Category Archives: advocacy

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!

Out & About with Yay Bikes! : January 2015

“Selfies with Catherine”, Shannon Hardin (Columbus City Council) edition

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

Jan 5 = Meeting with Transit Columbus’s Elissa Schneider, re: Open Streets and other potential partnerships

Jan 5 = Meeting of MORPC’s Community Advisory Committee, on which Catherine serves

Jan 6 = Meeting with Columbus City Council’s new Public Service Chair Shannon Hardin, re: introducing him to our work

Jan 7 = Columbus Food League’s Yay Bikes! fundraiser @ Grass Skirt Tiki Room

Jan 7 = Meeting with Greater Columbus Art Council’s Ruby Harper, re: integrating art and bicycling

Jan 13 = Meeting with ODOT’s Julie Walcoff and the Ohio AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) Foundation’s Hayley Southworth, re: providing trainings for the 2015 “Put a Lid On It” campaign

Jan 14 = Presentation at Grandview Civic Welfare Club, re: Yay Bikes! programming

Jan 15 = Meeting with Bexley’s Mayor Ben Kessler, Council Member Deneese Owen and Service Department Director Bill Dorman, re: serving Bexley’s cyclists

Jan 27 = Meeting with City of Columbus Deparment of Public Service Director Tracie Davies & Deputy Director Jennifer Gallagher, re: Multimodal Thoroughfare Plan update and other city bike business

Jan 28 = Meeting of the Bicycle Subcommittee of the Transportation & Pedestrian Commission, on which Catherine serves

Jan 30 = Columbus Dispatch article: “University District to get first protected bike lane in Columbus”

Protected bike lanes in CBus? Who would’ve thunk it

protected bike lanes
example, not the actual plan

Today, the Columbus Dispatch reported: “Columbus is getting its first protected bike lane as part of a plan to resurface Summit/3rd and 4th streets and add bike lanes along the heavily traveled corridors.

“Bike lanes will be installed along those routes between Fulton and Hudson streets, with a 1.4-mile section of Summit developed into a two-way, protected bike lane. That section will be between 11th Avenue and Hudson Street in the University District, and shielded by on-street parking.

“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.

“They’re coming up with really good solutions just because they’re understanding from a different perspective — from the seat of a bicycle,” said Catherine Girves, the organization’s executive director.

“She said the new bike lanes will be useful for both new and experienced bicyclists, who sometimes eschew lanes because it’s more convenient to ride with traffic.

“Adding protected bike lanes near Ohio State University, an area heavily populated with bicyclists, also can act as a model for the rest of the city, Girves said. “As a test site, this is the ideal place,” she said.”

Read the entire article here.

Review OSU’s bicycle accommodation plan and we’ll pass along your comments

CTPP_BikeAccommodations
OSU’s map of proposed bicycle infrastructure

As recently reported on Columbus Underground, OSU has released a draft of its Comprehensive Transportation and Parking Plan. Yay Bikes! will be meeting with OSU planners and staff during the week of December 8 to provide input on the plan, and we are excited to pass on the genius thoughts of our community members. Continue reading

Winning at safer streets, and at life: Our 2014 Advocacy in Review

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Our new street plan evaluation rides transformed the designs for 4th & 3rd/Summit.
When you support Yay Bikes!  >>>  Advocacy happens!
1 law passed
5 transportation committees served
2 street plan evaluation rides
31 local advocates engaged
29 news stories
11 speaking engagements

Yay Bikes! has a long history of bicycle advocacy, but in 2014 we upped our game by shepherding a 3′ Passing Law in the City of Columbus and partnering with the Department of Public Service to help its engineers design better bicycle infrastructure. Our new street plan evaluation rides have transformed plans for 4th and 3rd/Summit Streets and provided a solid template for similar rides going forward. This month we’ll be providing commentary regarding OSU’s bicycle accommodations plan and we’re in conversations about training engineers in other municipalities statewide. Please consider an end-of-year gift to help Yay Bikes! expand our impact through advocacy initiatives and other programming next year. 

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.   

~ From all of us at Yay Bikes! ~

Our public input methodology & how to get involved

photoYay Bikes! members on a ride to evaluate proposed changes to 3rd and 4th Streets in downtown Columbus.

With our inaugural infrastructure input project about to be wrapped, we’re confident that this formula fits well with our culture and, more importantly, that it works.  Here’s the breakdown of how we’re going to handle each request we receive for cyclist feedback, and how you can get involved. Of course anyone may feel free to provide their own feedback directly to the city, whether in writing or at their public input meetings, but this is how Yay Bikes! will generate our official feedback on proposed infrastructure projects. Although our leadership is comprised of some damn impressive bicycle experts (ahem… if we do say so…!), we refuse to decide our advocacy positions from within a board room. We believe the process described below is more robust and participatory than you will find anywhere in the country, and we hope you will become a member so you can have your voice heard. Continue reading

Become a GOOBI on the inaugural infrastructure commentary ride with Yay Bikes!

