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Bike Walk Life

News and commentary from the world of biking and walking.

NextCity argues for National Cool Communities Standards to fight “heat islands”

Everyone has to deal with summertime heat, but some people have it worse than others. An under-appreciated problem in our towns is that different districts can have drastically higher temperatures than their neighbors, a phenomenon called “heat islands.” According to V. Kelly Turner and NextCity, it’s time for a “National Cool Communities Standards” to correct this.

You can read Turner’s whole article here.

We can’t control the weather, and in the longer term, even with major climate action from world leaders, some warming is already baked into our climate system. But there is one aspect of extreme heat we can control. Cities are hotter because of how we build them, and they can be cooler if we build them differently.

It’s time for federal regulations to limit how much buildings, roads, parking lots, and other urban features are allowed to heat up the neighborhood.

I’m not an expert in federal policy, so I have no insight into this specific proposal. However, I’m generally in favor of anything that helps us get the temperature under control. Unlike the larger climate, these heat islands are local problems caused by local factors. Expansive parking lots, wide roads, and lack of trees are all examples of things that damper natural cooling mechanisms. Ideally, this wouldn’t be complicated or controversial to correct.

This is especially an issue for people who bike or walk for transportation. Walking through hotter neighborhoods can be more challenging than walking through cooler ones. Even if this fact isn’t reported on often, I believe most people will cite heat as a reason why they don’t want to walk outside.

When I wrote about this phenomenon last year, I found out that my own city is in the top-ten list of places with the “heat island” problem. This didn’t surprise me. I know from my own bicycling that the temperature shifts between neighborhoods can be surprisingly drastic. Some local groups have done work to help, such as planting trees, but we still have much more work to do.



A collage of photos from Errandonnee 2021.

Errandonnee 2021 wrap-up

Errandonnee is a challenge where you have 12 days to complete 12 errands by bicycle or on foot. This post completes my series of entries for the 2021 challenge.

You can read more about Errandonnee here.

I finished my Errandonnee challenge last week. It was a lot of fun, but a surprising amount of work. I bike commute a lot every week, but I usually follow a few basic routes for regular necessities. The Errandonnee rules require that you try a variety of “errands” and encourage creativity. Some of my rides ended up being much further and more complicated than I expected. If you haven’t started yours yet, or if you plan to participate in upcoming years, then my advice is to make a plan with a schedule and stick to it.

Statistics

Date range
May 9 through May 20
Total errands
12
Total mileage
67 miles

The mileage is a conservative estimation since I didn’t always run my GPS. I stopped worrying about it once it was clear I’d be well over the minimum of 30 miles anyway.

Errands list

  • Errand 1, May 9: church.
  • Errand 2, May 9: grocery shopping.
  • Errand 3, May 10: Midtown art.
  • Errand 4, May 11: MLK Jr. Outdoor Learning Trail.
  • Errand 5, May 12: beer run.
  • Errand 6, May 13: historic district.
  • Errand 7, May 14: fishing in the Chattahoochee.
  • Errand 8, May 15: biking to work.
  • Errand 9, May 16: church again.
  • Errand 10, May 17: coffeeneuring.
  • Errand 11, May 19: breakfast.
  • Errand 12, May 20: bike around midtown.

Posts with details about each errand

As always, Errandonnee was a great challenge. I’m looking forward to 2022.


A photo of a bicycle beside a sign saying "BIKE TO WORK DAY."

Bike to Work Appreciation Day

Today is Bike to Work Day where I live. This is a special day where we ask each other to leave our cars at home and commute by bicycle instead. But I believe that it’s equally important to show that we appreciate the people who always bike commute every day, so I also consider today Bike to Work Appreciation Day.

Why bike to work?

When we encourage people to bike commute, we tend to mention its benefits for the individual: you save gas, you get exercise, you avoid parking, you won’t be stuck in traffic, and so on. These are great points, but they only take us so far. For a person who lives in a car-dependent area, then biking to work can be stressful and difficult. They may not feel like getting exercise and saving gas is worth the hassle of biking.

Then there are people who embrace the difficulties of bike commuting. They openly accept its hardships like a kind of penance. They think: someone needs to put in the work make our streets safer and stop climate change, so it might as well be me. They feel that if their struggles make our world better for the next generation, then that will all be worth it. Encouraging selfless virtue isn’t as effective of a marketing strategy as promising instant gratification, but it’s still important.

