Monday, May 17, 2010

Barb Chamberlain has the skinny on Bike to Work Week

Posted on Mon, May 17, 2010 at 4:34 PM

Though it officially began on Sunday, Bike to Work Week kicked off in earnest this morning, with a pancake breakfast in Riverfront Park. Over the next week, about 1,000 people are expected to take to the streets on mountain bikes, racers, cruisers and fixies. It's the third year in a row that the event has been put on, and each year it's been masterminded by WSU spokesperson and former county commissioner candidate Barb Chamberlain (and a small army of volunteers). 

We interviewed Barb over email to see what's new this year. 

What's new with Bike to Work Week this year?

We have extended the Commute Challenge to last four weeks, from Sunday May 16-Saturday June 12. This gives people the chance to register and ride if this particular week somehow didn’t work out for them.

We’ve added a Ride of Silence Wednesday, May 19, 7pm through downtown Spokane. This international movement seeks to draw attention to the importance of sharing the road and serves as a memorial to cyclists injured or killed by drivers. While fewer than two percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, http://www.iihs.org/research/fatality_facts_2008/bicycles.html), we need to stress the importance of sharing the road and observing all rights and responsibilities as cyclists and as drivers.---

%u2028How many people do you hope to get on the streets this week?

2008: 952
2009: 1,472
2010 goal: 1,700
Registration as of Sunday 5/16: 1,148.

It’s important to register because this is our only way of counting ourselves as people using bikes for transportation. The more people who register, the stronger the message we convey to decision makers about the importance of including us in transportation planning, priorities and funding. Bike infrastructure doesn’t just serve cyclists—it also serves drivers by helping them be more aware of sharing the road. Good street design serves all modes of transportation.

Which brings out more cyclists: free t-shirts, water bottles or pancake feeds?

I’d say it’s the Mountain Gear pancakes (and this year the excellent “Ride the Edge” coffee blend introduced by Roast House at the Kickoff Rally). Beyond that, in all seriousness, the chance to get together is really powerful. People just love to compare bikes, talk about routes, swap stories and generally celebrate the joys of riding a bike.

What's the biggest obstacle for people who'd like to start commuting by bike?

This really depends on the person. For some it’s distance—they may want to consider a bike/bus combo. For others it’s concern about sharing the road and riding in traffic. They should definitely take a Traffic Skills course (contact us: [email protected]) and maybe find a bike buddy to ride with ([email protected]). The only way to overcome this concern is through practice, so start with a weekend ride for coffee or something. I would also stress that the vast majority of drivers are courteous and that by choosing the right route, following the rules of the road and riding attentively, you’ll be just fine.

We get questions about managing clothes and sweat. Keep some baby wipes in the drawer at work, allow time to ride at an easy pace, and maybe skip the linen suit in favor of something that doesn’t wrinkle as easily!

Name three concrete benefits to bike commuting.

The sheer joy of it: You’ll recapture the feelings you had as a kid when you learned to ride. I arrive at work happy from my ride, and I don’t know how many drivers can say they just loved their morning drive. I get to smell the flowers blooming, talk to pedestrians at stop lights (which are a chance to catch my breath, not an obstacle or frustration), and really see my neighborhoods and my city.

The ease of working exercise into your day: It’s tough for many folks to make time to get to the gym on a regular basis. If your ride is 3-5 miles you can easily get to work in 30 minutes or less; do that again on your way home and you’ve had your recommended 60 minutes of activity for the day.

The money and hassle saved: I don’t actually know what gas costs unless I make a point of looking at a gas station—I generally just wave as I bike past. I no longer buy a parking pass at work, which saves me over $200/year. I don’t have to worry about having change for a parking meter or finding a parking place; I lock my bike to the nearest rack, sign pole or railing. I have Spokane Transit as a back-up if I need it. Just think: If you bike to work just one day per week, you’ve cut your gas expenses by 20%.

These are individual benefits. For us as citizens and as a city, bike commuters reduce air pollution, traffic congestion, wear and tear on the roads, and competition for parking, while helping make the population healthier and thus reduce our health care costs.

Finally, it looks like we could see some rain in the next few days. Any practical advice for how cyclists can deal with nasty weather this week?

One of the side effects/benefits of bike commuting is becoming more attuned to the weather, isn’t it?

  • Pay attention to the weather report.
  • Don’t be completely discouraged by possible showers. You may have a great ride to work, see rain fall during the day but have pavement already starting to dry out as you pedal home.
  • Get familiar with possible STA options as a back-up plan.
  • Look into getting fenders at a local bike shop.
  • Pack rain gear (pants/jacket) to put on over your work clothes if you can.
  • Find out whether it’s okay to bring your bike inside for storage if it’s raining.
  • Carry a plastic bag to put over your bike seat if you have to park outside.
  • Remember to allow extra stopping time for wet brakes.

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