GOOBI: one who likes to Geek Out On Bicycle Infrastructure
Yay Bikes! has been asked by the City of Columbus, Department of Public Service to provide feedback regarding bicycle infrastructure proposed for 3rd and 4th Streets in downtown Columbus. To provide Public Service Director Davies and Deputy Director Gallagher with productive input on the designs, we are launching a new infrastructure ride crit series for our fellow GOOBIes,  through which we will ride the streets, imagine how the proposed changes will affect us as cyclists and deliver our commentary on a future ride with project staff. Here’s how it will work this time around:

Continue reading

How We Roll gets more shout outs in Akron

share-the-road“If they were gangs they would be the Fearsome Fours vs. the Terrible Twos and their battleground is the streets of Akron and Summit County where the fight takes place every single day.

“Cars may rule the roads, but bicycles are an increasingly common sight on the streets. Both clans seem to want the other to get out of their respective way, while Akron officials would like for everyone to just get along.”  Read the full story at the Akron Beacon Journal.

Yay Columbus! Yay Safe Streets Ordinance! Yay Bikes!

What exactly does the Safe Streets Ordinance say?

  • clarifies that a bicycle IS A VEHICLE,

  • clarifies as the safe passing distance between a car and a bicycle as 3′, and most larger vehicles and a bicycle as 6′,

  • adds a specific ban for motor vehicles in bike lanes, with some exceptions,

  • clarifies the law to specifically prohibit motor vehicles from “right/left hooking” bicyclists,

  • requires bicyclists to not text, and to yield to emergency vehicles,

  • allows police officers, firefighters, parking enforcement officers, and special improvement district ambassadors to ride bicycles on sidewalks in the performance of official duties,

  • allows the Public Service Director to to add bikeways and bicycle parking on streets,

  • corrects conflicting language in the parking code,

  • brings traffic code into compliance with portions of state laws, and

  • adds gender inclusive language.

For more details, view 2014 Safe Streets Ordinance Fact Sheet or click to view the actual legislation.

Big thanks to Council Member Michelle Mills for sponsoring this legislation and shepherding it through the process to law, Council Members Zach Klein and Troy Miller for co-sponsoring, and Council Member Eileen Paley for meeting with Yay Bikes! leadership about this legislation back in 2012. Additional thanks to Leslie Strader, Policy Advisor from the Mayor Coleman’s Office of Environmental Stewardship, and Randall Bowman, Assistant Director of Public Service for meeting regularly with bicycle advocates as this legislation was being crafted.

Thanks to the 31 Yay Bikes! members who attended the last two City Council Meetings and the Public Hearing in the last week to support passage of the Safe Streets Ordinance: Rahel Babb, John Bannon, Heather Bowden, Jane Boyer, Jay Cheplowitz, Ken Cohen, David Curran, Jack Decker, David Docktor, Bill Ferriot, Ray George, Catherine Girves, Jeff Gove, Gloria Hendricks, Rob Hendricks, Talon Hendricks, Trace Hendricks, David Hohmann, Cartik Kothari, Kai Landis, Keith Mayton, Duane McCoy, Nik Olah, Joe Powell, Steve Puhl, Jr., Oulanje Regan, Gary Schmidt, Barb Seckler, Scott Ulrich, Jim Williams, and Megan Zale.

Finally, our work on this would not have been possible without those of you who financially support Yay Bikes! You rock.

Yay Bikes! Yay Us! You YOU!!

 

Safe Streets Ordinance – Testimony of Catherine Girves

Good evening President Ginther, Environment Chair Mills, Co-Sponsor Klein and Miller and to the remaining honorable members of Columbus City Council. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you tonight. My name is Catherine Girves and I am the Executive Director of Yay Bikes! Tonight I am delighted and honored to be here representing the 517 members of Yay Bikes! Yes, Council Member Mills we have added 5 members since we were here last Tuesday.

Yay Bikes! is thankful to Columbus City Council for consideration of 1182-2014 the proposed “Safe Streets Ordinance”. This ordinance showcases our City’s commitment to peaceful streets for all users – transit riders and operators, motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

As a year round bicyclist, (yes I road here tonight in a skirt and heels), I can tell you from personal experience that bicycling is good for the physical and emotional health of individual riders. But what many don’t realize is, that when people choose bicycling as a mode of transportation everyone in the community benefits:

  • Commuter bicyclists protect the public health of the entire community by reducing carbon and other green house gas emissions protecting air quality for all, particularly our most vulnerable members of the community.
  • Commuter bicyclists reduce dependence on fossil fuels protecting the environment, economy, and national security of the entire community.
  • Like pedestrians, commuter bicyclists increase the safety and community cohesiveness of the neighborhoods we ride in, often functioning as informal block watches.
  • And when people Discover Columbus by bike we see an economic impact. Yay Bikes! leads “How We Roll” rides teaching bicyclists to ride streets legally, visibly, and predictably. Immediately following, participants take a short test. When asked how likely participants are to return to places they were introduced to on these rides, 75%-77% respond they are very likely and an additional 20% report they are somewhat likely to return to those locations. When we conduct a 6 week follow up survey we find that 53.3% have already returned to a place they were initially introduced to on a “How We Roll” ride. When asked about favorite moments on these rides, 29% name a specific business, 26% name downtown Columbus and its sites, and 23% respond Experiencing Columbus and learning more about the community.

This Council’s investment in the safety of bicyclists that travel our streets is an investment in the entire community.

Finally, investing in commuter bicyclists is an investment in social justice. Some of us who travel by bike, do it out of economic necessity. Protecting the safety of commuter bicyclists protects the safety of working class people traveling to work, school, shop, and back home to our families.

Thank you.