Bicycle power

Today I attended a lunch conversation at the Columbus Metropolitan Club.  CMCer Jane Scott is President and CEO and was a gracious host at her CMC.  Among other things, Columbus Metropolitan Club hosts weekly Wednesday lunches which are community conversations across a range of topics.  Today’s topic: Bicycle Power: On the Path to Bikes.

The three presenters were Kerstin Carr of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC); Jennifer L. Gallagher, Department of Public Service Director; and Catherine Girves, Executive Director of Yay Bikes!  Here are some things I learned, and hopefully wrote down correctly:

About ¼ of the footprint of downtown Columbus is for car parking, and a recent study showed that one parking space costs about $20,000 to build and maintain.  Biking and alternatives to cars are growing in popularity with folks in their 20’s and 30’s, but there are many folks interested in biking more who don’t fit age or demographic stereotypes.   Carr grew up in Germany and noted that her grandmother biked until she was 85.  A MORPC study called Insight 2050 estimated that Central Ohio will grow by half a million people 2010-2050 and transportation options, including walker and biker friendly design, is part of what regional leaders are planning for.

Director Gallagher noted that her department now requires that all engineers designing projects around Columbus first ride bikes on the streets around which the project will be built.  Seeing an area through the eyes of a biker has had significant impact on new project designs.

Columbus is now one of seven mid-size cities competing for a $40 million grant from US Department of Transportation to improve regional bikeability.  Part of what the Columbus team is including in their design proposal is connecting poorer neighborhoods such as Linden to bike arteries, working to repair some of the damage done when interstates sliced up urban areas into isolated pockets.

One of the speakers cited the American Disabilities Act, noting that research has shown that making spaces handicap accessible benefits everyone.  People become more aware and courteous.  She made an analogy to bike accessibility, and how normalizing biking can help motorists as well.  Part of the mission of Yay Bikes is training people how to bike well and safely.  Being predictable in how one bikes down a street makes it safer for biker and car driver.

We were told what seemed like an inside scoop on a downtown bike hub project, modeled on what some other cities have done.  The bike hub would have free secured parking space, showers, lockers, and perhaps a bike repair center.  The corner of Long and Front was mentioned in the conversation.

An audience member during Q and A noted that she works for AAA and they are launching a bike breakdown roadside assistance service.

MORPC will soon be releasing the fifth edition of its Columbus Metro Bike Map.

Jump on a bike and move with the movement!