I had the occasion this weekend to talk with Andy Claydon and Natalie Holbrook from Bike Ypsi about the big Spring Ride event they’ve got planned for this coming Sunday. Here’s what was said:
Mark: So, I hear you’ve got your big spring ride coming up. When is it, and what should people expect to find when they come out for it?
Andy: In the spring, it’s more that just a ride, it’s a festival. It’s a time to pull out the bikes and get them road ready.
Natalie: It is on May 2nd at Recreation Park on Congress in Ypsilanti. There will be 2 different length bicycle rides in and around our good city, simple fix it/diagnosis stations for bicycles, chances to talk with folks who ride all over the area in all different kinds of weather, bicycle games for kids and adults, some bike themed crafts for the kids, a bbq featuring hot dogs and veggie dogs and any other goodies that we’ve been able to scrounge up from willing donors, some swag for sale, and general good fun with Ypsi peeps who like bikes.
Mark: So, what time will things get started? And did I hear something somewhere about helmet give-aways?
Natalie: Rides start at 10:00 a.m. at Recreation Park on Congress in Ypsi’s normal park/woods neighborhood. All festival events take place at aforementioned park.
BBQ is served at 11:30. Games will go throughout the afternoon, as will the booths.
There will be helmet giveaways from Ann Arbor Bicycling and Touring Society and EMU’s Police Department.
Mark: Given the amount of time that you spend on the roads around Ypsi, what would you say the biggest non-car-related issues are for cyclists? And, as for cars, are there any places in particular that people should be especially careful?
As for dangerous situations – any freeway ramp. Cars are coming off them at high speeds and accelerating to get on them. Exiting cars are usually looking behind them to merge and can sneak up on you fast. It can be pretty intense.
Over all I’d say you always need to be careful. Be visible and be predictable. Just because you see a car it doesn’t mean they see you. Ride defensively – it’s very similar to driving a car. Follow the same rules as cars, and you’ll to be treated like a car.
Mark: How big is Bike Ypsi these days?
Andy: Bike Ypsi is run by a small group of people. About 6–10 cyclists who volunteer their time. Our Google group has 221 members. Our weekly Sunday rides range from 4-20 people, depending on the day. Or bi-annual rides continue to grow over the years. I don’t have numbers on that.
Mark: What other big events do you have planned for this year?
And, kind of unrelated, I’m wondering what kind of lobbying efforts the group has become involved in both in Ypsi and it Washtenaw County.
Andy: May is a very busy month for Bike Ypsi.
The afternoon of Ypsi Pride Day, May 15th, is our “Heavy Metal Tour”. It’s a contest to see who can pick up the most shred-worthy metal of the roads between 4-6pm. There are prizes for biggest piece, most junk hauled, etc. It’s a lot of fun and nice to have the roads cleared up for the summer. It free, like everything we do, and starts at Recreation Park.
On May 19th at 7:00 PM, we take part in a world-wide event called the Ride of Silence. It also starts in Recreation Park. This is a slow silent ride to commemorate bicyclists killed or injured while riding. It’s about 8-10 miles at a relaxed pace.
May is also Bike to Work Month. Every Friday in May we meet at 8:00 AM at Bombadill’s Cafe, and commute to work in Ann Arbor. We meet in the evenings at 5:15pm at the AA Farmers Market to ride home. It’s a great opportunity to try commuting with people who do it regularly. The route is based on who works where, since not everyone works downtown.
We also have weekly Sunday rides at 1:00 PM, starting in Recreation Park, and the monthly Metro Park rides. The Metro Park rides are much longer, usually 30-60 miles. They leave at 9:00 AM from the Depot Town Farmer’s Market on the second Saturday of every month. They run from April to October.
All of this is on our Bike Ypsi website.
As for lobbying, it’s a little tough. We’ve worked with the DDA on getting more bike racks put downtown. It was crazy that the bus station never had them in the past. We put feedback into the non-motorized plan. Some of us were recently at a City Planning meeting where they discussed doing work of the east part of Cross Street. We were shocked to hear them planning a one way bike lane that was to be shared with car parking. We couldn’t think of anything more dangerous to cyclist than that. We said that a wider road and no bike lane would be better, but it comes down to what gets more state funding.
Mark: How about the Taco Tour – are you doing it again this year?
Andy: Yes, Tom Lennon, who also puts on the Heavy Metal Tour, is already planning this year’s Taco Tour. Since some area Mexican restaurants have closed and some new ones have opened, it will be a bit different from last.
Mark: A man on a bike was killed a little while ago in Ann Arbor. A young driver, as I understand it, was distracted and didn’t see him. I don’t know much about the case, but I’m wondering if we as a community do enough driver education about bikes, and the fact that they’re also entitled to share the road. Any thoughts?
Natalie: I think that bicycle safety and sharing the road training should be a state-mandated part of every driver’s education curriculum. Driver’s education should also include understanding the rights of pedestrians (walkers, joggers). There is so much tension between cyclists and motorists, and what we really need is understanding, respect, and compassion. I also think that we need to take huge strides to stop the use of hand held devices while driving or cycling. An automobile is technically a thousand-pound potential weapon. If you mishandle guns and someone gets hurt or killed it’s considered manslaughter. If you mishandle an automobile, death or injury can ensue, so we should be doing everything we can to deter distraction while driving. Anytime a car has veered close to me while I am riding (and I ride a hell of a lot–nearly 6500 miles in less than 2 years, mostly commuting between Ypsi and Ann Arbor) the person has been texting or fiddling with a handheld device. You have a great eyewitness view of what’s happening in a car when it creeps dangerously close to you. Unfortunately, it happens too frequently.
But, I am all about being proactive and asking driver’s education professionals and the Secretary of State to take this stuff seriously. I also think we have to work on relying less on cars for transportation and this can happen with the youngest of kids all the way through high school.
Again, respect is essential and it has to come from both motorists and cyclists. Cyclists need to follow the rules of the road if they want to be respected. We need to reach out to people who depend entirely on bicycles for transportation but who were taught back in the 60s to ride against traffic. There is a whole contingent of riders who ride without helmets or lights and ride against traffic. These folks are risking their lives and giving cyclists who ride safely a bad name. And then we have college student riders and non-cyclist riders who run stop signs, travel from road to sidewalk, and weave all over the place just to get where they are going ultra fast. If there were less idiot riders, then the motorist could not come up with huge generalizations about all bicycle riders. Same goes for drivers–less idiot drivers = less sweeping generalizations.
Mark: So, with that, is there anything else that you feel needs to be said about either the upcoming event, Bike Ypsi’s plans for the future, or biking in general?
Andy: Well, we’re kind of leaving this on a bummer note, aren’t you Mark? I gotta say there are bikes everywhere these day and if you compare the number of cyclists getting injured to the number of people in cars, riding looks pretty good. So everyone, please come down on Sunday. If not for the rides come for the festival. See what it’s all about.
Riders, be predictable, be polite, respect the traffic laws, and you’ll get some respect too. Maybe not by everyone, because there are a lot of assholes driving out there, but I think you’ll find they’re the same asshole you encounter when driving your car. Drivers, be patient with pedestrians and cyclists. Treat them as if they where a family member out there on the road. Thanks for talking with us, Mark.
[Photo credit: Kristen Cuhran]