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Is Your Neighborhood Bikeable?

Bicycle in Captivity

 

This is a photo of my bicycle, gathering dust in the apartment building’s boiler room. Why is it gathering dust? Well, for one thing, I have been walking most places I need to go. For another, I admit it: I have biker’s block.

 

What is biker’s block?

 

Well, it starts with excuses. I’m in terrible shape, I have asthma and I may get an asthma attack, there are too many hills in Seattle, I don’t need to bike because I can walk, I’m just not feeling perfectly up to it today, moan, groan, groan…


Do you have this problem? How do I get out of it? Help! Because truth be told, there are many places I could bike. I ride the bus to my garden, but if I biked there, I would get exercise and emit zero fossil fuels instead of just less with the bus.


Here’s what’s worse: according to Biker’s Magazine, Seattle is one of the top five cities in the country for biking. Hiding my head in shame…

 

Bikeability Score

 

Joyce, Adrienne, Sarah, Eco ‘Burban Mom, Katie, and Becky all mentioned that their neighborhoods would score higher on a bikeability score than the walkability score. This is a great point. I searched for a similar tool, but couldn’t find one. (If you find one, please do let us all know!!) The closest I can come are these links:



Any time you see such a listing, you have to take it with a grain of salt of course. Those of you living in rural areas or small towns and cities, you inevitably get left off such lists, as they tend to focus on large cities. But for what it’s worth, it’s fun to check it out.

 

What Would Get You Off Your Duff?

 

Do you bike? If you don’t why don’t you? And what do you think would get you to bike?


Bicyclinginfo.org has these tips for motivation in case they might help you get out there…. For me, I think peer pressure is one thing that might help. Getting in shape is another. And thirdly, maybe it is like writer’s block, where I just have to get off my toosh and bike down the block one day. Then I’ll be more inclined to do it again the next day, and the next, and so on.


For those of you who do bike, any words of wisdom to get me (and the rest of us) out there?

 

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32 comments to Is Your Neighborhood Bikeable?

  • I’ll have to admit, the hot steamy summer is my least favorite time to bike. I’m just a ninny about being drenched with seat.
    For me, the routine of riding to work and back is my staple habit for sticking with it. I have a few other very routine routes, all within about 1.5 miles of home. Only when I feel energetic and pleased with the weather do I do whole sets of errands by bike. Still, I get a little exercize, and we use very little gas, so, even though I’m not that hard-core, it’s worth it to me.

  • Hi Melinda! Great new digs!

    So you wanna know what’ll get me off my duff and back on my bike? Not having to lug a kid behind me. Stupid me, just when I fianlly get the 8 year old onto a bike w/ gears so she can get up the hugemongous hill we live on without walking it (well she still has to walk the back side, but the front’s not too bad), I go and get pregnant again – so now I have a 30 lb dead weight (2 yr old) on the back end of my bike, a hugemongous hill to climb to get home and a totally out of shape body to boot. By the time I actually get around to using my bike, I think my tires will have dry rot. :0)

  • Yes! My neighborhood is SO bikeable. We can bike everywhere we can walk but so much faster. I find that if I just get out and do it (and I don’t when the weather is too horrendous), I enjoy it so much that I get back into the routine.

    That said, there are places that I *could* bike to but don’t. My younger son’s school for instance. It is an 8 minute drive but a 30 minute bike ride. I could and maybe I will but I haven’t. Hmm, I guess I should.

  • Meg

    Ugh. My area is so far from being bikeable. It SUCKS. It’s not just inconvenient, it’s downright dangerous. There is no way I’d ride past the end of our driveway.

    And that totally stinks, because I love to bike. I’ve got the dorky shorts and everything ;) There are plenty of trails relatively close by, but I don’t like the idea of getting in my car and driving someplace in order to exercise.

    When we buy a house, bikeability (for everyday transit, recreation, or both) will be high on the list of things we look for.

