On July 21, 2015, Yay Bikes! ride leaders Catherine Girves and Meredith Joy, along with trusty sweeps Steve Puhl Jr and Julie Walcoff, led a group of 8 Ohio Department of Transportation professionals on a tour of bicycle facilities on Columbus' South and East sides. This group represented the Safety Team, aka the folks determining which safety projects -- including bicycle infrastructure projects -- throughout the state will receive funding. Most of them had ridden trails but not roads, and a couple hadn't ridden a bike since childhood, so this ride proved the first urban riding experience for our group.
Split into 2 groups of 4, the cyclists rode a challenging 10-mile (or 12-mile, if they were in the accidental wrong-way group!) route beginning at the Grange Audubon Center and hitting the following streets: Front, Main, Grant, Town, Parsons, Livingston, Ohio and Champion, Oak, Washington, Gay, Broad, 3rd, Fulton, High and Whittier. Along the way, they got to experience sharrows, bike lanes to nowhere, bike lanes in door zones, unmarked narrow lanes, freeway on- and off-ramps, multi-lane one-ways and more. As well as the overwhelming heat of the day and, of course, the typical sights, smells & sounds that make bicycling so damn lovely. Everyone was heroic! Everyone was also very very hungry when we sat down to share our delicious post-ride meal at El Arepazo.
Here's some of our early feedback from the ride:
What was your favorite part of the ride?
Trying the different bicycle treatments like the sharrows, the bike lanes and bike boulevard to see how each performed.
...being able to see the integration between the designs on paper, the cyclist themselves, and the driver interaction and how it all comes together. There are definitely eye opening things when riding out on the streets first hand and would recommend all designers/operations people to experience it first hand to have that background knowledge.
Stopping periodically to discuss various aspects of the ride. It helped solidify or reinforce important design and riding concepts in my mind.
What did you learn?
I learned there is a huge difference between a good designed bike lane or facility and one that is just thrown in last minute to a project to make it a complete street ... The narrow bike lanes, especially next to parked cars, was a huge eye opener. Also, understanding why the rider must own the lane for their safety was an eye opener on the City streets. Most of my bike riding experience has come on the bike trails or residential streets.
Was there anything different than what you expected?
I felt way more comfortable riding through downtown and the various other streets than I thought that I would.
It was a lot less scary than I thought it would be.
I didn't expect to feel so comfortable riding downtown streets. I think it helped that we rode as a group with a calm, experienced ride leader.
We at Yay Bikes! are honored to have hosted such a thoughtful group of professionals on this ride, and look forward to more such rides with professionals throughout the state. Thanks to ODOT (and let's not forget MORPC!) for investing in these training opportunities.