Monday, May 15, 2017

Bike to Work Week Diary 2017

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bike to Work Week is upon us! And this year marks nearly a decade since Cedar Rapids began to promote cycling in our community. The years have seen installation of bike lanes, trail construction, one-way-to-two-way street conversions and public celebrations. This year was particularly poignant because it is the last year for Mayor Ron Corbett, who's not running for re-election and whose eight years have seen all these pro-cycling changes.
Emily Muhlbach (right), communications coordinator for the city, prepares
to pass the official proclamation to Council member Ann Poe.
Ms. Muhlbach still has the proclamation with her in case you want to see it or touch it.

Monday dawned warmer than it's been the last few Bike to Work Weeks, which helped the celebratory early morning mood outside Red's Public House as the official proclamation was read by Mayor Corbett and City Council member Ann Poe.

Ron Griffith of the Bicycle Advisory Committee responded to the announcement by thanking Mayor Corbett for his years of service and reminding him he's always welcome back in future Bike to Work Weeks. About 25 or 30 of us then set off on the traditional post-proclamation ride of 3+ miles through the Wellington Heights neighborhood on the southeast side, which covered:
  • 3rd Avenue, which has bike lanes of various types up to 10th Street, and above 13th Street becomes a three-lane one-way with plenty of room for everyone;
  • Grande Avenue, an old boulevard with wide lanes;
  • 19th Street, an important thoroughfare with narrow lanes and parking on both sides; and
  • 4th Avenue, recently converted from one-way to two-way, featuring sharrows to 8th Street and a bike lane below that.

Turning off 19th Street onto 4th Avenue
The variety of streets through which the group rode during what passes for rush hour in Cedar Rapids elicited, as it always does, a variety of interactions with cars and drivers. The years have seen increasing amounts of cycling, and seemingly easier mixing of vehicles, but it must be disconcerting for someone to think they're a five-minute drive from work and find that doubles when they encounter bicycles and/or pedestrians. (For the sake of versimilitude, I had my laptop in my backpack throughout the ride.)

After the ride, those who could remained at Red's, which has a new look since last year, for breakfast. Multimodal transportation planner Brandon Whyte wasn't sure about the $5 burrito, but your humble blogger convinced him this was traditional Bike to Work Week fare, and Bike to Work Week without breakfast burritos is like Thanksgiving without turkeys. He thanked me later.
Next door, the Blue Strawberry had breakfast too!

Tuesday, May 16

Rockwell Collins pit stop about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday
Today and Thursday feature rush-hour bike pit stops, offering advice as well as swag... bicycle commuters. This year features a new location, on the campus of Rockwell Collins near the intersection of F Avenue and Collins Road NE. (There remain stops downtown, where the Cedar River Trail crosses 1st Avenue, and in New Bohemia, slightly relocated to the NewBo Market.) 

Representatives from Northtowne Cycling offered the chance to try e-bikes, which are powered by electricity and which provide needed assistance on hilly terrain or, as certainly was the case today, strong winds. They said e-bikes are becoming more popular, though still a tiny proportion of their sales.

Wednesday, May 17

Live-blogging! from the CR Metro Economic Alliance, where Nikki Northrop Davidson of Bike2Work Consultants is talking "Bike to Work 101." It's a diminished audience, alas, which we can blame on a rainy morning.

Her presentation contains messages for why businesses should encourage employees to bike to work--improved productivity, lower health costs, lower absenteeism, lower parking costs--as well as why and how individuals ought to give it a try. Cycling to work can decrease cardiovascular and breast cancer risk, not to mention excess weight; increase positive mental health; and reduce our environmental footprint. A daily 4-mile bike commute will save about 66 gallons of fuel per year!

So why don't more people do it? Main obstacles are unfriendly weather, busy lives, lack of safe storage, safety on heavily trafficked streets, access to showers, and lack of role models. Each of these can be overcome: Cedar Rapids is improving its cycling infrastructure every year, the number of bicycle commuters in the U.S. is way up since 2000, the more cyclists there are the more aware auto drivers will be, and she encouraged "out of the box" thinking like baby wipes for quick cleanup, backup plans and sharing ride, various clothing options, and rack bags. It's not effortless, but it can be done.

When she was done speaking, the Sun was out! The weather for the rest of the morning was clement, so we were able to gather before noon at City Hall... "bike to lunch with the Mayor" up the Cedar River Trail to Sag Wagon Deli & Brew on Cedar Lake. We sat outside, which of course I was totally unprepared for because it had been raining at the beginning of the morning. Thanks to concerned citizen Ben Kaplan for loaning me sunscreen. Talk at lunch turned to biking adventures, such as trying not to hit animals and sometimes succeeding.
The weather had rolled back in for real by evening, necessitating cancellation of the Ride of Silence. Weather sirens were sounding about the time it was supposed to start.

Thursday, May 18

The storms brought in significantly cooler temperatures for the remainder of Bike to Work Week. Today featured a second round of bike pit stops in the morning and evening. Hall Bicycle helped host one on the Cedar River where it crosses 1st Avenue...

...which is always an interesting crossing...

...and Goldfinch hosted one by the NewBo City Market.

Those staffing the pit stops reported traffic down from Tuesday. While I was there, both the trail and 3rd Street had a steady procession of cyclists, but few made pit stops. Maybe we should sing Bike to Work Week carols?

Also today, my friend and cycling advocate Mateo reported being "rolled" by a diesel truck, which I learn is where the driver sprays you with thick exhaust as he (let us not pretend we need to be gender-neutral here) passes. This is apparently a thing, to such an extent that the State of Colorado has felt the need to pass a law against it. I realize we're a long way from Sesame Street-style community feeling, but sheesh!

Friday, May 19

Even the most festive celebrants of Bike to Work Week found little to love in today's weather, which was chilly with morning-long rain. I suppose any weather is bikable if you have the right gear, but I did not detect a lot of biking to work this morning. I didn't.

I did see a bunch of people riding to the Handlebar Happy Hour at Lion Bridge in Czech Village at the end of the day. (I didn't.) There we mingled with the crowds gamely gathering for the weekend-long celebration of Houby Days.

We didn't have quite the same crowd as last year for the group picture (for which see the BikeCR Facebook page) but there was plenty of interest in the raffle prizes. 

I did just fine, prize-wise... not going to brag, but my rewards from this year's Bike to Work Week were not only intrinsic. 

Someone asked Brandon Whyte if they've started planning for next year! (His answer: no, they do that during the winter.) I understand the enthusiasm, though. I'm thankful for those people in city and county government who are willing to dedicate resources to those of us who don't want to drive everywhere; and for those fellow citizens who cycle, because there's strength and safety in numbers.


Daniel Choma, "Dr. 38th Street Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Park in the Bike Lane,", 17 May 2017
B.A. Morelli, "Bike Safety Advocates: Cyclists, Motorists Share Responsibility," Cedar Rapids Gazette, 18 May 2017


"Bike to Work Week 2016," 15 May 2016
"Cycling Update," 24 May 2015
"Bike to Work Week Diary," 13 May 2014

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