And then there are people who bike commute because it’s their only choice. These are the invisible riders. You often see them in areas with the worst bicycle infrastructure, with the fewest bicycle shops, and with the most dangerous streets. I’m unaware of statistics for this category, but most riders I see anecdotally seem to fall within it. They ride in spite of the fact that so little of our bicycle policy or infrastructure is made to include them.

No matter why people ride, let’s show our appreciation

We need to let everyone who rides know that we appreciate them. We appreciate people who ride for fun, who ride in spite of its difficulties, who ride out of necessity, or ride just to prove something. This is because bike commuting isn’t just about saving gas, getting exercise, or even stopping the climate crisis. It’s a critical thread in our mobility tapestry. Whether thousands of people bike to work in your town or just a few people do, they need our appreciation and support. Today is a great day to offer exactly that.


A group photo of bicycle riders.

Errandonnee 2021: errands 11 & 12

Errandonnee is a challenge where you have 12 days to complete 12 errands by bicycle or on foot. This page is part of a series of my entries for the 2021 challenge.

You can read more about Errandonnee here.

Errand 11: breakfast

I already visited one coffee shop earlier during this challenge, so I mixed it up this day and rode to Parker’s Pantry. It’s a restaurant right by one of Columbus’ main public parks. In spite of the area’s lack of official bike parking, it’s a pleasant place to bike or walk to.

My bicycle in front of a storefront.

Date
May 19, 2021
Category
Non-store errand
Total mileage
61.98

Errand 12: bike around Midtown

On the final day of my 12-day errand spree, I joined a group ride around the Midtown area. This was an official event sponsored by Midtown, Inc. and came with a police escort. This neighborhood is already quite bikable, so the escort was more of a bonus than an necessity. Anyone comfortable on a bike could follow the same route on their own.

A group photo of bicycle riders.

Image credit: Midtown, Inc. on Instagram.

Date
May 20, 2021
Category
Wildcard
Total mileage
67.68

A photo collage of my bicycle in several locations.

Errandonnee 2021: Errands 8, 9, & 10

Errandonnee is a challenge where you have 12 days to complete 12 errands by bicycle or on foot. This page is part of a series of my entries for the 2021 challenge.

You can read more about Errandonnee here.

Bike Week has officially begun just as I’m nearing the end of my errand spree. Here are my latest three entries before the finishing stretch.

Errand 8: biking to work

I bike to work most days already, so this almost didn’t feel like a real errand to me. I’m privileged to have a commute route that mostly consists of bike paths, bike lanes, flat elevation, and light car traffic. The few spots where I need to climb a hill or cross traffic are relatively safe and manageable.

Pictured below is my bicycle on my commute route with its super-professional-business-looking Ortlieb Urban pannier.

A photo of my bicycle in front of a "no motor vehicles" sign beside a trail.

Date
May 15, 2021
Category
Personal business
Total mileage
52.14

Errand 9: church again

Sure, this seems like it’s the same “errand” as my very first one, but I’m pretty certain that it still counts. (It’s really been a week since I began this challenge?)

A photo of my bicycle in front of the church's historic marker.

Date
May 16, 2021
Category
Personal care
Total mileage
57.18

Errand 10: coffeeneuring

It’s a crossover episode today. If you’re unfamiliar with coffeeneuring, it’s errandonneering’s little sibling, an annual challenge where we ride our bikes to drink hot beverages. For this errand, I rode to one of our local coffee shops, Midtown Coffee House, for breakfast.

A photo of a coffee cup on a table beside a bicycle helmet.

Date
May 17, 2021
Category
Non-store errand
Total mileage
60.98

A photo collage of my bicycle in several locations.

Errandonnee 2021: Errands 5, 6, & 7

Errandonnee is a challenge where you have 12 days to complete 12 errands by bicycle or on foot. This page is part of a series of my entries for the 2021 challenge.

You can read more about Errandonnee here.

Errand 5: beer run

This one was short and simple. I stopped by Maltitude, our local craft beer store, after work. One feature that makes Maltitude a pleasure to visit is that it has indoor bicycle parking! The owners are big bicycle supporters, so I’m happy to support them in return.

A photo of my bicycle parked inside the Maltitude store.

Date
May 12, 2021
Category
Wildcard
Total mileage
26.04

Errand 6: historic district

The Columbus, GA historic district is full of, well, history. There’s history in its architecture, its street designs, and in its parks and public spaces. It contains artifacts from the city’s past along with plaques and markers.

(As tends to happen with these things, some of their messages have aged better than others.)

