the power to help change our society’s norms. When we refuse to move aside for faster traffic, we begin to normalize our presence and slowly, over time, we become normal. And then more people join us on the roads, and bicycling becomes safer and everyone wins—even motorists

Embracing “rude”

To be clear, I think we should all approach traffic with a spirit of generosity—even, yes, kindness—towards our fellow travelers, particularly those more vulnerable than us. Again, the problem with enacting that spirit is that it can undermine the very predictability on which traffic safety for all users depends. Laws are designed to pick up the slack in spaces where human goodness cannot go far enough, where there will be mass confusion and likely injury if circumstances go awry. Adhering to the letter of the law helps keep everyone safe on the road (yes, cyclists should do so as well, but that's a topic for another day). 

I should also say that someone who rides roads need not maintain their position in traffic at all times to make a point. It is fine to feel stressed or threatened by traffic, physically exhausted or whatever, and it might make sense to just pull over for a bit. There are no "hardcore points" one can accumulate by being a never-conceding, most-challenging-route-possible-choosing cyclist. But, to be clear—if someone moves aside while cycling to let cars pass, that is a choice they are making to forfeit their right to the road. It is not "etiquette”. The distinction matters! People want to be nice, they want to follow the rules, they want to fit in, they want not to be a burden on others. They want all that so much they are willing to risk their lives to allow space for massive speeding vehicles, by riding so far to the right they become invisible. 

So polite society be damned, I say. 

It is time for cyclists to embrace “rude” and confidently take their rightful place on the road. It is time that we stop giving our fellow road riders a hard time for being in the street, slowing cars. Because we’re not doing ourselves any favors by being nice. In fact, it just might get us killed.

September 2017 activity report

 Our Executive Director at a transportation professionals networking event this month.

Our Executive Director at a transportation professionals networking event this month.

Welcome to the monthly feature in which we round up all our events, earned media, program delivery, meetings and speaking engagements for the month. Representation and outreach like this is what you fund with your membership dollars and major gifts, folks! Behold, September:

September 1

Bike the Cbus and Bike the CbusPLUS registration & packet pick-up

September 2

Bike the Cbus and Bike the CbusPLUS (Click to view photos of the event!)

September 3

Year of Yay! vetting ride

September 4

Yay Valet! @ Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival

September 5

Chaired the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission's regular Community Advisory Committee meeting

September 6

Coffee With Catherine

Ride Buddy ride with 5 Ohio Department of Transportation employees

September 7

Led a Ride Buddy ride with 5 Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Department of Higher Education employees

Led 2 Ride Buddy rides with 9 Ohio Development Services Administration and Ohio Department of Commerce employees

Bike Safety chat at the Grange Audubon Center

September 9

Year of Yay!, New Americans theme

Yay Valet! @ OSU v Oklahoma

September 10

Offered a Blessing of the Bicycles, in partnership with Summit on 16th United Methodist Church (See the message—"Godly Transportation Design"—here!)

September 14

Presented at a teleconference to professionals nationwide with CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, on the topic Engaging Employees in Active Commuting (Listen to the webinar here!)

Drop In with Deo @ Upper Cup Coffee House

September 15

Attended an Inclusive Communities Affordable Housing Committee meeting

Attended a transportation professionals networking event

September 16

Yay Valet! @ OSU v Army West Point

September 18

Led a Ride Buddy ride with 4 Ohio Department of Health employees

Delivered 2 Professional Development Rides for Knox County professionals

Yay Bikes! board meeting

September 19

Mount Vernon News: Ride shines light on bike safety in city

September 20

Site visit to the Ohio Department of Transportation to assess bicycle infrastructure needs

September 21

Led a Ride Buddy ride with 4 Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio Department of Higher Education employees

September 23

Yay Valet! @ OSU v UNLV

September 25

Participated in Ohio Active Transportation Plan team meeting

September 26

Led a Ride Buddy ride with 3 Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections employees

Godly transportation design

 Yay Bikes! member Nik Olah getting blessed at Summit on 16th United Methodist Church's 2017 Blessing of the Bicycles. 

Yay Bikes! member Nik Olah getting blessed at Summit on 16th United Methodist Church's 2017 Blessing of the Bicycles. 

