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How to Bike for Transportation

With the upcoming year of SafeTrack, you may be scrambling to figure out how you are going to get to work. As you are going through your options, did you consider biking to work?

Before I give tips, I must confess I don’t bike to work regularly. About two years ago, I biked to work 3-4 times a week, except rain and hot summer days. Then, I moved close to a metro station, so I started taking metro to work which then became my time to read. In addition, until a few months ago, there was nowhere to lock my bike at work. However, I do bike on the weekends regularly. I say all of this because I know how hard it is to bike to work. It’s so much to think about, but I’m here to demystify some of it for you.

  1. Decide what bike to ride: You could use your personal bike, borrow a bike, or use Capital Bikeshare. If using a personal or borrowed bike, make sure to check your brakes and make sure you have adequate air pressure in your tires. Whatever you decide, you can change day-to-day. You can use your personal bike one day and Capital Bikeshare another day.
  2. Figure out where you will store your bike for the day: This is the most important step for me, because I do not like biking places where I can’t lock my bike securely or bring it inside. Check out the scene at your office. Are there biking racks in the parking garage or is there a bike room? If there is a bike room, do you have to fill out paperwork to get access? Will your boss allow you to bring your bike in the office? If you use Capital Bikeshare, where is nearest station?
  3. Plan your route and try it on the weekend: When I first started biking, it took a while to transition my brain from the best route for driving to the best route for biking. When biking, sometimes the best route may be a neighborhood street that has low traffic volumes or cutting through a park. Whatever the route, grab a friend or two and try it out on the weekend when you aren’t pressed for time or stressed about getting to the office for a meeting.
  4. Plan your outfit and pack your bags the night before: Some people bike in work clothes and others shower/change at work. Personally, I don’t like biking in the summer because I don’t like being sweaty and showering in a public shower. However, with SafeTrack, there may be days that I bike then shower and change at the office. Regardless of which camp you decide to join, packing and planning the night before saves time and reduces stress. If there is no shower in your building, you can try paper showers or baby wipes and some strong deodorant. You could also join a gym near your office for the purposes of showering (Don’t laugh. I’ve seen it done before).
  5. Bike to work: You’ve completed Steps 1-4 and now you are ready to bike to work.

Simple right? Well I know you have a bunch of other concerns (*cough* excuses *cough). I’m going to tell you something that many others may not tell you.

  • Biking to work doesn’t mean you have to bike home: You could bike to work and then bring your bike on bus or metro to go home. Check out WMATA’s rules on bringing your bike on public transportation.
  • Biking to work doesn’t mean you have to bike the entire way to work: You could bike to the bus. You could bike to a metro station that isn’t being impacted by SafeTrack. You could bike to a carpool. You could carpool to a bikeshare station. You could… The options are endless.
  • Biking to work doesn’t mean you have to do it in all weather conditions: I admire my rain, sleet, snow, and heat biking friends. I do not bike in when liquid is coming from the sky or heat.
  • Biking to work doesn’t mean you have to do it every day: You can bike as many days as you want.

Give biking to work a try. If you need more resources, check out the Washington Area Bicyclist Association for tips on surviving SafeTrack.

 

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

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Transportation Safety Means More Than Crashes: Beginning to Heal

See Part 1 of this blog discussing the issue of international and domestic transportation safety for women.

“Pink Transport” is a gender-segregated bus or train car that currently operates in over fifteen countries as a solution to personal safety for women. However, these gender specific mode options do not provide the capacity or service that make for equality and safety for women. Women entering the general boarding cars of trains-  which are now referred to as “men’s cars”- are targeted and harassed for not using the women-only cars. Women in cities like Beijing are even advised to dress more conservatively, and avoid wearing so-called “provocative” clothing like miniskirts. However, all of these transportation interventions and messaging puts the burden of personal safety solely on the victim of harassment.

