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Bike Walk Life

News and commentary from the world of biking and walking.

A photo of a bicycle with a helmet, gloves, and a coffee thermos.

Biking for Coffee & Coffeeneuring 2021 Summary

For this year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge, I experimented with documenting my rides on video. Here are the results.

  1. A neighborhood ride.
  2. Another neighborhood ride.
  3. A scenic ride down the riverwalk trail.
  4. Part of my regular bike commute.
  5. A predawn ride in the dark.
  6. A ride to downtown.
  7. Another neighborhood ride to a park.

You can learn about Coffeeneuring at Chasing Mailboxes.

I’ve toyed with the idea of documenting my bike commutes for a while, and this challenge served as a good excuse to test it out. In my observations, most people have no idea what bike commuting is like. Unless you actually get on two wheels and ride through your community, then it’s hard to even be aware of of the issues bicycle riders deal with. It’s my hope that videos like these can not only raise awareness of the problems, but also help biking look more approachable so people can feel confident to start riding.

I had fun filming these, and I’m going to aim to produce more in the future. Let me know if you’re dying to see anything in particular about the bike commute experience!



Biking for Coffee #7.

Biking for Coffee: Coffeeneuring 2021, trip #7

This is the seventh, and final, entry in my 2021 Biking for Coffee series. As part of this year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge, I’m documenting each of my rides on video to show what a typical bike commute can look like in my community.

Learn more about Coffeeneuring here.

For my closing coffeeneuring ride this year, I revisited the neighborhood from my first video. This route features almost no bicycle infrastructure, but it’s still bike-friendly. It shows how even places that don’t treat bicycles as first-class citizens can have a lot of potential for bicycling.

Qualifying coffeeneuring details: This ride took place on Saturday, November 13. The total distance was about 2.8 miles.


Biking for Coffee #6

Biking for Coffee: Coffeeneuring 2021, trip #6

This is my sixth video in my Biking for Coffee series. As part of this year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge, I’m documenting each of my rides on video to show what a typical bike commute can look like in my community.

Learn more about Coffeeneuring here.

This is another route that I personally ride often when I commute to our downtown. It’s very similar to my previous ride where I took the riverwalk trail. Except, instead of the riverwalk, I circled around downtown in the other direction. This was less scenic, but a shorter distance. Either route takes you to the same place.

Qualifying coffeeneuring details: This ride took place on Saturday, November 6. The total distance was about 4.2 miles.


Biking for Coffee #5

Biking for Coffee: Coffeeneuring 2021, trip #5

This is my fifth video in my Biking for Coffee series. As part of this year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge, I’m documenting each of my rides on video to show what a typical bike commute can look like in my community.

Learn more about Coffeeneuring here.

This was my first night ride for the challenge. If you don’t mind the darkness, then this was my easiest route so far. It was entirely on a biking and walking trail, so the usual problems of traffic and navigation were not an issue. I also got to patronize a trail-side business!

Qualifying coffeeneuring details: This ride took place on Wednesday, November 3. The total distance was about 4.6 miles.


Biking for Coffee #4

Biking for Coffee: Coffeeneuring 2021, trip #4

This is my fourth video in my Biking for Coffee series. As part of this year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge, I’m documenting each of my rides on video to show what a typical bike commute can look like in my community.

Read more about Coffeeneuring here.

This ride is special because it’s also part of my regular commuting route. You get to see what a real-life bike commute looks like in Columbus, Georgia!

Qualifying coffeeneuring details: This ride took place on Wednesday, October 27. The total distance was about 4.4 miles.


Biking for Coffee #3

Biking for Coffee: Coffeeneuring 2021, trip #3

This is my third video in my Biking for Coffee series. As part of this year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge, I’m documenting each of my rides on video to show what a typical bike commute can look like in my community.

This was one of the more scenic and “touristy” of my coffeeneuring rides, but it’s still a practical route for commuting. I regularly take my bike on routes similar to this. The trail system does an an excellent job at connecting our downtown area to the sprawling suburbs.

Qualifying coffeeneuring details: This ride took place on Sunday, October 24. The total distance was about 7.2 miles.

Read more about Coffeeneuring here.