Pictured below is one notable monument for the Confederate dead. Most of these kinds of monuments were built recently in rebuke to the civil rights movement, but this one was erected in 1879. Partially for that reason, it has so far survived challenges for removal. I believe its most recent challenge was in 2017, which you can read about here.

A photo of my bicycle in front of a monument.

Date
May 13, 2021
Category
History lesson
Total mileage
36.56

Errand 7: fishing in the Chattahoochee

I’ve never gone fishing by bicycle before, so I didn’t know what to expect. At first, I was mentally preparing to engineer a complex contraption to transport my tackle. This task turned out to be much simpler than I expected (which also made this a slightly disappointing entry for the “you carried WHAT?!” category). The key to its simplicity was that my top-tube bag and my rack cooler both have plenty of Velcro that can easily strap down a rod. All I needed to do then was fold the rod and stash the rest of my tackle in a pannier.

Another disappointment was that the fish weren’t biting today. But I still had a great ride nonetheless.

A photo of my bicycle carrying a fishing rod.

Date
May 14, 2021
Category
You carried WHAT?!
Total mileage
46.1

A photo of a bicycle in front of a public mural.

Errandonnee 2021: Errand 4 & Ride Spot for MLK Jr. Outdoor Learning Trail

Errandonnee is a challenge where you have 12 days to complete 12 errands by bicycle or on foot. This page is part of a series of my entries for the 2021 challenge.

You can read more about Errandonnee here.

For my fourth errand, I explored our new MLK Jr. Outdoor Learning Trail, a series of historic markers along the Dragonfly Trail Network in Columbus, GA. Each of the markers recalls the civil rights movement as it happened in Columbus.

When I read the markers, I was struck by how ordinary some of the locations appeared in contrast with their dramatic history. No one would ever realize the rich stories contained in these nondescript buildings if they only drove past by car. It’s a reminder that history is perpetually unfolding all around us. It’s not only captured in majestic monuments, but also in dentists’ offices and child day-cares.

This ride would easily fit in the “history lesson” category, but I went with “discovery” since the route was completely new to me.

I was pleased to find that the trail was a joy to ride on, but I was also disappointed that it wasn’t complete yet. I had embarked planning to visit all eleven historic markers and only was able to reach five. The remaining six that make up the “MLK Jr. Outdoor Learning Trail” are beyond where the physical trail ends. I explored a bit further on foot, but even the sidewalk there had crumbled and washed away. Considering that this area has multiple lanes of dangerous car traffic, I cannot recommend for anyone to try visiting all of markers at once.

Mismatched expectations aside, the ride itself was a pleasure. I look forward to seeing how the trail network continues to develop.

Finally, to make this a real errand, opposed to a recreational ride, I charted it on Ride Spot. This is my first time using that app, so I hope I did everything correctly!

You can view this route on Ride Spot here

Date
May 11, 2021
Category
Discovery
Total mileage
19.71

A photo of my bicycle in front of a billboard mural with the words "SOUL SHINE" in stylized lettering.

Errandonnee 2021: Errand 3

Errandonnee is a challenge where you have 12 days to complete 12 errands by bicycle or on foot. This page is part of a series of my entries for the 2021 challenge.

You can read more about Errandonnee here.

Errand 3: Midtown art

A photo of a bicycle in front of a mural with a crocodile painting. A photo of my bicycle in front of a mural with a painting of a public scene. A photo of my bicycle in front of a mural with a painting of a student in a desk. A photo of my bicycle in front of a billboard mural with the words "SOUL SHINE" in stylized lettering. A photo of my bicycle in front of Ralph Frank's home.

For my third errand, I toured the latest public art in the Columbus, GA Midtown area. (Yes, visiting public art is an errand!) I rode past the murals along 13th Street and local folk artist Ralph Frank Jr’s place.

There is a lot of great art in this area, and the above photos don’t do it justice. If you’re in Columbus, then I recommend checking out these places in person.

Date
May 10, 2021
Category
Public art
Total mileage
14.61

A photo of my bicycle in front of a church.

Errandonnee 2021: Errands 1 & 2

Errandonnee is a challenge where you have 12 days to complete 12 errands by bicycle or on foot. This page is part of a series of my entries for the 2021 challenge.

You can read more about Errandonnee here.

Errand 1: church

My first “errand” was a bike ride down to my regular church in downtown Columbus, GA. Thanks to the Dragonfly Trail Network that connects my neighborhood to downtown, this is a very pleasant ride. Car traffic is less dangerous on Sunday too, which is nice.

