Yesterday was a rare cycling advocacy day for Columbia, SC. Mia Birk, the bicycling coordinator for Portland, OR and author of Joyride gave some helpful tips on how to make the state a better cycling community. For those who don’t know, Portland is almost the Mecca of cycling communities. A high percentage of the population ride bikes either for leisure or commuting, and the city structure is well equipped to provide safe riding virtually everywhere. Mia shares some responsibility for transforming the city.
She visited Charleston on Wednesday, Columbia on Thursday and will be in Greenville today. There were events all day, but due to other commitments, I could only participate in the evening ‘Joyride’ event at the Publick House bar.
Rather than just showing up, eating free food and drinking beer, I gave a little extra. I volunteered to be the bike valet from 5pm until 6pm. There were group rides scheduled throughout the city where people would ride together to the bar. We had a makeshift bike parking lot, where we would greet everyone, tag the bikes and park them. It was a bit chaotic at first. Many of the rides were from short distances away and a number of them arrived together, or at least one after another. We didn’t have a great system, so people pretty much just swarmed on us. We had to try to juggle a lot of objects: clipboards, string to tie the tags, pens, bikes, and even later a beer that someone ‘donated’ to me (thanks!). It was a little hectic and I even dropped a bike once. Fortunately it was not a $10,000 racing bike. Even though it was not easy, I enjoyed doing it.
The last group to arrive was from the Summit Cycles bike shop in the northeast. They had the longest to travel so they showed up after the end of the shift. They also happened to be the largest group, so I went back and helped check them in. When they arrived we finally had a system in place. It was almost a conveyor belt, and one important thing we did with them was make them tie their own string and park the bikes. Frankly, I wouldn’t want some guy parking my bike, and nobody complained.
Mia gave a brief speech about what we can do to help create a better cycling community. For starters, obey the traffic laws on and off the bike. Be courteous to other drivers, acknowledge politely when they are patient with us, be aware of their presence and try not to hog the road too much. There is no sense in creating additional hostility from the driving community. Plenty enough exists already! When driving, she reminded us to be patient, SLOW DOWN, don’t text or talk on the cell phone and always giving bikers plenty of room. She encouraged people to get on bikes in street clothes, ride to the store, to work, or wherever — just get out on the bike and be seen.
There was a movie, but due to the sound issues and the fact that it took place in a noisy bar, it was difficult to concentrate. Mostly it was a social gathering where we all hung out together. I did buy Mia’s book and had her sign it.
Tonight, after I finish this blog post, I am heading to a different event. Brent and Michael are two young kids, fresh out of college and looking for a little adventure. They are about to embark on a ‘Cycle for the Summit‘ tour. This is a crazy idea, but absolutely amazing and they have every bit of my envy. They are going state to state and will ‘climb’ the highest peak in each state. Of course they are not going to ride bikes to the top of Mount McKinley or Mount Whitney. They will be reaching the top under some form of human power. Some will be by bicycle. Others will be via traditional climbing. They expect to ride 25,000 miles total and to be at it for close to two years. It is an amazing journey and I look forward to following their progress. You can help support them by visiting their website or follow their blog.
I met Brent a couple months ago and shared my experiences with riding up mountains. He’s a good kid, good-hearted and loves his girlfriend. I just met Michael yesterday at the Joyride function. He just finished climbing Kiliminjaro, another amazing feat. They have some spiffy Cannondale bikes, custom-made jerseys and a lot of local support. They are the guys in the blue shirts in the above picture. They had a meet and greet stand in front of the event.
Because I am volunteering for the Little Mountain ride, I’ll miss their sendoff festivities tomorrow. I’ll be dropping in tonight to their gathering at Cool Beans coffee shop to wish them well.