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

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”

safe routes to schools

2016 Safe Routes to School National Conference coming to Columbus

Hot flash from the Columbus City Council:  “The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the National Center for Safe Routes to School are pleased to announce that the fifth Safe Routes to School National Conference will be held in Columbus, Ohio. The event, sponsored by these two national organizations and hosted by MORPC will take place April 5-7, 2016 at the Hilton Columbus Downtown.”      Read the entire press release here.

Riding north on 4th Street, and approaching I 670? We have good news for you!

“Drivers and bicyclists who use 4th Street leaving Downtown likely are familiar with what some have called a head-scratching conflict point for commuters.

planning“Just before the entrance ramp for westbound I-670 on the left of the street, the dedicated bike lane crosses a lane of vehicle traffic that is merging left to enter the ramp.

“Both lanes are set up for continuous flow, and there is no clear instruction on which lane should yield. Yay Bikes Executive Director Catherine Girves calls it the “teleport zone. The city, though, is planning a fix”…Get it here!

Everything you should know about the changes being proposed on Summit and 4th Streets.

Columbus Underground reports: “A protected bike lane is planned for a 1.4-mile portionbike-lanes-is of Summit Street in the University District. The new lane will be ten feet wide and will run from Hudson Street to 11th Avenue, providing both north- and south-bound travel lanes that are separated from car traffic by a two-foot buffer and an eight-foot parking lane.

“South of 11th, a single, unprotected bike lane will continue through Weinland Park, Italian Village, and Downtown (on Third Street). A similar, unprotected, bike lane would be added to Fourth Street, from Hudson to the southern edge of Downtown.”

“Other new bike infrastructure – “bus bulbs” that provide bus boarding areas that don’t conflict with bike-lane traffic, “queue boxes” that make it easier for cyclists to turn left on busy streets, and a new strategy for getting cyclists safely past cars merging onto freeway ramps – will also be part of the project…”    – Read more here.

Winning at bicycle infrastructure: The true story of how a dream team, a touch of magic and Yay Bikes!’ special sauce made Columbus’s first protected bike lane happen

By now the news has been shared far and wide: Columbus’s first protected bike lane will soon be installed from Hudson to 11th in the University District! Read the details here and here to boost your day with some YAY and more YAY! Both articles give a nod to the role Yay Bikes! played in helping nudge this project forward with our infrastructure review process:

 “Original plans called for a conventional bike lane, but the city reconsidered its position after engineers rode with representatives from Yay Bikes, a local advocacy and education group.”—Dispatch article

“The important thing about this, though…was the interactions between the department and Yay Bikes!—this is not engineers in a hermetically sealed room designing a project. Catherine and the folks at Yay Bikes were instrumental in making this what it is.”—Rick Tilton, Assistant Director, City of Columbus Department of Public Service

“I will say this, I like to ride my bike but I’ve always ridden on the trail system—I had never ridden on the street—and Yay Bikes! invited us to go out on a couple of different occasions and actually ride on the street with them. And, before the ride, I thought it was going to be really scary, but it turned out that drivers were very courteous, and it wasn’t frightening at all. You want to pay attention to what you’re doing, but it was just like you were in any other vehicle. At the time of Yay Bikes ride on Summit and Fourth, the protected lane was not a done deal… we were thinking about it, but it was still in the planning stages.”—Richard Ortman, Engineer, City of Columbus

But as much as we’d like to, obviously we can’t take all the credit for the new protected lane. So how do advocacy wins like this actually happen? To the extent that we can take credit for it, we at Yay Bikes! believe our advocacy philosophy played a role that I will detail below. Beyond that, let’s not underestimate the roles that leadership, timing and, frankly, magic play in creating the big advocacy wins that many groups fully claim. For example, at this precise moment in history, as the stars align within the U.S., Ohio and Central Ohio—the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Secretary Fox has issued a Mayor’s Challenge to improve bicycle safety; the Federal Highway Administration is committed like never before to promoting bicycle safety; the Ohio Department of Transportation is making bicycle safety projects, including exciting demonstration projects like this, a priority for the safety funding it distributes; Columbus’s Mayor Michael Coleman often states his intention to make Columbus one of the best bicycling cities in the country; Columbus’ Director of Public Service is investing heavily in a new relationship with us, the local bicycle advocacy organization; and Yay Bikes! is sufficiently successful to provide the level of expertise now in such high demand. Each of these players comprise the “dream team” that made this protected bike lane happen, and they all deserve a big fat standing O for their work.

