Underground Railroad: “happiness snuck in through doors I didn’t know I’d left open”

From gardens, parks and riverbeds, to burial places, beer mills and shops, we’ve got hundreds of places yet to explore, treasures yet to unearth and fascinating facts yet to discover. And whatever the weather, Yay Bikes! will find fabulous ways to make a day UR 1with us one to remember. After weeks of preparation we’d begun laying odds on Facebook the night before the ride on how many members would brave the weather. Bright and early—well…10 A.M. on March 14, 2015 with the storm building and the rain beginning to pour down in earnest from the skies over Columbus, while most people leaned back on their pillows and headboards of their beds and watched the fury, we gathered. Forty strong—for us Yay Bikes! members there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so we grabbed our willies, waterproofs and bicycles headed out for some wet weather fun. We were going underground…The Underground Railroad that is.

Come rain, shine or snowstorms, setting off from Whole Foods with Yay Bikes! members, weaving our route—leaving the roads of Upper Arlington there is always a sense of warmth, comradeship and an awe-aspiring sense of adventure regarding our pending destinations. Today was no different—even better, we knew that rainy weather meant quieter roads and less chance of cars clogging our way and Maya and I were leading. With every turn of our pedals our smiles widened.

Saddle worn, wet, but in high spirits we arrived at our first stop in retracing TheUR 2 Underground Railroad. It was the Southwick-Good & Fortkamp Funeral Chapel at 3100 North High Street. Our speaker, his voice soft and shrouded in mystery, informed that it was erected in 1838 and called the Clinton Chapel. During the forty-four years it was used as a church, Clinton Chapel had an UR 3eventful history. The church served as a regular station of the Underground Railroad. The owner shared that The Underground Railroad was a secret (and sometimes not-so-secret) network of Good Samaritans, community activists, and family members who helped people escape from slavery before the Civil War.  They sheltered, shepherded, and protected total strangers who came to them for help.   He couldn’t or wouldn’t confirm or deny the role that his family played. He pointed out a darkened hallway. We peered in awe. He spoke of some suppositions…and then we all began to imagine this scenario today.  Total strangers come to our house, seek food, shelter, and help moving to another sanctuary — and helping them is illegal. If caught, we could be fined thousands of dollars and be sent to prison. How many of us would help someone in such a situation today, no matter how worthy the cause or how destitute they were?

As we headed out for our next destination the rain had stopped, the sun was peeking from behind the clouds, we were warmed up and doing what we do best. Talking, laughing—the environment relaxed, people forming new acquaintances. I think I over heard a recipe exchange! It would have been so easy to bask in it all, but we needed to stay on schedule and there was more fun to be had.

Inhaling that after-the-rain-smell we peddled on. This was perhaps the best way to truly UR 8experience the landscape of northeast Columbus—the potholes, the smell of flowers and ripening trees, the sounds of dogs barking, the people and hidden treasures of an awakening street. I was reminded of the words of Ernest Hemingway: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”

We made it to our next stop. Maya spoke. Everyone listened as if nothing else wUR 4ere more important in the world. As we mounted and rode toward our next stop that promised an opportunity to eat snacks UR 5Yay Bikes! members were very enthused and inspired and it goes to show that bicycling doesn’t always have to be speed and cool outfits. It can also and does connect folks socially and spiritually too.

Up a steep hill and along long stretches of road we traveled toward the Ohio HistoricalSociety at 800 East 17th Avenue where Deanne added to her selfie collection and we sat for a short lecture on John Rankin. He was an American Presbyterian minister, educator and abolitionist. Upon moving to Ripley, Ohio (road trip!)UR 6in 1822 he became known as one of Ohio’s first and most active “conductors” on the Underground Railroad. While I’d looked forward to the lecture turned out to be an absolute gem!

The impact this leadership role had on this day and on my life will be everlasting. EvenUR 7 in the little moments I felt like I was doing something—from making it to the top of the hill without stopping to our successfully navigating the five-mile stretch of road in twos. As we headed back toward Whole Foods happiness snuck in through doors I didn’t know I’d left open. A good message about not just bicycling to be a bicyclist but to have an impact on people and to be impacted myself.


Out & About — March with Yay Bikes!

