Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Virtuous Cycle

I am slower to post this blog entry because I'm just back from a session of the Quinte Region Bike Summit. From what I could gather I was the lone clergy type, and most others were municipal employees from different communities, as well as enthusiasts from cycling organizations.

I was there because the keynote speaker was the former mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, Dave Cieslewicz. He was a clear and entertaining speaker who lived up to his blurb:

Dave will inspire you with the story of how Madison became one of the friendliest communities for cyclists in North America.  Through innovation and dedication, this city is a model for how winter communities can embrace bicycle friendly development to foster economic growth and improve health.

I was amazed to hear that in a city at least as wintry as our own the goal is to have bike paths and lanes cleared by 7:00 AM to encourage cycling during all seasons -- and it works. Madison closes some streets to car traffic at certain hours (except for residents of those streets) to facilitate commuting cyclists. Parking spots downtown have been turned into "bike corrals" which can accommodate eight bikes or more. He told us that he liked our Belleville Downtown but couldn't understand why we had turned over so much riverside space to car parking. I can't either!

I asked Dave whether faith communities were supportive of cycling initiatives in Madison and he mentioned that churches had endorsed closing downtown streets on Sunday mornings to make them bike-friendly. I asked about "Blessing of the Bikes" services and he admitted that he had just recently heard of them and liked the idea. Afterward a city staffer approached me about the plan to put a bike lane along Bridge St. It's interesting because we have precious few parking spots for Bridge St. UC now. I want to support cycling as a faithful way of living in our exhaust-clogged world. How do we balance that with getting access to our building during the week? We can figure it out.

That's the key. We can figure it out if we have the desire and commitment. Why can't Belleville become known for its bike friendliness.

Should this be a goal for the communities in which we live? Is this an issue congregations should take up? When was the last time you road your bicycle?


roger said...

I definitely support bike lanes. Anything to reduce the number of cars on the road and reducing pollution - not to mention the fitness aspect.

Unless I'm cycling far from the roadway, I don't cycle often on downtown streets - whether it's here in Cobourg or a bigger city.

Too many motorists are not looking out for cyclists, and in the larger centres, there's too much animosity aimed at cyclists. Obviously cyclists don't fare well when there is a clash between the two! I suspect many others would choose to cycle if it were safer - and having bike lanes is great, but you're still cycling way too close to all those distracted drivers.

David Mundy said...

Safety is regularly cited as the reason folk don't cycle in towns and cities. Dedicated bike lanes with separation from traffic (Montreal does this well)and bike paths are the answer. I was greatly encouraged by what I heard yesterday. I think it is possible, even in bike-unfriendly Ontario! I'm going to cycle home now.

Thanks Roger.