Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kids on Bikes

What kid doesn't love his or her bicycle? For kids of a certain age bicycles represent independence. If streets are safe for bicycles, kids can rove around visiting friends, exploring the world and getting exercise. Awareness of safe bicycling and rules of the road are important if the younger among us are going to have a good bicycle experiences. Having safe, fun times on a bike as a kid can sustain interest in active transportation into adulthood.

There are several key items that kids (and everyone) needs to keep in mind when riding. First, always wear a helmet. The bike helmet wearer's mantra? May you always wear it and never need it. A well-fitted, securely worn helmet can protect the head in the event of a bicycle crash. Leaving the helmet with the bicycle when storing it after a ride is the best way to ensure that the helmet is in the right place when the rider needs it again. Most bicycle shops sell helmets right alongside their bicycle offerings.

Second, riding skills - like driving skills - are something that are learned over time and with experience. If your kids are beyond training wheels and ready to ride more freely on low-traffic city streets make sure they understand the rules of the road. Instill road safety in your bicycling youngsters. Ride with them and make sure they know to stop whenever a car is required to stop. Demonstrate left- and right-turn hand signaling for your younger riders. Encourage kids on bicycles to plan out routes to school and friends' houses that rely on low-speed, low-traffic streets avoiding speedy, traffic-y major arterials.

Third, make sure your kids' bikes work properly. That means each bicycle has brakes that grip, a seat positioned correctly and tires that are inflated. Functioning front and rear lights make riding at dusk and afterwards much safer. Help your kids to also have the right clothing for riding. Bicycling is much more pleasant when kids have clothes that keep them warm, dry and visible to drivers.

There are several programs aimed at bicycle safety for younger riders. Take a look at some of these resources  in the interest of training the next generation of bicycle commuters:
For more information about youth bicycle safety or to request a Livable Streets presentation in your community contact Missouri Livable Streets at 573.884.8602 or e-mail HarrisTre@Missouri.edu.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Looking for Livable Streets Opportunities

Livable Streets advocates are those folks who notice when local roadways don't work right for those on foot or bike. As advocates for improved bicycle-pedestrian access to streets, we understand that even when political will is behind a sidewalk project or bicycle route striping there always exists financial realities that limit what local transportation agencies can do.

Kudos to Kris Dyer and company in Ozark, Missouri for their efforts at Saving Riverside Bridge in that community. Their effort aims to preserve a historic structure that provides access to cars, pedestrians and bicyclists. Like any good organizer, Kris has a Facebook page for the group.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bicycling Costs and Benefits

Bicycle riding is convenient, saves money and provides health benefits. These are my primary reasons for continuing to get around on two-wheels.

Bicycling is an easy way for me to get from A-to-B. Most of my trips are less than two miles as I live within a relatively small orbit of home (traveling generally from home to work and to downtown Columbia, Missouri.) There is always ample bicycle parking somewhere near the door of my destination. Sure, that bike parking may be a handicapped parking sign or a smallish landscape tree, but it works. I avoid the busier streets in Columbia favoring parallel collectors and arterials to get where I need to go. Were I to choose more heavily trafficked streets with higher speeds for bicycle commuting, I might get where I was headed quicker but possibly be out of breath and likely stressed-out upon arrival. I'll pick the quieter streets to get where I need to go as do most of my fellow bicyclists. The convenience of bicycling remains a primary benefit.

Savings is a huge benefit that leads to me choosing a bike over a car for my travel mode. The routine costs of bicycling include time spent cleaning my chain (Cost: ~15 minutes/week). Admittedly this is a task I am often slow to do. After riding throughout our very wet last winter my lack of regular chain cleaning resulted in my ride needing a new rear derailleur less than 6 months after the last one was installed (Cost of not cleaning chain often enough: ~$40). Another cost includes occasional new tubes (Why do so many Columbians chuck their Budweiser bottles out the car window and into the bicycle lane?!?! Cost: Varies but averages $10/year). There is the cost of time spent bicycling. Except in heavy traffic where a bicycle has the advantage, I move slower than most cars and possibly the bus (Cost: ~5-10 minutes per commute.) The additional fresh air and exercise make up for the extra time in the saddle. Finally, were I to drive to work the University of Missouri where I work would charge me $17/month to park my car in one of their spots. Bicycle parking remains free. It is not covered parking, but it is free.

Finally, health is a major benefit when I bicycle to work, shop or socialize. I didn't set out to make the healthy choice. It found me. My bike commute to work takes 15 minutes. Sometimes less if I am in a hurry, sometimes more if I get distracted and stop to check something out. The research I read on exercise says that walking would be heart-healthier, but I rarely get it together to leave home early enough to walk anywhere. Okay, if the truth must be told I only walk when I have a flat tire on my bike, when my wife invites me on the dog walk with her or when we go to the woods for a hike. I honestly love moving by bicycle. It feels liberating to ride plus I am getting a little bit of exercise on my one-and-a-half mile bike commute to work or downtown.

My ride gives me convenience, health benefits and is a cheap way to travel. All good things. Why do you ride?

Thanks for reading. See you in the streets. -Tre

Livable Streets in Kirksville and Springfield

This week PedNet Coalition's Robert Johnson and I traveled to offer Livable Streets Trainings in Kirksville and Ozark, Missouri. Kirksville is a University town in otherwise rural north Missouri while Ozark is a small city in northern Christian County, which is one or if not the fastest growing counties in the state.

In Kirksville we had 42 eager trainees who learned about what that city is doing in terms of making the city more accessible to all modes of transportation. Local researcher and dynamo Rachel Ruhlen will build on this training as she launches Kirksville Area in Motion, the new bike-ped advocacy group for that area.

Dan Martin explains the proposed FLATS Trail to Kirksville Livable Streets Open House attendees.
While the Ozark group was half what showed for the Kirksville training they were equally enthusiastic. More design professionals showed up last night in Ozark probably owing to the fact we are near Missouri's third largest city, Springfield. City of Ozark staff want to see a bike-ped advocacy group form there. This group will give them feedback on project proposals as well as propose ideas for new bicycle facilities, sidewalks and trail connections. The City's Larry Martin and Cara Bourneman are leading the charge quite capably in Ozark.

Upcoming Missouri Livable Streets Advocacy Trainings are in Kansas City (April 28) and Cape Girardeau May 3).