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Dinner & Bikes in Jax: An in-person lecture about bike culture from the fine folks of Portland

May 7, 2012

Elly Blue and the Crew from Portland is currently touring the better part of the southeast region of the United States. They call it Dinner & Bikes, cooking up great vegan food and discussing bikenomics with other bike communities. They had to cancel one city tour, so Koula Redmond of Bike Jax convinced them to come here to Jacksonville – certainly a city in need of a good bike lecture. With only two weeks to organize the event, Bike Jax pulled it off beautifully, attracting tons of Jacksonville cyclists to the event. The Portland folks were impressed and very pleased with the turnout and they said they will be back.

I took a few notes I felt were beneficial to know for myself. A little bit of what was discussed I’d already known about, so I didn’t take notes on every single thing, but most of it was quite eye-opening and very interesting. In general, incorporating bike and pedestrian infrastructure within metropolitan areas and their surrounding environs has proven to help the local economy, prevent urban sprawl, encourage tourists to visit, and saves money on road maintenance when compared to car-centric infrastructure.

Here are the notes I jotted down:

  • Incorporating sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks alongside roads helps reduce the speed of traffic, which produces a safer environment for those on foot or on bikes
  • The annual cost of car ownership, according to AAA = $8,500. That exorbitant cost is for those who only choose their cars over their bikes in every situation, even when considering just going to the corner store
  • Car transportation is one of our largest costs as individuals, but also happens to be one of the largest costs for a city’s budget as well
  • Elly did some research on how much a typical freeway would cost a city or a state. The cheapest freeway she could find was in Michigan at a whopping $8 million per mile! That’s the cheapest one she could find, mind you.
  • The cost for Portland’s bike infrastructure in 2008 was a total of $65 million, far far less per mile than car infrastructure alone
  • Bike Corrals – At first, a business owner might be turned off by losing one or two parking spaces in front of their store to make room for a bike corral. But think about it. One parking space may only accommodate one person much of the time. Four or five people in one car at the most. But with a bike corral, you’re accommodating for at least a dozen or so people, if not more. More people parked in front of your business means more eyes on your shop, and business owners end up loving it!
  • If there is bike parking provided in business and shopping areas, statistics show that business revenue goes up
  • The highest cost in healthcare is related to diabetes. The United States is currently undergoing the “Battle of the Bulge” (so to speak) and being overweight commonly goes hand-in-hand with diabetes. One of the most pleasant and little-to-no-impact ways you can exercise and defeat that bulge, and help you reduce your risk of diabetes, is to ride a bike.
  • Induced Demand – An example of this is if a city chooses to expand roads and freeways, the people WILL fill those roads up. This means that, for the most part, no matter how much you expand your roads to accommodate cars, congestion is STILL going to be a problem. But this “If You Build it They Will Come” circumstance also applies to bike infrastructure. And one more bike on the road means one less car on the road. That adds up. Especially in a place like Portland where incorporating infrastructure for all forms of transport has helped to reduce congestion.
  • People will adjust their travel preferences to whatever is available. If you never build any infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians, too many people are going to feel too unsafe to travel as such.
  • The rate of women on bikes is going down for reasons that are yet to be explained. From the 1980’s, 1/3 of all bike riders were women. Today it is only 1/4.

It was a successful event, thanks to Bike Jax and to all those who came out and showed their support! It is imperative that our bike community always unite, especially during such events where big wig bikers from bike-loving cities such as Portland come to visit us. With lots of cyclists attending events like these, such a warm welcome will ensure stronger ties with all the right folks outside our city who’ve managed to get their bikenomics on the right track. And with those strong bonds comes a better understanding of how our own bikenomics can benefit Jacksonville as a whole.

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