"The culture of biking is changing in Ohio..." - Michelle's story

Name: Michelle May
Lives in:
Works in:
Columbus - West Side at Ohio Department of Transportation

Michelle credits the changing landscape for bicycling to strong ties between advocates and city officials.
Michelle credits the changing landscape for bicycling to strong ties between advocates and city officials.

“We were much more focused because they demanded it."

Led by ODOT’s Highway Safety Manager, Michelle May, a group of transportation engineers, roadway designers and safety professionals from ODOT spent three hours riding city roads with Yay Bikes! on a gorgeous July afternoon earlier this year. “I credit those focused on biking and walking. We are much more focused because people are demanding it,” Michelle said.

“I learned so much that day.”

The ride was transformative. “It’s been completely eye opening,” Michelle said. The group travelled a route that was deliberately designed to showcase a variety of bike traffic scenarios including those with great bike infrastructure, those with challenging bike infrastructure and those with well-intentioned bike infrastructure that just doesn’t work well for many bicyclists. “I learned so much that day,” Michelle said. “But more importantly, the folks who designed our roadways learned so much.”

Specifically, Michelle and team were able to identify potential safety issues by experiencing them on a bike rather than seeing them on paper. “I learned the value of riding with folks who do it every day” Michelle said. “It allows us to take what we learn and translate it into making roads safer.”

“There’s no substitute for seeing things for yourself.”

While she isn’t a regular bicyclist, Michelle considers herself a bike supporter. Her initial hesitation to riding – fear of motorists. “I worry about other drivers not paying attention,” she said. But riding with Yay Bikes! changed that. They didn’t have any scary interactions with motorists on their July ride. “Riding with Yay Bikes! changed my mindset because the vast majority of drivers were accommodating to our presence on the road.”

Michelle hopes to see the expansion of relationships like this to other areas of the state. “Yay Bikes! encouraged us to investigate concerns about road design with their non-adversarial approach. I’d like to think the culture of biking is changing in Ohio and these relationships between engineers, transportation professionals and bike advocates like Yay Bikes! are to thank.”