It give me great pleasure to announce this year’s spring event:
I could hardly be more excited.
This spring, Professor Lee Hardy of Calvin College (my alma mater) will take us on a fascinating ride through the streets of Amsterdam and Copenhagen, two of the world’s leading cities for bicycling.
Professor Hardy’s inspiring multimedia presentation demonstrates how these cities make way for people on bikes and help them get around in a way that’s fun, easy, and affordable – for everyone!
After he answers your questions, we’ll turn our attention to our own community here in Holland, Michigan. Elisa Hoekwater, author of the greater Holland region’s new non-motorized plan, will offer a brief update on where things stand around here. Your input is welcome!
Delicious cookies and coffee from Simpatico Coffee will be available for you to enjoy.
The event will be held in Fourteenth Street Christian Reformed Church’s brand-spanking-new fellowship room. It’s cozy in the best kind of way, and you’re going to love it.
Join us on Saturday, May 10 at 7:00 p.m. to celebrate Bikes in Holland!
Tickets are $10 and are available online now!
Few things are ever accomplished by one person working alone.
I need YOUR help! Here’s what you can do:
E-mail a friend today. Take just a second right now to copy this link – http://wp.me/p2MikN-BQ – and send it to a friend. It will bring them to this page, so they can read about this great event for themselves.
Join the Event Team. There’s still plenty to do, from publicity to event set-up to considering ways to help these ideas gain traction in our community.
Put us in contact with potential sponsors. I would still like to have a few more sponsors to help underwrite this event. Our primary sponsorship levels range from $50 to $250, and we also have a low-cost ticket sponsorship option.
And of course, buy your own tickets right away! Here’s the link again:
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or for more information. This is going to be so much fun – I hope to see you there!
Our recent move has me feeling this little proverb pretty acutely. Since we’re planning to move again in a few months, we’ve limited ourselves to unpacking our frequently-used stuff. That has mostly worked, but a few times a week I find myself working myself into a frenzy trying to figure out where I stashed that seldom-used credit card or fuzzy wool socks.
This morning I saw mention on Facebook of another person running killed by a person driving. And it got me thinking about how this proverb, which we usually apply to order in our homes, is also applicable to order in our towns. Not knowing where things are creates chaos in my personal life; not having a place for all of our people in all their different ways of getting around creates chaos in a community.
When there are no sidewalks, no crosswalks, no bike lanes, everyone is jumbled up together like a junk drawer the size of your stock pot. Chaos is always aggravating. Sometimes, it’s fatal.
Last Thursday,we talked about how active transportation helps kids concentrate better in school, and how in spite of this most new schools are built in places where walking to school is made difficult. This week, we’re going to shift gears to discuss why kids who go to school in their own neighborhoods aren’t walking to school anymore.
Now, if you either have kids or know kids, consider pausing here for a second to find your own thoughts on this. Snag a sticky note or the back of a receipt, or just make a mental note.
Okay, got it? Because I think we already know where our trouble spots are, and it will be interesting to see if the things you came up with match what I’ve been finding.
According to their survey of 314 school and district leaders of elementary and middle schools, the two most commonly raised issues were concerns about the safety of crossing streets (54%) and the availability of sidewalks (54%).
Additional factors included distance to school (46%), traffic volume (42%), parental attitudes (27%), traffic speed (27%), neighborhood condition (24%), and student attitudes (10%).
In another study, a researcher from the University of Michigan found that safety concerns such as traffic speed, traffic volume, crime, and the weather were all significant factors. This study has a couple of interesting twists, though – kids are also more likely to walk to school if their routes are more green, and parents are more likely to let them walk when there is a barrier of trees between the sidewalk and auto lanes. So design makes a difference.
Now, let’s address the Big Ugly. I found it really interesting that neither of those studies mentioned “stranger danger,” which seems to be one of the first things that comes up in any Google search you may do on kids walking to school. I did a survey of some online forums – you know, the ones with the anonymous judgy mamas – when I was beginning this article and honestly thought that I’d be writing something completely different here. On these sites, the presence “weirdos lurking and kidnappers and child molesters” is the truly insurmountable obstacle for some of the commenters. This isn’t really surprising when we consider that media reports in general focus pretty heavily on a fear of strangers, and I think there are other social factors at play here, as well.
For me, this is one of those niggling little worries that surfaces only when one of my children decides that it’s a good idea to hide underneath a stack of chairs at church for more than half-an-hour, or when I’ve walked three times around the house without seeing even a flash of blonde hair behind a tree. Statistically, though, I know that I would have to leave them unattended in the front yard for roughly 750,000 years before abduction actually became a likely outcome, so I will myself not to worry about it. Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids addresses these concerns really thoroughly, if you’re interested.
Reality is, thankfully, so very much more encouraging than that. I did a quick survey of my Facebook friends on whether their kids walked to school or not, and their responses were just great.
Out of twelve responses, four had children who walked to school. Barriers cited by both the walking and not-walking families included it being too far (3), poor infrastructure/traffic (5), and convenience (2). But the comments! This was the best part for me; I found these really interesting.
