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Yay Bikes Hoping to Continue Successful Ride Buddy Program

Brent Warren Brent Warren Yay Bikes Hoping to Continue Successful Ride Buddy ProgramPhoto via Yay Bikes.
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Yay Bikes is looking for funding to continue a program that Executive Director Catherine Girves calls “the best thing we’ve ever done.”

The program is called Ride Buddy, and during a brief trial run last summer, “people were having transformational experiences,” according to Girves. An extensive follow-up survey showed lasting success in getting people to replace car trips with bike trips – a key goal of the organization.

Interested individuals were paired with an experienced cyclist who could provide guidance on what route to take, what gear to buy, what clothes to wear (in all types of weather), the best strategies for riding on different types of roads, and much more. As the name of the program implies, that expert also accompanied the cyclist on at least one actual ride, either from home to work or between other common destinations.

“To add something like this to your day to day life, it really is a big deal.” said Girves, adding that even when someone is motivated to try biking to work, the process of actually doing it can often be overwhelming; “it’s a whole lot to figure out.”

Responses to multiple surveys – one given before the program, one immediately after, and one six weeks after – showed that for many, the Ride Buddy experience was the push they needed to make changes to their commuting habits.

The one-on-one, hands-on assistance was especially helpful in easing anxieties about riding in traffic – the new cyclists reported being much less intimidated after learning about proper lane positioning and the importance of predictability and visibility.

“It was altogether 1,000 times better than I thought it would be,” one participant stated in the survey. “I conquered a fear and feel more comfortable.”

The program also provided buddies for small groups of co-workers, who set out on lunch-hour trips around downtown on CoGo bikes.

Overall, more than 95% of participants said that they shared what they learned from the experience with friends and co-workers, the type of old-fashioned viral impact that has Yay Bikes excited about the potential of the program.

Girves said that they are “frantically working to get funding in place” so that the Ride Buddy experience can be offered to more people in the future (last summer’s pilot program was funded by the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission). She added that they have been speaking with a number of different organizations about possible partnerships that would allow the program to continue and grow, although they are not likely to have anything in place by this spring.

For more information on this and other programs, visit www.yaybikes.com

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