With the goal of sustainability and the movement toward a greater non-auto mode split, the perception of safety on and around public transportation is paramount for success. People, especially women, will not travel on alternate means of transportation (bikes, bus, rail, etc.) if the system lacks the proper measures to protect personal safety. There are steps that agencies, the community, and women can take to help with this problem:

  1. Transit operators need to have the knowledge and practical steps to better deal with this issue. Sensitivity training, knowledge of proper actions to deal with crises, and a streamlined method of reporting these offenses to transit or local police could be implemented.
  2. Women should be encouraged to speak up or report offenses. Women need to feel empowered to recognize when harassment is occurring and how to report it. Public awareness campaigns in transit systems as well as on television and radio media could be used to increase awareness of the issue, provide easy information on reporting offenses, and help women to understand that they will be heard and action will be taken when they report harassment.
    Women are feeling more and more empowered to speak out and tell their stories of injustice, harassment, and sexual assault. Groups like the Collective Action for Safe Spaces DC and HollaBack help give women a platform to share their stories and avoid the isolating effect that harassment in a public spaces can bring. In the District, WMATA has a platform to submit instances of harassment on the Metrorail and Metrobuses but often this is after the fact.
  1. Harassment is everyone’s problem. The public must realize that everyone has a hand in making transportation systems safe. According to HollaBack, all it takes is harassers to have the mindset that their behavior is acceptable or will go unnoticed, and a community around the person that are unwilling to intervene. Everyone has the opportunity to make transportation systems safer for all users. 

Everyone can and should take part in ending harassment and violence against women both locally and globally. Harassers need to be confronted about their behaviors and made to understand that it is not acceptable, nor will it go unnoticed. It takes a community of allies to help stop this behavior and help defend women that may feel- in the moment- embarrassed, alone, and helpless.

No one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something”- HollaBack

 

Christine E. Mayeur is an urban planner with a unique set of skills and interests. She has been called a “renaissance woman” by her coworkers and is interested in all things creative and challenging. Christine uses her history of working with communities through grass-roots organizations along with her planning skills to help plan transportation systems that meet the needs of all users. 

 

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When Biking is a Way of Life

In hoIMG_0561nor of National Bike Month in the US, I will share my experience in Playa Del Coco in Costa Rica. As a transportation nerd, I spent part of my vacation observing how people move through the main street.  How people move would give most traditional traffic engineers a mild heart attack. There are very few rules of the road, but at the same time it was an organic chaos where everything seems to work. The thing that I found myself observing the most was the bike culture.

In Playa Del Coco, biking is a way of life. All day and night long people bike on the main street. Here are some takeaways and photos from what I observed:

  1. IMG_0631No one wears a helmet. I did not see a single person wear a helmet while biking. I also did not see any crashes. Perhaps given the volume of people biking, motorists know to look out for bicyclists. This would support the findings of a study from University of Colorado Denver that concluded the safety of people biking increases with more bikes on the road.
  2. Woman Power! Anecdotally, most of the people that I saw biking were women and girls. Many of these women and girls biked around with small children. A few had bike seats for the children, however, the majority of children were sitting on a back rack meant for a pannier or the top tube.
  3. IMG_0629Tandems not required. It is not uncommon to see two adults on a bicycle built for one person. As a child, I remember riding around with my cousins on handlebars or seats. However, until my experience on Costa Rica, I had never seen two adults on a bike.
  4. Feet to the left. Whether it was adults or children, most “passengers” sit on the top tube of the bike with their feet to the left. Perhaps since most people have their children sit that way, it is a habit that carries into adulthood.
  5. Take your time. Compared to people biking in the District, people in Costa Rica biking for transportation bike slowly. Most of the bikes were beach cruisers that do not lend themselves to Tour de France-esque biking. In addition, the culture has a slower pace than urban areas in DC, which likely plays into the slower biking culture.
  6. Bike Lock Optional. One thing we can file under, “I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it,” is people in Playa del Coco rarely lock their bikes. They leave their bike on the bike rack or leaning against a building or street post. Some people lock their bikes, but it is rare.

Often time planners in the US look to Europe for examples of bike culture as seen in the growing popularity of protected bike lanes. My experience in Costa Rica has shown me planners should consider lessons from other parts of the world including Latin American.

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Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.





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