Bike Ann Arbor to provide bike valet parking at local events this summer with A2Awesome grant

Earlier this week I mentioned that the Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation had awarded $1,000 grants to both Abundant Michigan Permaculture Ypsilanti (AMPY) and Bike Ann Arbor. While I shared quite a bit of information at the time about what the AMPY team was hoping to accomplish on the grounds of Dawn Farm with their grant, though, I didn’t tell you much about the Bike Ann Arbor project that was funded. Well, in hopes of remedying this, I’ve reached out to Bike Ann Arbor founder Krysia Hepatica. What follows is our conversation.

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MARK: I’m pretty familiar with Bike Ypsi, but I know relatively little about its sister organization in Ann Arbor – Bike Ann Arbor. When did you launch?

KRYSIA: We officially launched as a non-profit in March of 2013.

MARK: And why is it that you decided to start Bike Ann Arbor?

KRYSIA: We organized because we were interested in promoting bikes as transportation, and we wanted to help further the efforts of the Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition (WBWC) and Get Downtown. Our mission is simple. We want to get people to ride bikes more often.

MARK: And what form has you work taken since March 2013?

KRYSIA: Our primary focus thus far has been on making it more convenient for people to bike to events than to drive.

1147773_10151601602724212_1364888192_oMARK: How you do that? How do you make it more convenient for people to bike than to drive?

KRYSIA: I think most people love the energy and vitality of being downtown, but driving and parking can sometimes be a drawback for various reasons. Making it easier to bike and park is awesome. I know I personally prefer to bike when I can over driving, and we make it super easy by providing simple, secure parking… We also host events that celebrate “bike culture,” like our late-night ride, Lite Bike, which is a great way to introduce new riders to the fun of biking at night, while promoting safety.

MARK: And how did the group initially come together? Did you, or someone else, just float the idea on Facebook one day, and things kind of took off from there? Or did this begin as an initiative of the WBWC, or some other group already working in the space?

KRYSIA: I came up with the idea one day that I wanted to host a night-time biking event. That was how everything got started. I began to talk with a lot of people about it, and, when I saw the energy and excitement, it made me think there might be a need for a new group. And the pieces just started coming together.

MARK: And how many bikers would say identify as being affiliated with Bike Ann Arbor at this point? How many people, for instance, went on your last ride?

KRYSIA: We had about 120 riders pre-register for our first event. We were very happy about the interest and we expect the number to increase this year.

MARK: You were just recently awarded an Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation grant. What will you be doing with your $1,000?

KRYSIA: Yes, we’re extremely grateful for this award. We’ll be using it to buy equipment to help us offer free bike valet every Thursday at Sonic Lunch and on Tuesday Bike Nights at Top of the Park this summer.

MARK: How does bike valet work? Do you just set up temporary bike racks, and have someone watch the bikes, or is it more involved than that?

KRYSIA: It’s basically that. We set up racks and, and, when customers come, we place a reusable plastic number on their bike and give them the corresponding number on a bracelet to wear. We also get their name and phone number, and ask that they sign a waiver.

MARK: What, in your opinion, could be done in Ann Arbor to make it more bike-friendly?

KRYSIA: I’d like to see more bike lanes. I’d like downtown transformed into a more pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly place. It’s really a trend across the country. And, if Ann Arbor is to remain competitive, and stop suffering from the “brain drain,” we need to address it… Millenials are increasingly interested in places that value alternative transportation and invest in it.

MARK: What’s your vision for the future of Bike Ann Arbor?

KRYSIA: We hope to make a positive impact on the city and inspire residents to advocate on behalf of bikers… We want to impress upon our elected officials the importance of embracing a bike culture.

MARK: Not too long ago, I saw a sign in a local restaurant about a program to incentivize biking. I can’t remember the details, but it had something to do with bikers getting discounts at participating businesses. My sense was that it was a nationwide program of some kind, that people had to pay to join, etc. And I don’t know how good of a program it is. But it makes me wonder about these different things that are being attempted around the country to get people to bike more and drive less. And I’m wondering if, in addition to making it safer for bikers, and adding bike lanes, there might other things that we could explore as a community to incentivize people.