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“Snapshots with Catherine”, Suzanne Birk (Bicycle Activity Chair, Columbus Outdoor Pursuits) and Chuck Smith (President, Ohio Bicycle Federation) edition. They’re about to chat with Representative Tiberi’s staff about bikin’!

Welcome to the monthly feature in which we round up all our events, earned media, meetings and speaking engagements for the month. Behold, March:

Mar 2 = Regular meeting of MORPC’s Community Advisory Council, on which Catherine serves

Mar 2 = Getting to know you meeting with Columbus Outdoor Pursuits, Westerville Bicycle Club, Columbus Rides Bikes and COMBO

Mar 3 = Planning meeting for Central Ohio’s 2015 Ride of Silence

Mar 4 = Meeting with Scott Ulrich, City of Columbus’s new Bicycle Coordinator, Scott Ulrich

Mar 4 = Public meeting for the City of Columbus‘s proposed Summit/3rd and 4th upgrades

Mar 5 = Regular meeting of the Transportation Committee of Mayor Coleman’s Green Team, on which Catherine serves

Mar 6 = Meeting with Alex Smith, Safe Routes to School Coordinator at Columbus Public Health

Mar 8 = Board retreat for Downtown Residents Association of Columbus, on which Catherine serves

Mar 10 = National Women’s Bicycling Forum in Washington D.C.

Mar 11 = League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Summit in Washington D.C.

Mar 12 = Meetings with staff for Representatives Pat Tiberi, Steve Stivers and Joyce Beatty in their D.C. offices to advocate for bicycling infrastructure funding and for Vision Zero

Mar 15 = Participation in the Westerville Bicycle Club’s Ohio Bike Swap Meet, courtesy members Jeff Gove and Steve Puhl, Jr

Mar 16 = Monthly board meeting for Yay Bikes!

Mar 16 = Presentation to the Westerville Bicycle Club, courtesy member Jeff Bannon

Mar 19 = Regular meeting of Community Shares of Mid Ohio‘s Program Services Committee meeting, which Catherine chairs

Mar 20 = Conference call with How We Roll OSU planning team

Mar 23 = Monthly gathering of the Yay Bikes! Member Champions

Mar 25 = Regular meeting of the CoGo Strategy Group

Mar 25 = Regular meeting of Columbus’ Bicycle Working Group (formerly the Bicycle Subcommittee of the Transportation & Pedestrian Commission), on which Catherine serves

Mar 25 = Inaugural planning meeting for Bike the Cbus 2015

Mar 26 = Planning meeting for City of Columbus’s 2015 Bike to Work Day

Mar 29 =  Planning meeting for Central Ohio’s 2015 Ride of Silence

Mar 30 = Regular meeting of MORPC’s Community Advisory Council, on which Catherine serves

Mar 31 = Public meeting for Connect Columbus

Provide input on the Connect Columbus Transportation Plan. Don’t Be shy!

ConnectColumbusThe City of Columbus is gathering input from residents, businesses and other stakeholders for the creation of Connect Columbus, a long-range multimodal transportation plan that will serve as a guide for future construction on City streets.

“Yay Bikes is delighted to be a member of the Community Advisory Group for this plan,” said Catherine Girves, Executive Director of Yay Bikes!. “We fully support the focus on enhancing equitable, healthy, and sustainable transportation between the places people live, work, and play in and around the City of Columbus”

The plan will emphasize improved safety and reduced congestion, and will promote economic development and a healthier, greener city that will continue to be competitive, attracting residents, employers and visitors.

 “We must invest in streets that are safer for pedestrians and bicycles and embrace other alternatives to individual cars,” said Mayor Michael B. Coleman.  “Everyone has a role in this process to help keep Columbus growing and one of the most vibrant cities in the nation for generations to come.”