Biking for Coffee #2

Biking for Coffee: Coffeeneuring 2021, trip #2

This is the second video in my Biking for Coffee series. For this year’s Coffeeneuring Challenge, I’m documenting each of my rides on video to show what a typical bike ride looks like in my community.

This ride was another relatively easy one, although the steep hill adds a bit of danger.

Qualifying coffeeneuring details: This ride was on Saturday, October 23. The total distance was about 2.4 miles.

Read more about Coffeeneuring here.


Biking for Coffee #1

Biking for Coffee: Coffeeneuring 2021, trip #1

I’m experimenting with a new project for the Coffeeneuring Challenge this year. I’ll document each of my rides with a GoPro camera. The idea is to show the good, the bad, and the ugly of bike commuting, or at least of biking for coffee. People who don’t bike commute often have difficulty imagining what biking is even like, which then gets reflected in our haphazard infrastructure. Hopefully, videos like this can demystify some of the bike commute experience.

Now for the details to get this certified for the Coffeeneuring Challenge: I took this on Thursday, October 21. The round-trip distance was about 2 miles.

Read more about Coffeeneuring here.


A satellite map showing parking lots.

Parking lots, our nationwide addiction

The average American is suspicious of, if not hostile to, public transportation spending. Sometimes these feelings are practical concerns based on past failures, and sometimes they’re ideological. But that opposition all goes out the window once we discuss parking lots.

Joe Cortright of Strong Towns and City Observatory published this satirical blog post recently: Where We Embrace Socialism in the U.S.: Parking Lots. It responds to accusations that the newest federal spending program is un-American because it’s “socialist.”

That’s not accurate, of course. Socialism is well-established in the U.S., at least for car storage—something that is near and dear, certainly to Republicans. You think otherwise? Before you denounce socialism, Senator Rubio, consider this perspective.

Comrades, rejoice! In the face of the counter-revolutionary, neo-liberal onslaught, there’s at least one arena where the people’s inalienable rights reign supreme: parking.

By a coincidence of timing, a few days later my local newspaper reported that our city council has approved $52 million to help fund a new parking garage.

Columbus Council unanimously approved a modification request Tuesday for additional TAD [Tax Allocation District] funds to support the construction of a shared underground parking facility and “certain public infrastructure improvements,” according to the agenda item, for Riverfront Place, a 7.5-acre, mixed-use development by the Bradley Company.

Last March, the council approved $38 million in TAD funding for the project. On Tuesday, the council approved an additional $14 million.

I’m not especially knowledgeable about this project, and I’m sure that it must have some benefits that justify unanimous approval and $52 million of public funding. But it also seems to support Cortright’s point. We love it when our government spends money on parking. This particular story may be local, but it’s one of many identical stories that happen regularly throughout our nation.

To put this story in context, here’s the area they’re talking about in Google Maps’ satellite imagery:

A satellite map of the Columbus, GA downtown.

And here’s what it looks like with all of the existing parking spaces highlighted. Parking lots are red, and on-street parking is orange:

A satellite map of the Columbus, GA downtown with parking spots highlighted.

This is a quick-and-dirty, conservative depiction of the actual parking usage. One of those red rectangles is a multi-story parking garage, and at least one of the buildings has a parking deck underneath it, which I did not highlight.

Something else that the satellite caught, and which is not abnormal: about half of the parking space is not being used.

Contrast these facts with our city’s latest parking garage project, and it’s obvious that something is off, like we’re living in two different realities. In a town where parking lots consume half of the land, and where half of those spaces go unused, how do we need more of it? How are our public economic development funds necessary to subsidize this? If parking lots really did contribute to our economy, then it seems like our coffers should be overflowing by now, considering how many of them we’ve already built.

I recognize that there are probably nuances to this project that I’m ignorant of. I’m sure someone can list the benefits it will bring, why this parking garage definitely will justify the tens of millions of dollars it costs to build, even when other parking doesn’t. But whatever those details are, they would have to be really compelling to outweigh what I’m seeing in the big picture.

