Twenty-six people gathered to explore and learn to ride the roads of the Northland neighborhoods by bike on Friday, July 17, 2015, as part of the third Connect Columbus public input process. Some were transportation planners and engineers. Some were members of the general public. Some were experienced bicyclists learning to navigate roads they have not felt safe navigating on their own. Some were well trained Yay Bikes! leaders and sweeps, there to facilitate a moment of experiential learning. It was a blast!
We started at the Franklin County Board of Elections at 1700 Morse Road where our eight ride leaders and sweeps divided everyone into small groups. Each team of Yay Bikes! How We Roll ride leaders started by sharing rules of the road for bicyclists and teaching participants the importance of being visible and predictable when riding roads. Team leaders explained that in How We Roll rides participants travel single file in small groups riding the roads silently. Our goal is to help create an experience where small group instruction happens, and participants encounter something similar to riding roads alone.
Each How We Roll ride teaches participants to ride roads safely, but also includes an additional component that is of interest to the group. Our secondary focus on this ride was bicycle infrastructure, what works, what doesn't work, and why. We traveled over well placed bicycle infrastructure, confusing bicycle infrastructure, and well intended but dangerous infrastructure. We traveled roads that had no bike infrastructure that were perfectly pleasant ones that were a bit more scary. We traveled well paved roads with clear markings and roads that desperately needed resurfacing – experiencing first hand that a good road surface is an absolutely key component of a bike friendly community.
While traveling we heard bird song and children playing. While stopped at a red light, we saw and talked to giggling young adults in a car with a baby kitten in a basket. We smelled pizza cooking and the body lotion of a pedestrian passing us. We felt air temperature fall on Maize Road as the trees breathed and the creek flowed, and felt it raise on Morse Road where nine lanes of asphalt baked in the afternoon sun.
At each of our six stops (one at the beginning, four on the road, and one at the end), well trained Yay Bikes! leaders and sweeps encouraged participants to describe what they noticed and how they felt. Our leaders shared resources and helped folks figure out how to have the best experience possible on any type of road. Our sweeps corrected people engaging in dangerous behaviors and watched as riders competence increased.
In 8.5 miles, we traveled through neighborhood streets, neighborhood arterials, and major arterials. We passed three Interstate 71 exit ramps and one entrance ramp. We needed to merge with car traffic several times on Karl, on Maize, and on Morse to get to our destination. We traveled a section of road that was nine travel lanes wide and included cars, trucks, motorcycles, COTA buses and people on bikes. On Morse Road, we left the bike lane and crossed four travel lanes to make a left to reach our final destination. We were bad asses!
Bad asses, just like every other person who lives in that neighborhood that doesn't own a car and has to figure out how to get to employment, school, the library, the grocer, the laundry mat, the recreation center, all the places people go in their daily lives.
We want thank the City of Columbus and the consults at Nelson Nygaurd who prioritized and resourced this experience, and CoGo for providing bikes to participants who did not have one. Yay Everyone!