But returning to how Yay Bikes! conducts the business of bicycle advocacy. As with all things Yay Bikes!, our cooperative advocacy philosophy flows from our core values of Kindness, Excellence & Integrity. Taking the case of this protected lane as an example, the following are our underlying assumptions and how they translate into our advocacy practices.

Assumptions + Practices

Everyone is more accommodating when they are treated with kindness.

We all want safe, functional streets. Even engineers who don’t yet see the value of accommodating bicyclists want streets that work. Our practice is to treat everyone with kindness and to be selective about who we permit to interface directly with project staff. Professionals should be shielded from those who would shame them or make their lives more difficult.

Everyone brings different, valuable expertise to the table.

It is critical that both advocates and professionals work in partnership to design roadways. Advocates (i.e., both paid staff and organization members) bring essential knowledge of road riding, while the project design team brings a wealth of professional expertise and experience. To capture the best of the expertise from both groups, our practices are to 1) lead the design team on a ride of the route to evaluate their proposed changes, 2) open participation in the commentary process to our membership, so that as many voice as possible are heard from and 3) trust the professionals to revise their plans as necessary to address both our concerns and the conditions they experienced on the ride.

Every roadway requires a different treatment.

There is no best type of infrastructure. We do not advocate for protected bike lanes or other such one-size-fits-all solutions. Our roads are all very different, and none were designed for bicycles. Our practice is to actually ride each roadway and work from the designs proposed by knowledgeable engineers to help determine its best possible retrofit.

There is no substitute for actually riding the roads.

We can’t say it enough — it is not sufficient to simply review maps. Because riding a bicycle is not an intellectual exercise, we must ride the roads with those who are charged with designing them so that they can experience it directly. And because these people are often not road riding cyclists, our job as advocates is to help them feel comfortable riding alongside traffic, and alleviate any fears they may have.

Now admittedly, the case of this protected lane featured a healthy dose of magic, in that all the players were on the same page and committed to going above and beyond to serve local cyclists. Advocacy can surely get a lot messier than that. But for the professionals who work with Yay Bikes!, at least a few things can be counted on regardless: you will be treated with kindness and respect, you will have a reasoned partner in determining the best treatment for each unique roadway condition, and you will be expected to get on your bikes. Now let’s ride!

Membership Champions unite!

Be a superhero. Invite your friends to join our movement.

Our ambitious goal is to achieve 1,000 members this year (up from 662 as of today, Feb 4). Why? Because we know that the number of members in a bicycle advocacy organization correlates to improved advocacy outcomes. High membership rates increase an organization’s political clout and create a reliable funding source with which we can hire staff, expand programming and more.

We all know people who should be Yay Bikes! members—They’re cyclists! They want our streets to be safer! They love us! But maybe they’re not yet. Maybe because we haven’t asked. Yay Bikes! is now making it easier — and fun! — to ask.

At our new Member Champion nights, you and a bunch of your Yay Bikes! buddies will get scripts, emotional support and FOOD to help you invite friends into the organization. Our next Member Champion Night will be Wednesday, February 25, 5–8pm at the Yay Bikes! office (within Summit on 16th UMC at 82 E 16th Ave, Columbus 43201). Join us!




Educating practitioners statewide on youth bicycle safety

The Ohio American Academy of Pediatrics Foundation’s annual Bicycle Helmet Safety Awareness Week, offered in partnership with the Ohio Department of Transportation, is on the calendar for May 2–10, 2015. More information about how to participate, educational materials and the application for free youth helmets to give away, are now available.

The educators, health professionals, community activists and others statewide who receive free helmets will travel to Columbus in April to pick them up. At that time, for the first time in the campaign’s history, training provided by yours truly will help them address the most critical points of bicycle safety for young riders. The lessons they learn that day are expected to reduce youth bike injuries throughout Ohio! We thank the Ohio AAP Foundation and ODOT for prioritizing a rigorous educational experience for these practitioners.