As of today, the first two sets of bike racks are here! Here's the view on North side of the 700 block:
Thanks to the Urban Enterprise Association and Whitewater Construction for making this a reality. Thanks to Mark Stosberg at Summersault for driving the process forward and presenting such specific, compelling plans and rationale for the racks. Thanks to everyone who voiced your support for the racks or offered to contribute financially. And thanks to everyone who carefully considers their choice of transportation and its impact on quality of life in our community and beyond.
As a employer of many high tech-workers who would prefer to ride their bikes to work instead of driving a car, my company Summersault has a real stake in having bike parking options near our downtown office. We've even interviewed potential hires who cite the availability of bike parking and other types of alternative transportation support as an important factor in their decision to live and work in a city like Richmond, and with a limited pool of local technical talent to start with, it's in our interest to take that very seriously.
Most other communities have recognized the benefits of having bike parking in a central retail and business district like Richmond's. They're good for business (when cyclists feel invited to shop downtown, they tend to spend even more money in a given area than car drivers do), they help prevent damage to benches, trees and lamp posts, they make for a more orderly-looking streetscape, they prevent theft, and they're relatively cheap to buy and install.
Unfortunately, in all of the time that I've worked in downtown Richmond, there hasn't been any convenient and consistently available bike parking available here.
If Richmond wants to be able to say that it's a city looking forward, a city that wants to attract and retain the modern worker, a city that cares about issues of sustainability and energy usage, it absolutely needs to have bike racks in its central business district.
Hopefully the current dearth of bike parking is about to change.
The Commissioners of Wayne County, Indiana are currently evaluating whether or not to institute a wheel tax (formally known as a "Local Option Highway User Tax"), as allowed for by Indiana's General Assembly since 1980. It would charge an annual fee to residents registering vehicles in the County, $25 for cars and other small vehicles, $40 for large trucks, RVs, buses, etc. A few thoughts on this proposal and how we got here:
First, the tax is being presented by the Commissioners as a suddenly urgent need for the area, "act before it's too late," they say. I find this characterization troubling given that one of the fundamental truths of life is that roads will deteriorate over time and will require money be spent on them if we want to keep them fixed up. If our ability to maintain infrastructure comes down to whether or not we can urgently get the public to approve additional taxation once in a while, then we're doing it wrong. Where was the long-term planning and well-thought-out discussion that would give the community time to react to this significant problem in our county and explore alternatives?
Let's see, how am I doing on my target of blogging three times per week in 2010? FAIL. Actually, January and February were pretty good, but March has been sorely lacking. I will for now use the excuse of "I was busy" and throw in some specifics like "I was planning an open house" and "I was writing a new vacation policy for my staff," but I don't expect you to be any more forgiving as a result. Let's see if I can start to get back on track.
In the meantime, as a distraction, here are some things you might want to click on and check out:
For over a year now, I've lived less than a mile away from my company's office in downtown Richmond, Indiana. And for the first time in my life, on most days I get to and from the office by walking instead of driving. It's been a really enjoyable shift, and one that I hope I never take for granted, given how much of the rest of the country commutes to work every day.
Some observations on walking to work:
Since walking has become my usual mode of commuting, I've found myself noticing even more what complex and sometimes onerous machines automobiles can be. There a feeling of lightness I have in walking out the door and propelling myself down the street, feeling my muscles working and pace changing, saying hi to people and noticing changes in their moods and dispositions from day to day, just being out in the open air of the world. This is much different from the protocols for entering, activating and safely operating my internal combustion go-go machine from one place to another; it's just a much heavier and more isolating experience, and while it still has its place, I'm quite glad to partake in it less often. Continue reading "Walking to Work"→
There was a lot of pressure in this country today to ride your bike to work, and frankly, I think it was a little overdone. There's so much about the way our nation's transportation system is setup that favors cyclists, and it feels like we've shoved aside pedestrian thoroughfares and open sidewalks so we can accommodate the increasing number of bikes out there. Sometimes the bike culture seems a little obsessive and insane - it's just a bike, a possession, you know? But they're taking over the world.
So that's why I chose to walk to and from work today - a "walk to work day" if you will. I represented one less bike on the road, and it felt good.
Think about all of the ways that bikes are harming our environment, our culture, our communities:
Today I learned that the back seats of Ohio State Trooper cruisers are not at all designed for people like me with long legs. In fact, to fit in it at all so that the officer could close the door to lock me in and take my statement, I had to sit nearly sideways! You'd think that if someone is already being put in the back of a cop car, there's enough difficult stuff going on in their lives such that a little bit of leg room is in order.
About 45 minutes before I found myself in this situation, we were traveling down I-70 East in the heavily falling wet snow, gusting wind, and crowded highway lanes. It was the kind of weather that should probably have kept us off the road, but if there's one thing that car culture teaches you, it's that nothing should stand in between you and your vehicle's destination, so there we were.
About six cars up, I saw headlights, and they were in my lane. "Oh no," I thought, "not another one of these high speed car chases." As I slowed us down, I watched the car spin out of control, cross over the median into the westbound lanes, cross back over the median and do two full spinning rotations, and then come to a stop. We passed a split second later, and the driver appeared to be slumped over in her seat. Continue reading "Another highway adventure"→
The Quaker college has tried for decades to get a traffic signal at its entrance, an effort that began soon after Earlham student David Rantanen was killed crossing the highway in 1962. Since then, two more people have died and several more were hit and injured by vehicles on the four-lane highway near the school's main drive.
Sometimes you see those weather stories on the evening news where they show a few seconds of airline passengers stranded in some airport looking like hell as they try to figure out how to cope with canceled or delayed flights, and usually you just feel a little bad for them and then move on. At the moment I'm feeling some appreciation for the misery that's displayed in those brief clips, having had a bit of a travel adventure myself:
It started with Mark and I barreling through the snow on I-70 toward the Dayton airport, wondering if planes would even be taking off at all today. But, my handy dandy text message updates from Delta.com declared the flight was on time, so we pressed on.
I should have known we were in for a special time when the guy at the ticket check-in counter (which has largely been replaced by self check-in kiosks) was delighted to point out how much cost cutting Delta has done. Me: "Do you have one of those little folders for these boarding passes?" Him: "No, they did away with those some time ago. Heck, all we've got left now are the airplanes! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" Right.
[W]here does this drive for relocalizing come from? Perhaps it has to do with a vague sense of ethical rightness more than anything scientifically verifiable. University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt classifies such efforts as attempts to attain (and potentially guilt others into) a sense of moral purity. "Food," he says, "is becoming extremely moralized these days."
The problem, of course, is that purity is hard to come by in a world as complex as ours, and simplistic answers often have consequences that their proponents do not intend. Consumers should think twice before jumping on the localvore bandwagon.