  • Oh I so have a bike phobia! My problem is that it’s been so long since I’ve ridden a bike that I just don’t feel comfortable in traffic. I’m trying to get use to ridding on the bike trails-tons of them in my town, but I just haven’t gotten there yet. And I’m letting the fact that the bike has squeaky brakes keep me from practicing as much.

    I have decided to save up for a three wheel/adult trike type bike. I think I’ll feel a lot more comfortable. They have a nice big basket on the back too. :)

  • I don’t bike, even though I think about it, because:
    – I don’t like to bike in traffic, and that’s all I have around (not even any bike lanes).
    – I HATE wearing a helmet, but I can’t be a hypocrite/bad example to my daughter, who has to wear a helmet when on wheels.
    – My only bike was a heavy mountain bike my mom handed down to me, which I also hated, so I sold that and haven’t forked out for a new one.
    – My best bike route (in terms of impact on gas consumption) would be to bike my daughter to school, but I don’t even know how to do that (tag-a-long? she doesn’t know how to ride a bike yet), and the traffic issue is significant.

    Ugh. Now I feel so guilty …

  • I used to bike a lot: 30 – 50 miles at a stretch. I’ve even biked to work when I worked in Bellevue (that was quite a jaunt). But since I’ve had kids I’m paranoid about biking on city streets. Even if I’m not with them, it’s the claustraphobic feeling that if something were to happen I couldn’t get back to them quickly enough.

    Mostly, I’m afraid to ride on city streets. There are a lot of bike paths around here, but if I were to commute to anything useful, it’s on the streets and I really don’t feel like getting clipped. I know far too many people who have been hit while biking around here.

    If I had access to a bike path that had no car traffic that went north/south from North Seattle to downtown, I would do it in a heartbeat. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but I really hate navigating traffic in a car, let alone on two skinny little wheels.

  • Mwa ha ha! The place where I grew up (Davis) has the highest score in California on that Bicycle Friendly Community Awards site. Of course, it helps to be small and completely flat. Traffic lights for bikes, however, is probably what pushes Davis into the realm of awesome.

    San Diego, however, is a very scary place to bike around. Hilly, spread out, few bike lanes, crazy SoCal drivers… Several of my friends have been hit or had near misses. Good mountain biking, but bikes (and buses, for that matter, as it takes HOURS to get anywhere) really aren’t good options here.

  • Ok, I confess. I live in Amsterdam and don’t bike. I have a bzillion excuses. But, too, we don’t take the car for trips in town except for emergencies and exceptions (so, maybe three times last year?). It’s parking on the other end that’s prohibitive. Mostly I wish I had a working bike when my social life gets busy (which it generally does not). Most of the time I walk or take the tram/bus where I’m headed in town.

    Two other things: a spill from getting your wheel caught in the tram tracks is nasty and the number of close calls I’ve had in the car with the crazy bikes is too numerous to mention. Luckily the only accident I’ve had with the car is I “doored” one of them once.

  • I gave my truck to my son. I hope he will purchase a bike for me. But first I need to return to my walking. I dropped off the face of the earth for a year and that does serious damage to fitness. I walked Friday night for 20 minutes and it could have been an hour for my heart rate, breathing, sweat and nausea. One step at a time.

    But, the other thing is the danger. We have thousands of bikers, but the bike lanes are microscopic and the traffic is too fast and deadly. It scares the piss out of me.

    Let me say again how great this new site is!

  • Best way to break through Biker’s Block is to start out doing fun rides, not errands where you’re biking instead of driving. Grab Matt and just go have a nice Sunday ride on a pleasant bike path away from traffic. Start with small rides and work up; your tush will thank you.

    Now, regarding the awards given to bike-able cities. Do take those with a grain of salt. LAB awarded Tucson really high marks (Gold, I think) in the past but I can tell you that is B.S.! There is significant lobbying going on to get this award. The link to the Rate your own neighborhood is good because it address problems ignored here, like horribly maintained and cracked roads (and bike lanes), bad driver awareness or actual hostility towards cyclists, etc.