 A series of open houses, workshops and community events will be held, focusing on three themes:  Vision and Goals; Generating New Project Ideas; and Evaluation of Projects.  Residents will be asked to comment on projects, community goals and policies relating to public transit, driving, cycling and walking in Columbus.  The schedule for the first meetings on the plan’s Vision and Goals include:

·         March 31,  6–8 pm at Christ Memorial Baptist Church, 3330 East Livingston Ave

·         April 1,  10am–2pm and 6-8pm at Columbus Urban League, 788 Mount Vernon Ave

·         April 2, 2015:  6–8pm at Downtown High School, 364 South 4th Street

Additional public meetings will be scheduled in the future.  Public comment will be incorporated in the Connect Columbus final plan which will produce policies, guidelines and plans that will help define, prioritize, and guide Columbus to implementing realistic goals and projects.  The plan will influence how local transportation dollars are invested in transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and roadway infrastructure.  The Connect Columbus planning process will also complement COTA’s Next Generation plan and MORPC’s Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

 “Connect Columbus represents the next best step in planning for a city that will add 500,000 by the year 2050,” said Councilmember Shannon G. Hardin, chair of the Public Service and Transportation Committee. “By working together to assess our diverse transportation needs, we will ensure a plan that is both sustainable and attractive to all of our community’s stakeholders.”

 The Connect Columbus planning process will be a two-year effort.  Residents are encouraged to visit an online forum to comment and for current information about Connect Columbus.


*!@#%ing pot hole! But wait, Columbus to the rescue

Columbus will begin a three -week-long intensified pothole repair program on March 22. During this period, the city’s goal will be to patch every reported pothole within three dry-weather days. From March 22 through March 28, street maintenance crews will fill potholes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, weather permitting. From March 29 through April 19, crews will work from 7:30 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday, with an additional overnight shift Sundays through Wednesdays. There are typically six to 10 crews per shift and four to six equipment operators on each crew. Potholes cannot be repaired during snow, ice or rain events.

During the intensified pothole repair effort, residents may report potholes through Facebook at Columbus Public Service or Twitter @ColumbusDPS, in addition to the customary 311 Customer Service Center which can be reached at 614-645-3111, or online at www.311.columbus.gov or by using the MyColumbus Mobile App. Residents are asked to include the location of the pothole by referencing:

·         The name of the street where the pothole is located;

·         The address of a home or business closest to the pothole;

·         The direction of travel (northbound, southbound, eastbound, westbound) where                the pothole is located;

·         The lane in which the pothole is located if it is a multi-lane street.

 The city will continue to repair potholes beyond April 19. Residents are encouraged to report potholes throughout the year by contacting 311 at 645-3111, or online at www.311.columbus.gov or by using the MyColumbus Mobile App.

STAND up with Yay Bikes! for Transportation

Yay Bikes! is delighted to stand with The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), Ohio Public Transit Association, Mid Ohio Regional Planning  Commission, Franklin County Commissioners, Conference of Minority Transportation Officials, Women’s Transportation Seminar (Columbus), Transit Columbus, Yay Bikes!, and other transportation supporters across the country who are hosting events in honor of National Transportation Infrastructure Day on April 9, 2015.

We stand together in advocating for equitable distribution of resources for sustainable transportation. Events around the nation will highlight and strongly advocate on behalf of a long-term, sustainable and reliable federal transportation funding bill. The extension of the current transportation funding bill, known as MAP-21, expires on May 31, 2015.

The Central Ohio event will bring together municipal, county, regional and state government leaders, transportation professionals and advocates, trade groups, contractors, business and community leaders.


Year of Yay! February, a real winter wonderland

YayBikes_FebWheel You Be My Valentine?  The forecast did not answer that question with certainty,  predicting frigid temperatures, snow and 40 mile-per-hour winds.  Despite this, the question was answered by an astounding 43 riders who showed up at Whole Foods on February 14, 2015.  What they did not know was that the ride leaders, Jennifer Cowley and Kathleen Koechlin, along with other Yay Bikes! members spent the previous week, evening and early morning working to determine the best course for a safe, successful and fun ride, given the weather.