KRYSIA: That program you’re talking about is probably Bicycle Benefits. It’s been spreading across the country. A rider buys a $5 sticker from participating retailer, puts it on their helmet, and receives discounts on goods and services from businesses that partake in the program. We support the program, and think it’s a great idea. And we’ve been in touch with the organizer of the group, as we’re hoping to have stickers for sale at this year’s Lite Bike event.

phpLTNMsCPMMARK: I’m curious what kind of benchmarking you may have done with other regions. It just seems like things are taking off all over the place relative to biking… like in Portland and Madison, for instance… and I’m wondering if there might be lessons that we can learn, things that we can implement here… Is there an active exchange of information between bike-friendly regions? Do they share ideas for events, legislation, etc?

KRYSIA: We keep up on the latest news and initiatives, mostly through Twitter. I really admire, for instance, the work Elly Blue is doing in Portland. She recently wrote a book called Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy about how bike-culture is changing the economic landscape. Common Cycle, another local group, brought her to Ann Arbor last spring to talk about her book and mission, and it was inspriring.

As for policy, we don’t focus too much on that. The WBWC has been working on that aspect for 10 years, though. We’re working the other end of it. We’re trying to get more people on the streets. We’re all about “safety in numbers.” The more people that are out riding, the safer it becomes. We’re not waiting for more bike lanes. The bike lanes will follow if we have the numbers. We want more people on the roads now, so that drivers become more accustomed to sharing the road.

MARK: What’s the formal response been from our elected officials and the City of Ann Arbor? Are they engaging actively with Bike Ann Arbor?

KRYSIA: Yes. Right after we decided to host Lite Bike last year, I sent an email out to City Council to alert them that the road closure request would be on their agenda. Immediately afterward, Mayor Hieftje emailed me back and invited me to come down and talk with him about our group and our ideas. He was extremely supportive.

I’ve also met with Ann Arbor’s Transportation Program Manager, Eli Cooper. He’s the one who designs the roads, and implements new bike lanes. He also created the Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, which is a comprehensive plan to make Ann Arbor more bike-friendly.

MARK: Do you have any big group rides scheduled yet for this year?

KRYSIA: We do. Last year we hosted Lite Bike, which was a night-time bike ride through the city, with an after party with live music. We will be hosting this event again on August 23. The ride will be longer, and we’re exploring the option of having a DJ instead. (The venue is to be determined.) We’re also planning on coordinating some night-rides on Saturday nights after Top of the Park. We’ll promote these through our Twitter and Facebook accounts.

MARK: Any discussion of working together with the Bike Ypsi folks to do something? I think a huge city-to-city, border-to-proder ride could be pretty cool.

KRYSIA: We haven’t had the opportunity yet, but we’d love to collaborate with them on something. We’re interested in working with all like-minded groups to achieve the same end-goal.

MARK: I probably should have asked earlier, but where are you from, and what brought you to Ann Arbor?

KRYSIA: I originally grew up in Plymouth, Michigan, and often visited Ann Arbor as a teenager. I moved around the state for a while, had two short stints on Hawaii, and permanently moved to Ann Arbor seven years ago. This town has always held a special place in my heart, and I’m so happy to be here.

[Those with great, inspiring ideas who wish to apply for an Awesome grant, can do so here.]

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8 Comments

  1. 67
    Posted May 18, 2014 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Bikes will overtake cars as oil becomes more costly. Within our lifetimes, we’ll see cities change in ways we didn’t think possible.

  2. Posted May 18, 2014 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    That’s awesome! Congrats! I so wanted to do the Lite Bike ride last year but I broke my foot right before it happened and was so sad. Keep up the great work :)

  3. Eel
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Who speaks for the heroic unicyclist?

  4. John Galt
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Beware Mark Maynard. He wants to steal your bikes. He’s admitted as much.

    http://markmaynard.com/2014/02/at-what-point-do-the-bikes-of-rich-college-kids-become-fair-game/

  5. Ackbar
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    John’s right!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F4qzPbcFiA

  6. A2 Bike
    Posted May 19, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Our bike parking is safe. This is not a plot on the part of Mark Maynard to steal the bikes of the wealthy and redistribute them on the other side of Carpenter. He will not be allowed near the bikes. We give you our word. His disguises will not work. His distractions will not work. Your bike will remain safe.

  7. Posted May 19, 2014 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I will give the bikes to our drag queens in order to facilitate their garbage collection. It’s all part of my master plan.

  8. Posted May 23, 2014 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    Interesting.

    I hope that the use of bicycles annoys car enthusiasts.

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