    Choose where you ride carefully, be a very defensive rider, always wear a helmet, be as visible as possible day and night, and thank courteous drivers. Ken Kifer’s bike pages are an excellent resource.

  • Rosa

    For me the big block was weather – it’s too hot, it’s gonna rain, it’s gonna snow, blah blah blah.

    So last fall I decided I was just going to always gamble towards the weather being find (right up until snow starts sticking – I don’t ride in snow. lots of people do. I’m thinking about it this winter). The baby won’t be too cold, we probably won’t get rained on, it’s not *that* windy…

    I’ve gotten drenched a few times over the last year, and had to take the bus home…but way fewer times than I would have guessed.

  • I have to confess that while my neighborhood is quite bikeable, it takes an act of congress to get me to shove my fat ass on my bike. MY scooters not so much but maybe it is because I don’t have the best bicycles to go any distance whatsoever, or my fat stumpy legs get tird or my but hurts from the seat I just cannot seem to get the hang of biking. Oh well how it goes in North BUrien!

  • Hmmm, getting off your duff to bike… That was my same challenge. Then hubby suggested we bike to breakfast (with the 4 boys in tow) and when one of them said, Wow! Mom! I didn’t know you knew how to ride a bike!, I realized I need to get out more! Believe it or not, we biked 6 miles round trip and breakfast halfway through and had a great time. We biked again the other day on 7/11 to the seven-11 because the kids knew they were giving away free Slurpees. OK, so normally I don’t allow slurpees, but as a treat for riding bikes together?? YES! I agree with Chile’s comment, make it fun, have a treat and I swear, it’s not so bad!

    Also, thanks for all the great links, I really wish the metro-Detroit area was more bikeable, but I am pretty sure the entire area is more car-friendly. It is the Motor City after all… Sigh.

  • I’d agree with Chile too: start with short rides, don’t completely exhaust yourself on the first go (because then you’ll never do it again). If you’re really unfit, ride to the corner of your street, or just once around the block. Familiarise yourself with the neighbourhood from a bike perspective slowly before you try to get anywhere you have to be on time for.

    I reduced my riding when I moved to a first floor appartment, I had to store my bike upstairs so I was put off by hauling it downstairs and knowing I’d have to get it back up again at the end of the day. I stopped altogether when I got pregnant. You can ride while pregnant, but I felt sick all the time, and clumsy and I didn’t feel safe walking let alone riding. Now I lust after a Christiania bike with the box at the front for the kid & shopping. I’ll be saving up for a long time.

  • I just kept telling myself, “What’s the worst that can happen.” Most of my fear was tied up in 1) getting a flat and being helpless, 2) being in the road with traffic, and 3) not being able to get all the way to my destination without completely pooping out. So I worked through each of these scenarios in my head, deciding what I would do in each circumstance. Then I just started biking, contingencies planned, and realized after a few rides that most of my fears were completely unfounded. As long as I’m careful, willing to stop to rest (keep in mind it doesn’t matter WHEN you get there, give yourself enough time and just concentrate on getting there safe), and have my cell phone with me in case I need to call for help, I’ll be just fine. Now you can’t keep me off my bike. I love it!

  • I do bike somewhat, but my biggest holdup is having a 3 month old. I’ve thought about a bike triler for kids, which would also help ith the hauling grocery holdup, but I just don’t feel safe trailing my daughter behind me. Maybe if there were wider bike lanes, less traffic or bike lanes away from cars I’d feel better taking her, but not right now. But when hubby comes home I go out and bike my errands – which is a good spending limit, because it’s got to fit in my backpack on the way home!