I delivered this message at Summit on 16th United Methodist Church's 2017 Blessing of the Bicycles. It's a bit of a funny thing, because I'm not religious, and of course Yay Bikes! is secular. But I think there is great value in considering our mission from many perspectives, of which faith is one both worthy and under appreciated. (Yes, I know many of us do "bike church" on Sunday mornings, but beyond that...). Indeed, when we include “culture change” as part of our theory of change at Yay Bikes!, what we mean is that we “explore the intersections between bicycling and other areas of life—because we believe it necessary to expand the public’s notion of who is and can be a bicyclist.” People are inspired to ride for all sorts of reasons—health, the environment, fun, saving money, etc. Why not ride as an expression of our faith? So please enjoy this message as an invitation to honor God’s design by riding your bicycle! And have a blessed day. 


Sooooo…here we are at a Blessing of the Bicycles. That’s weird, right? I mean, it’s like a “thing” now—they’ve been doing them all over the world since 1999—but what is it, some kinda gimmick? A trick? Awkward outreach to the heathen cycling community? But why? Like I said—weird!

Well, many of us here are cyclists, or maybe we don’t call ourselves that but we ride our bikes from time to time. We may be faithful people, or perhaps not. Regardless, I think most of us can buy into the idea of a Bike Blessing, even if only because “hey man, whatever it takes to stay safe out there”. God, pixie dust, genies in a bottle, whatever, I’ll take it, sure! 

To tell the truth, apart from the safety aspect, bicycles and blessings is an odd pairing. What I love about it, though, is that it opens the door just a crack to an area of life that really warrants more attention from our faith communities—or any attention at all, frankly. And that is transportation. The everyday act of getting our bodies from one place to another. 

Yeah, let’s take this a step back from bicycling today to consider transportation more broadly. Yay Bikes!, the nonprofit organization I founded nine years ago and still work for today, is focused exclusively on one type of bicycling, which is bicycling as a means of transportation. Of all the many types of riding a person can enjoy, this is mine, and transportation happens to be the frame I’ve used to explore and understand bicycling for more than a decade. Also, I should say that I grew up in the Christian tradition, as a preacher’s kid no less, so that experience is what I can speak to specifically. It is my hope that this message resonates with those of you from different backgrounds and traditions and styles of riding as well.

So, then. As I was reflecting for this message on what might be some intersections between the worlds of faith and transportation, I came up with a pretty short list.
Two things. First, spiritual journeys—all faith traditions use journeys as a metaphor for a person's relationship with God. Second, church vans. A way to get people to and from church when they're not able to themselves, and youth outings and the like. And I thought to myself, there has got to be more here…something more profound, more vital to those spiritual journeys we’re all traveling. And I believe there is.

{...dramatic pause...}

What is God’s design for our bodies?

What is God’s design for our communities?

What is God’s design for our planet? 

And how do our everyday transportation choices honor God’s designs…or not?

{...dramatic pause...}

If God’s design for our bodies is movement, can we not honor that design by riding a bicycle? If God’s design for our communities is love and connection, can we not honor that design by riding the bus alongside our neighbors? If God’s design for our planet is abundance, can we not honor that design by treading lightly, on a walk, so as not to squander our bounty?

This is not, of course, to suggest that God particularly cares how we choose to get around, or that there is shame in choosing to drive a car. Let’s not follow that path, it’s not productive for us. Indeed, I believe a person can honor God's design while driving by choosing kindness with regard to more vulnerable road users. Regardless how we travel, there is opportunity in front of us each and every day, numerous times a day, to experience God’s majesty in the mundanity of travel.

Surely an almighty God could have created humans to teleport. I mean, surely that would have been a superior mechanism for getting us to and fro, amiright? Missed opportunity, there...

But maybe not. See maybe there is a reason we weren’t designed to teleport. Just maybe, the time and effort it takes us to get our bodies from one place to another is a gift from God that we just haven’t realized we would do well to honor.

What type of world is available when we do choose to honor our time in transit? A world in which we arrive to our destination feeling refreshed and joyful, perhaps? A world in which children can play outside and our elders can cross the street without fear of traffic? A world in which our planet and all its species thrive? We get to choose—each and every day, each and every time we need to go somewhere, what type of world we will create as we travel.

At Yay Bikes!, we believe that riding a bicycle is an important thing a person can do to feel profoundly connected to their best self, to their fellow (wo)man, to their place in the world, to their version of the Divine. We believe that riding a bicycle is a unique experience in that way, notably different from the experience we tend to have driving a car—isolated, rushed, body immobile, dirty. And because it offers such rare and profound connectedness to the best of who we are, we believe that the act of bicycling transforms lives. Especially so for those who choose to ride, but even among those who don't, whose lives are safer, healthier, more peaceful and more enjoyable when cyclists take to the streets. 

A bike friendly world is a better world, for all of us! 

It’s almost as if it's by design. ;)

Thank you.