Date
May 9, 2021
Category
Personal care
Total mileage
5.17

Errand 2: grocery shopping

I had only planned one ride for this day, but some of our staples were low and the weather was beautiful, so I took my bike down to our neighborhood’s Piggly Wiggly. Even though there are almost no bike lanes here, it’s still a nice ride. I’m able to stay on low-traffic, residential streets surrounded by trees for most of the trip.

Date
May 9, 2021
Category
Personal business
Total mileage
9.21

Flow theory and everyday biking and walking

We tend to think of the time we spend commuting as time wasted. The more we spend going to or from work is time we could have spent on something more economic and useful. But a new paper challenges this notion with a concept called flow theory.

You can read the paper here: Have a good trip! Expanding our concepts of the quality of everyday travelling with flow theory.

…being ‘on the move’ is a rich experience interlaced with profound shared and individual meanings that can have positive implications on quality of life, well-being and personal development. Yet, mobility in general, and commuting in particular, is often reported as one of the least pleasant daily experiences and as a source of massive environmental impacts.

Flow theory is something we all know even if we haven’t seen its name before. It occurs when we focus our whole attention on an activity we deeply enjoy. We feel it when we make art, sing, dance, write, play games, or anything else that gets us “in the zone.”

If you don’t experience that feeling when you commute, you’re not alone. As the paper notes, most people rate commuting as one of their least enjoyable activities. However, that’s not always the case. When the COVID-19 lockdowns happened, many people realized they missed their commutes. Last year, CycleCommute.cc blogged about “COVID commuting,” which is what they called riding a bicycle just to get out of the house. In their words, it was a “time to clear my head and de-stress.”

Here’s a graph from the article, showing how different activities intersect with a spectrum of mental states:

A chart of different mental states for cycling, public transport, and car driving.

This doesn’t mean any one mode is superior, but I can’t help but notice that riding a bicycle falls squarely in the upper-right corner, with flow in its center.

While it’s possible to experience flow while driving, it’s far more common in bicycle riders and walkers. Among the factors that make commuting enjoyable are physical activity and interacting with other people, especially with eye contact.

But it’s also possible to have a negative experience riding a bicycle, especially in areas heavy with cars. In one of my previous posts, Three modes of bicycle commuting, I mention how our infrastructure tries to make us ride bicycles as if we’re driving a car. That’s a sure way to swing our mental state to the other side of the chart, into the worry and anxiety zone.

Many of our institutional biases about everyday transportation have become self-fulfilling prophesies. Since we assume commuting is just wasting time between more important activities, we’ve turned our streets into dreary corridors of noise and car traffic. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Imagine if we actually tried to make our streets enjoyable to travel through, and made people want to be in our streets!

All of this gives us an interesting new way to approach everyday biking and walking. What gets you “in the zone” when you commute? What takes you out of the zone? What can we do to make that flow state happen a little bit more often?


"National Ride a Bike Day" promo graphic.
Image credit: League of American Bicyclists.

The first National Ride A Bike Day is coming Sunday, May 2

May is Bike Month, and this year we’re kicking it off with an inaugural Ride a Bike Day.

The League of American Bicyclists has the details here.

Celebrating National Ride A Bike Day is simple: go for a ride – any ride. Whether it’s a short trip on a bikeshare bike or a double century, any way you choose to ride a bike is the right way to ride a bike.

We hope you’ll join us on Sunday, May 2, for National Ride A Bike Day and then keep the celebration of biking going throughout Bike Month in May.

I never oppose an excuse to riding a bicycle. Between this Ride a Bike Day, the finale of 30 Days of Biking in April, and a whole calendar of bicycle activities through the rest of May, we have plenty of national events and holidays to choose from.


Mosul hosts its first all-female cycling marathon

In international news, an all-female cycling marathon took place in Mosul, Iraq for the first time. Participants and organizers are advocating for more women to ride bicycles.

Watch the video or full story here.

“I participated to overcome the obstacles in Mosul, the idea that girls cannot go around freely. I want to break this barrier and show that a girl can be free, that she can go and wear whatever she wants. And that when a girl rides a bicycle, no one should criticize her, by saying it is inappropriate because she is a girl. Our society is complicated, girls are not given their full freedom, everything is for the boys.”

Each participant received a training bike as a gift

The story is reminiscent of the Afghanistan women’s cycling that was covered a few years ago.