  • Ok, you all rock. Half of you are completely enabling me to sit on my butt, and the other half are doing a great job of gently pushing me out there. And that second half of you has really reminded me that I truly enjoy biking. I used to commute with my bike – in fact I didn’t even have a car! The wind through my hair, the adrenaline running through my veins, the unique views from a bicycle…

    Safety is one thing I’d forgotten to mention – thanks Meg, Deb, Crunchy, Cheap Like Me, and several more of you for bringing that up! And Steph, YIKES. I knew someone who took a spill on a storm drain in much the same way – it wasn’t good. From what I’ve heard, you have much better public transportation that most US cities so no need to risk yourself. I lived in NY and LA, two big cities that I would never in a million years bike through. (NY was high on the bikeable lists, too.) Definitely not worth my life!

    Someday maybe the high gas prices will force more people to bike, and all our cities and towns will become more bike-friendly. But until then, if you all feel unsafe, I don’t mean to push you out into traffic – walking, taking the bus, and even consolidating trips if you have to go to the store – these are all good alternatives!

    As for me, I think I will take some of your advice and travel along the Burke Gilman Trail on a nice afternoon.

  • The Burke Gilman trail can be fun as long as you don’t mind hoardes of other people with varying levels of bicycling skills. Picture little kids on bikes learning how to ride, mixed in with cyclists trying to ride 25 mph. Once you get out of the city (in other words, past the UW), it’s a little better but then you have to contend with people’s pets who live alongside the trail.

    My husband had a run-in with a cat in 1994. The cat was intent on running alongside him and then darted in front of his front wheel. My husband went flying over the handlebars (feet still clipped into the pedals) and did a number on himself. He had tons of kitty fluff stuck in his front tire when he got home in addition to some injuries.

    I ran into the rails on one of the bridge overpasses due to lots of foot traffic. I scraped my entire right torso alongside the wooden rail until my front tire got stuck in the railing. Needless to say I was less than happy about that one.

    I’m not trying to scare you off the Burke Gilman – just be prepared to go slow until you get further off the busy areas. And get comfortable yelling “on your left” anytime you pass someone.

    It’s great to ride up to the connecting Sammamish River Trail and back down to Redmond. It’s a long ride but once you’re up towards the north end, the traffic is lighter. Do it in August and you can stop to pick blackberries on the ride.

  • Thanks for the tips, CC. My knowledge of the Burke Gliman Trail is a few years old. ; ) My husband had a near miss with a skunk out in the country. Sounds awful for your husband and the cat!

    And now you’ve got me wondering if by biking you are setting yourself up for an eventual fall – I wonder what the statistics are. I’ve fallen more than once in the past, and I don’t really know anyone who hasn’t fallen at one point or another. Someday I’ll look into it.

  • LHT Rider

    This is a sad commentary on the culture we live in that so many of us are afraid to exercise our right to use the public roads in a non-polluting manner. Believe me, I know how you feel. I went from not riding my bicycle for many, many years and have since become a 4-season rider in the northern midwest. Here are some things that have helped me make the transition.

    1. Set small, achievable, progressive challenges for yourself. Baby steps are important. See for yourself what you’re truly capable of and question your assumptions. If you are willing to test your preconceived notions, you might be surprised at the results.

    2. Allow yourself to do what you need to in order to feel more comfortable. For example if the road immediately adjacent to your house is too scary, allow yourself to ride on the sidewalk for a short distance until you can get somewhere safer. This is legal in many communities. Just remember to: be nice – yield to pedestrians, be careful crossing driveways especially if you do not have a clear line of sight, and do not under any circumstances shoot out into intersections from the sidewalk as car drivers do not expect you to be there.

    2. Get a mirror & learn how to use it. It’s much less scary if you know what’s coming up behind you. While some people have no problem just turning around to see what’s behind them while still maintaining a razor sharp straight line, a mirror allows you to check things out more quickly and without the risk of weaving (into traffic, the curb, a pothole etc.)

