May 28, 2010

Grinding My Gears. Thoughts from a wanna be bike commuter.

To steal a phrase from the wise orator Peter Griffin, this really grinds my gears.

Resource management, or lack thereof. Time, money, nature, people, whatever.

It dawned on me after I posted to my Facebook account months ago that I was going to start adding bike commutes to work that we just do not live in a society that is set up for mobility of the people who reside here.

I get that. We live in Metro Detroit where cars abound and people drive like we are in Mexico City. Car manufacturers and suppliers have literally built this city. Given this, safety is very important. You have to ride (bike or car) with your head on a swivel, and always ALWAYS be on the defense. No matter what rules are there to protect us on both sides of the bike/car match, most motorists just plain do not know how to drive near cyclists and a lot of cyclists do not know how to ride along with cars.

That is why my friend Cassie and I have been taking the sidewalks from our homes to work. It is pretty straight forward with only a few intersections where we have to take a stance of being overly cautious.

We are lucky. We live only 15 miles away from work, yet people who we know that live much closer than us could not safely get to work via bike and sometimes barely can get here via car.

Oakland County has done some wonderful things in the past 10 years with respect to providing off-road paths for transportation and recreation. The Rails-to-Trail systems are wonderful avenues from getting from point A to point B safely. Running, walking, bike riding, strolling, etc. is really becoming a part of the community.

Without the Rails-to-Trails, bike paths or even sidewalks, people often do not have a safe way to traverse a busy and overpopulated area.

For example, the Clinton River portion of the Rails-to-Trails system is prime example of both. It is now possible, with a little jag in the road at Square Lake, to run, bike, walk, or stroll from Paint Creek Trail in Rochester area all the way into West Bloomfield via the Rails-to-Trails network.
On Square Lake Road (where the little jog is, and by little jog I actually mean long unsafe haul) there is a petition ( to complete the bike path to Opdyke for this very reason. The residents are petitioning to have the County complete the bike path so more people can access the other paths without needing to drive there.

Even a short distance without access to other trails, paths, and sidewalks makes a community car dependant. It is fine to have to ride your car to work, but in your own neighborhood you should be able to get around on foot or bike should you want to.

I am blessed to live in a community with sidewalks which connect me to all of the stores I could ever possibly need to get to within a reasonable 5 miles. If I did not have these sidewalks and bike paths, I would be forced to use my car to get everywhere. And I am ashamed to admit that often I will drive to a store when I could feasibly run, walk, or ride there. True it would force me to purchase less product more frequently, but that would lend to more sustainability and less waste on my side.

Given the demands on my life, I cannot feasibly give up driving my car, nor can I feasibly give up driving my car to go grocery or supply shopping. What I can do, however, is say 1 day a week bike to work, and then 1 or 2 days a week ride my bike to stores to pick up whatever I may need for that night̢۪s dinner, or supplies for a project that I am working on. These little changes in my life are what I can manage, and while not a huge impact will be made to the world, in my world it will mean a lot.

I also find it amusing that the things which are celebrated in other parts of the country, public transport and walkability factors, are looked down upon here.

This will be an interesting feat. I am finding that some areas are really set up to have pedestrian traffic, while others are just not going to work. Trial and error, and always a big adventure.
The bottom line is that we need safe places to run, bike, and walk to make our neighborhoods less car dependant. When we make mobility off of the roads a priority, and I am talking just get it on the list, I think that we will see more people getting out there and being active.

Build the infrastructure and the people will use it.

So what are your thoughts? Would you use it?

1 comment:

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