At 10 am, the weather was mild and promising and after announcements by our fearless Yay Bikes! Executive Director, Catherine Girves, and an explanation of the ride by Jennifer Cowley, we headed out towards The Ohio State YayBikes_FebOSU2University (OSU). We wove through the streets of Upper Arlington to pick up a trail off of Guilford and North Star that led us to campus and the OSU Ornamental Pant Germplasm Center.  Dr. Pablo Jourdan met us there to share his passion for the genetic YayBikes_FebOSU3diversity of floriculture. The best explanation of what is done here is on the Center’s website which states, “Our mission is to conserve genetically-YayBikes_FebOSU4diverse herbaceous plant germplasm and associated information, conduct germplasm-related research, and encourage the use of germplasm and associated information for research, crop improvement and product development. Our goals are to acquire, document, maintain, characterize and distribute herbaceous ornamental genetic resources and osu2associated information for conservation, and to enhance scientific research as well as the floriculture and nursery industry.” Dr. Jourdan also gave us a tour the greenhouses. It was interesting, educational, warm experience and offered our first gift of Valentine’s Day…..flowers!

While the weather was holding  we decided to continue towards our secondGarden 1 YayBikes_FebMuralstop. We rode through campus, via Hunter Ave and through Victorian Village where Third Ave took us east to the Short North, and The Garden.  After all, why not lingerie on Valentine’s Day? The Garden is an adult emporium with two levels. The first floor features shoes, boots, stockings, lingerie and costumes. For those seeking a more adult Valentine adventure, the basement level had everything you could need. It was all presented in a respectful way. The staff was friendly and informative, YayBikes_FebMural2and the atmosphere was comfortable and inviting. The best part about this stop (okay, maybe not the BEST) was that, as someone on the ride posted on Facebook, “43 bikes fit easily in the space that would be used by a few cars.” We parked bicycles along a beautiful mural and the photo opportunity was amazing!  It was a beautiful photo opportunity embellished by the heavy snowfall as we left.

Leaving The Garden was where the true adventure began. Snow began to fall with enthusiasmYayBikes_FebNapoleon, and visibility diminished. We found ourselves in a serious white out!  We decided to skip our 3rd stop, the chocolate shop (not to worry…there was chocolate later…stay tuned), so onward to our 4th stop which  was on the way back to Whole Foods. This part of the ride was amazing in so many ways. The snow was coming down in big, beautiful flakes and the gusting, 40 mph westerly blew the snow sideways fogging our glasses and goggles.  A number riders had never ridden in these conditions before, so there was a feeling of uncertainty along with exhilaration and pride.  It served to remind us of the hardships those who have no other form of transportation endure.  Caution was exercised and we looked out for one another.  As John PC later wrote, “What’s interesting to me is that during the worst of the storm, enroute 1everyone was going about the same speed due to visibility and the condition of the road. For those few minutes, I felt safer and less worried about being rear-ended than I did during other parts of the ride.”

We soon arrived in intact at Weidinger Jewelers and the French Loaf (photo credit: Kathleen O’Dowd) on Grandview’s  Fifth Ave. Weidinger Jewelers is the shop of WilliamKathleen O'Dowd A. Weidinger, who has designed and created original jewelry for over 40 years. His shop has 24 showcases highlighting his designs with platinum, gold, and gemstones.  There were beautiful gifts for a well healed Valentine! While some riders perused the many elegant jewelry pieces on display, others went into the neighboring French Loaf to warm up with hot coffee. Some refueled with delicious baked goods; some of which were Valentine themed! We returned outside to find our bikes covered in new snow, and the visibility and the road conditions were getting even more bleak. The wind had picked up, and at times was a challenge to stay upright!  Again YayBikes_FebSnowCoveredBikesthe route was altered as we moved off 5th Ave as soon as possible. We chose to head north on the lesser traveled North Star and wound back through Upper Arlington.  No riders were left behind. In fact, even more camaraderie was displayed during this last leg.  The cross wind was relentless and a couple of first-time Year of Yay! riders chose to walk their bicycles. Several seasoned Year of Yay! riders dismounted and walked alongside them to be assure they felt comfortable and made it back safely.