    3. Plan your route. On a bicycle you would almost never take the exact same route as you would in a car (because that’s where all the cars are!). Your city may have a map of official bicycle routes (maybe even online!). This can be extremely helpful and make for a much more pleasant ride.

    4. Educate yourself. Read up on how to ride in traffic or refresh your memory on the rules of the road. Learn how to use your gears. A bicycle should give you a mechanical advantage over walking. It doesn’t have to be hard (or racing fast). In addition, as Heather @ SGF says, think about what you’re afraid of happening & figure out what you would do if it actually happened. There’s lots of good advice out there on everything from gear to how to change a tire. (By the way, riding a bicycle really does not require spandex or lycra).

    5. Be sure your bicycle fits you. (This is getting easier, but can be difficult for many women.) Also make sure it works properly. There may be adjustments or changes in equipment that can make your ride much more comfortable and enjoyable. I have only recently come to appreciate what an amazing difference tires can make in the of your ride. Think about getting a basket or pannier so that your bicycle can haul more than just you!

    6. Demand cycling (and pedestrian) improvements and safety in your community. The only way it will get easier/better for cyclists is if we stand up and say that this is something we care about and should be a priority for where we live.

  • Kim

    Great topic, Melinda!!! I just recently got on my mountain bike for the first time in 20 years. I couldn’t believe that my tires still hold air!!! I live in Milwaukee, and what has been helpful for me is to google a route to my destination, and click on ‘street view’ to see if the route is high traffic, or has a bike lane or a parking lane where I can ride safely. I always avoid main roads this way. This has helped me tremendously. I also use the alleyways whenever possible, it’s much easier to see cars pulling out of garages, and they crawl down the alleys as well, so I can avoid them easily.

    I’ve had biker’s block for the past week or so…excuses range from ‘don’t wanna get sweaty’ to ‘it looks like it’s gonna rain’. Most of my errands are within a couple miles, but I normally stop on my way home from work (can’t bike to work), so that’s my main excuse. It’s nice to know I’m not alone!!! I notice that biking gives me so much energy, unlike any other form of exercise. I have to keep reminding myself of that fact!

  • LHT has some great ideas. Dammit, I have tons of excuses and I was starting to overcome them when I got so busy I failed to allow enough time for errands and started using my scooter again and the laziness immediately set in.

    OK, I will ride my bike to my new job today. That will be something.

    It seemed to me that after about a week of just forcing myself to get on my bike even when I didn’t feel like it it started getting so much easier.

  • Wow, LHT – that was amazing. Not only am I feeling guilty about not getting out there and fighting for my right to bike, but I’m excited to do it and you gave me some great tips to make the experience more fun and safer. Seems to have worked on Angelina, too!!

    This is a great list – thank you. Please continue to comment here, as I could use some more butt-kicking! Seriously, I appreciate it very much.

  • KIM, good points about seeking out low-traffic alternatives. Here in Seattle, we have a pretty good map of bike routes available online – it will even map your route for you. It’s not perfect, but it’s a starting point. And it would be great in combination with the Google maps idea you have.

    And I have to say, that while you’re not alone with biker’s block, I don’t in any way want to enable you to have biker’s block on a regular basis. ; )

    ANGELINA, Them’s the breaks, eh? Certainly some great points that you really can’t ignore! Enjoy your ride!

  • [...] still taking new steps. I wish I made more of my own cleaning products, I wish I made clothing, I wish I rode my bike more, I wish I had a bigger garden, I wish we didn’t live in an apartment with white linoleum in [...]

  • [...] couple of weeks ago I wrote Is Your Neighborhood Bikeable? to see if we couldn’t get ourselves out of this biker’s block. There are some resources [...]

  • [...] Thanks to Melinda at One Green Generation for the term “Biker’s Block [...]

  • [...] to Melinda at One Green Generation for the term “Biker’s Block — [...]

  • my neighbour is very crowded and bike is the only options for quick transport.

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