I think fresh air and a brisk walk is always a good way to start the day.
Yes. Every day. It’s why we bought in the neighborhood we live in! From 3rd grade on.
Yes, we walk. After living so far away from school and having to get on the bus at 6:45 each morning, I decided that I when I have a family I want to live in a town where we could walk wherever we wanted.
That’s why we bought the house we did. However, in winter I give rides in the a.m. (too dark).
I’m including these quotes because I think they reflect our experience, but our voices don’t seem to be resonating. Many of us want our children to walk to school. The way that we’ve laid out our cities is part of why we can’t do that. There is so much more to say on this, but I am well out of time for today.
So, was it what you thought? When we talked at the beginning of this article about why kids don’t walk to school anymore, how accurate were your predictions? And do you encourage your kids to walk to school? Why or why not?
This is part two in an anticipated three-part series. Part One, on how getting to school in an active way helps kids concentrate, is here. Stop in next Thursday for part three!
As I alluded to in an earlier post, my husband recently returned from a business trip to Japan, where we lived for two years. Since I wasn’t able to join him on this one, I asked him to take some photos of the bicycle infrastructure there to share. As a caveat, I never cycled in Japan myself – I’m not sure why, except that it never really seemed necessary. We had a car and lived close to the subway station, and at the time that covered the bases. So this is observational rather than experiential data.
The thing that I find so interesting about Japanese cycling infrastructure is that its very lameness seems like it might be more easily importable to the States than other models, simply because it doesn’t exactly distinguish between bicycle and pedestrian. (There are unquestionably issues with this model. We’ll get to that in a later article.) That statement is an oversimplification, so let me explain. Cycling meccas like the Netherlands and Denmark largely rely on separated bike lanes:
The center of the photo is, of course, the roadway for vehicles. To the left and right, you can see a narrow median which separates vehicular traffic from both cyclists and pedestrians. You can see that there is separate space for both people on bikes and people who are walking in the non-motorized area. This is BEAUTIFUL, and the gold standard, and I love it. I’m also not aware of anything comparable in the United States, anywhere (though I’d love to know if you do). Considered too expensive, perhaps? If we’re not willing to require sidewalks on both sides of the road in many of our more recently-developed areas, this type of infrastructure seems like a pipe dream.
Japanese cycling infrastructure is less differentiated. This first photo shows the most common scenario, as I recall, which has people on bikes sharing space with people who are walking.
The Japanese are practiced cyclists who excel at sharing space, and those on bikes almost universally rode slowly enough to maintain the safety of those walking down the street. This is more similar to what we currently have in America, with a defined street/automobile zone and not-street/pedestrian zone. The big difference is that the sidewalks are often much wider and the crosswalks are well-marked.
This next photo is a variation on the theme. In some places, the sidewalk is divided into separate walking and cycling zones; in practice, I don’t know that I ever really saw anyone paying an ounce of attention to the separated zones (which is why I find this picture a little funny – I wonder if this guy intended to be in the bike lane!).
A lot of Japanese sidewalks are a hybrid of the two pictured above. The entire sidewalk will be made of the same type of material, with a stripe painted in the center and a picture of a bicycle painted on the surface on one side and a pedestrian on the other. This is largely on streets in neighborhood centers and business districts, however. Streets in more residential areas look like this:
This is coming from the residential area* where we lived to the neighborhood center in Yagoto. It’s a route that I walked often, so I’m well-acquainted with it. Although the sidewalk is narrow, it is used by both pedestrians and slow-moving cyclists. It’s not unlike an American street, except that there are protective guardrails between vehicular and foot traffic. This isn’t really a small thing: having a physical barrier between myself and traffic made a tremendous difference to my perception of safety. It is NOT beautiful, but it is functional.
I think what makes this work is that Japan is PEDESTRIAN friendly, and what’s good for pedestrians is often good for bikes, as well. People in cars are always, always, ALWAYS looking for people traveling on foot or by bicycle. Part of this is due to the extraordinary number of people who get around this way; part of it, perhaps, is that the consequences of hitting a pedestrian are dire. A friend of mine hit a pedestrian while driving in Japan, and was so traumatized by the experience that she will never drive there again (understandably so!). As compensation, she was asked to visit the victim every day in the hospital, write a formal letter of apology, and pay a painful fine. No slap on the wrist, here.
Tokyo by Bike has a great article on cycling in Japan that unpacks the experience more than I’ve been able to do here; I recommend heading over there if you’re interested in more details of what seems to make their system work.
Next up: bicycle parking! Prepare to be amazed. 🙂
Click here to go right to the article on Japanese bike parking, or here for a view of one narrow Japanese street.
*What I’m calling a residential area in Nagoya is completely unlike our residential areas here. As far as I can tell, they always default to mixed-use. This means that although there will be predominantly filled with single-family homes, townhouses, and apartment blocks, they also have businesses spotting the landscape and are interspersed with business districts, especially along the busier streets. We had two grocery stores (one comparable to D&W, and the one in Yagoto comparable to Target) within a 1/2 mile of our house and a convenience store right on the corner, but this was definitely an area where people lived rather than worked.