This pro-parking mindset we see across our nation is the mindset of an addict. When you’re addicted to something, then you can never get enough of it. The more of it you consume, the more you desire it. Even if you begrudgingly acknowledge its downsides, you can’t help yourself from rationalizing it anyway: “just one more parking lot, and I’ll be good,” “maybe parking lots are bad in some ways, but I really need this one,” and so on. Like an addict, we always think we need more parking spaces.

Now, to connect this back to the topic at the beginning of the post, we know how quickly the mood would change once we talk about subsidizing almost any other transportation project. We’ve all seen what happens as soon as we try to fund bike lanes or bus routes.

And maybe biking and walking projects have their flaws too. But if you really do oppose monolithic, expensive, ideologically driven transportation spending, then bike lanes aren’t your enemy. Start by defunding parking lots. You’ll quickly realize how much Americans really do love big government transportation plans as soon as you try to take free parking away from them.


A photograph of three homes, chicopee.
Photo credit: Chris Arnade, from his "Walking America, part 1."

Chris Arnade's "Walking America" blog shows what it's like to walk through American towns.

Chris Arnade has been writing about America’s poor communities for a while now. His book, Dignity, is was one of my favorite books in recent years. Now he’s started a new blog on Substack called Intellectual Inting, where he is publishing a series of posts called “Walking America.”

He has two parts in the series so far:

Arnade doesn’t discuss biking or walking, at least not the same way that I do on my own blog, but our interests intersect. He goes out to meet the “back row” population, his term for people who have been left behind in our shifting economy and culture. He looks for an honest glimpse at what life is really like for them.

One could easily connect his observations to an essay about how our car-centric transportation policy contributes to the “back row” and “front row” division, but I’m not interested in that right now (for once!). What strikes me about his “Walking America” is his process. He goes out and literally walks through communities that most people drive through, or drive past, and he sees things that most outsiders would never notice.

In his words from part 1:

From a car whizzing by on I-90, the three [towns] blur together as a chunk of the urban bleh that fills much of America. One filled with fast-food franchises, strip malls, failed urban renewal projects, and with residents who need to work harder, get more education, and do less crime.

But walking forces you to slow down and talk to the people living there. You get to see beyond the bleh, and watch the endless string of tiny dramas that make up a city, and most people’s lives.

I think this is a lesson for anyone who wants to help the back-row population (to borrow his term) or who wants to advocate for mobility equity. Human society necessitates walking among, not driving through, to understand. A human habitat is one that facilitates walking.

If you haven’t yet, you should try walking from one side of your city to the other and see what you notice. The things that you end up noticing from that perspective are probably the things that you should focus on.


"Coffeeneuring Challenge: C+1" graphic.
Image credit: Chasing Mailboxes.

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2021, "c+1" edition, begins on October 18th

Coffeeneuring is back for 2021. That’s the just-for-fun challenge where you play by riding your bike to get coffee a couple of times a week for six weeks. As far as these kinds of challenges go, it’s one of the most low-key and accessible.

You can the whole rules and guidelines on Chasing Mailboxes here.

What is the optimal number of coffeeneuring rides you can complete during the Coffeeneuring Challenge? The rules say seven, but I venture to say it’s really c+1 — always one more than what you’ve done so far.

[…]

The basics of the challenge are this:

  • over the course of 6’ish weeks,
  • ride your bike to 7 different places,
  • at least 2 miles round trip each time,
  • drink 7 cups of coffee (or similar), and
  • collect some proof of your coffeeneuring (either photos, Strava tracks, journal entries, etc.).

I look forward to participating again this year. Honestly, there’s little reason for me not to since the challenge is so simple and fun. Thank you, Chasing Mailboxes, for organizing this year after year.


Biketober is coming to Atlanta again next month

Biketober is an annual month-long event held in the Atlanta area every October (in case its name didn’t make that clear). It’s a just-for-fun competition where participants earn points for riding their bicycles.

Read more at the official Biketober website.

Some local groups are hosting their own events for it. For instance, you can see Be Active Decatur’s announcement about it here.

Pattie Baker, of Traveling at the Speed of Bike, has made a calendar of Biketober events.

And if you’re not in the Atlanta area (like me) then there’s still the 2021 Coffeeneuring challenge coming up on October 18th. We have no shortage of excuses to get out and ride our bicycles this fall.