K. Koechlin, ride leader and article author in black
K. Koechlin, ride leader and article author in black

Back at Whole Foods, we became prideful. Many of us had successfully negotiated our first snowstorm, but the day still promised surprise. Because the forecast was so uncertain and stops might have to be abandoned, the leaders provided a drawing for items representing each stop. There was chocolate for all (Dove dark chocolate hearts wrapped in red wrappers).  names were drawn for items representingwhoe foold The Garden and Weidinger Jewelers. These token items made for whole foods 3a lot of laughter and fun. Many stayed to enjoy a cold beverage or two and a meal. The bond had been set as we all felt stronger for having weathered the weather through a significant storm together. In fact, there are aspects of this ride that will forever connect us – suffice it to say that sometimes what happens on Year of Yay! stays on Year of Yay!. Jeff Gove summed the ride up perfectly in his post. “For me, Saturday’s ride was a tribute to everyone’s common sense, concern for their own safety10991427_10205843679350331_1454315075789946722_n and those around them, awareness of weather conditions and all vehicles, etc. The fact that it sprang up on everyone and we banded together so well and so naturally proves that motorists and cyclists can co-exist, should co-exist and need to for the health of our community.”  It was a total winter blast.





Earn a Bike 3.0 @ Great Western Academy

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Gladden House youth touring the West Side in 2014’s Earn a Bike Program

With generous funding from the Coca Cola Foundation through the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Ohio regional office, this spring we’re partnering with Imagine Schools Great Western Academy to deliver our third round of our Earn a Bike programming to 20 youth. During the program, kids will participate in 8 hours of mechanical education and 8 hours of safe cycling education, plus complete a bicycle-related community service project. If they complete the program, they’ll take home a new bike, plus a helmet, lock and other accessories.

Final report from 2014:

Yay Bikes! and Franklinton Cycle Works partnered with Gladden Community House on the city’s West Side to offer their youth a 2-week Earn a Bike program. During the program’s first week, participants learned basic bicycle mechanics and maintenance over 8 hours at Franklinton Cycle Works; in the second week they rode for 8 hours with Yay Bikes! to learn trail and road safety. On the final day of the program they shared what they’d learned with their peers by staffing a bike rodeo at Avondale Middle School. Ten children aged 8–14 began the program and 9 (3 girls and 6 boys) completed it to earn their bicycles and accessories.  Continue reading Earn a Bike 3.0 @ Great Western Academy

Out & About with Yay Bikes! : February 2015

Selfies Snapshots with Catherine”, Michelle May (Safety Program Manager, ODOT), Jolene Molitoris (Former Director, ODOT) and Joy Lanham (President, WTS Columbus) edition

Welcome to the monthly feature in which we round up all our events, earned media, meetings and speaking engagements for the month. Behold, February:

Feb 2 = Columbus Underground article: “Protected Bike Lane on Summit Just the Beginning, Says City & Cycling Advocacy”

Feb 2 = Columbus Dispatch article: “Transportation Insider: New markings to guide 4th Street cyclists”

Feb 3 & 25 = Yay Bikes! Member Champions Night (link to March’s event)

Feb 5 = Annual Meeting of WTS Columbus (Women’s Transportation Seminar)

Feb 12 = Regular meeting of Mayor Coleman’s Green Team, on which Catherine serves

Feb 12 = Meeting of the CoGo Planning Team, on which Catherine serves, to strategize with the new Motivate CEO, Jay Walder

Feb 12 = Buckeye News Now video: “Bike lanes to be added off campus” (story @ 5:31–7:29)

Feb 13 = Meeting with Julie Walcoff of ODOT to plan for the National Safe Routes to School Conference in 2016 and other potential partnerships

Feb 16 = Meeting with Stuart Hunter, founder of roll:, to discuss Business Membership

Feb 18 = Regular board meeting of Downtown Residents Association of Columbus, at which Catherine was elected to the Board of Directors

Feb 20 = Meeting of City of Columbus engineers and project consultants to discuss proposed changes to 3rd/Summit & 4th Street designs

Feb 22 = Inaugural planning meeting for 2015’s Ride of Silence

Feb 25 = Inaugural meeting of the Bike to Work Day Planning Group, on which Catherine & Meredith serve

Feb 25 = Regular meeting of the Bicycle Subcommittee of the Transportation & Pedestrian Commission, on which Catherine serves

Feb 26 = Meeting with Abby Rhodebeck, Outdoor Programs and Outreach Market Coordinator for REI to discuss Bike the Cbus sponsorship

Feb 27 = People for Bikes blog post: “Boston, Columbus, Detroit, Indy, Minneapolis, Houston, Denver & Seattle all Unveil Protected Lanes”