‘Engineer Rides’ Part of Bike Lane Collaboration with Yay Bikes
Although tough choices about new street designs and bike lanes mean that cycling advocates and traffic engineers are often pitted against each other, a new collaboration between the City of Columbus and Yay Bikes has the two groups working – and riding – together.
When Columbus Public Service Director Tracie Davies reached out to Yay Bikes late last summer, she was hoping the group could help to gather feedback from the cycling community, specifically about new bike lanes proposed for Third and Fourth Streets Downtown.
Catherine Girves, Executive Director of Yay Bikes, was thrilled to hear from the director and to offer her group’s expertise. She just had one request – that instead of sitting around a map and talking about the proposal, the engineers join them on their bikes and ride the streets in question.
Davies agreed, and arrangements were made for a group of project managers and engineers to accompany the Yay Bikes team, who had studied the proposed lanes on Third and Fourth and identified several potential problem areas.
Deputy Director Jennifer Gallagher, who was on the initial ride with Yay Bikes in October, said that the experience was invaluable, and yielded great feedback on the design of the lanes.
“They had great ideas, things they had seen when they did it as a ride, and when we rode it we got to see it from a different perspective,” she said. “I think we were really able to implement the majority of the things they had asked us to implement.”
“We don’t want to be designing things in a vacuum,” added Davies, “and the bike lanes Downtown are a core initiative of ours.”
Gallagher, who described herself as a recreational cyclist, said that the experience of riding on Third and Fourth streets was a learning experience for her personally.
“What I took away from it the most was that it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be riding with the traffic,” she said. “I felt the cars were very accommodating, they watched for us… it felt good riding it, and that was without the bike lane there.”
Next up for Yay Bikes and the engineers was a November ride on Summit and Fourth Streets north of Downtown – bike lanes are planned for both streets all the way to Hudson Street.
“The thing with the first ride,” said Gallagher, “was that the plans were almost done, so the hope is to be able to do this with (Yay Bikes) on future rides so maybe we’re doing it earlier in the process, and then again at the end when we have it pretty much designed and we need to tweak it.”
Girves said that providing input on the projects is a good fit for Yay Bikes, since safe and effective bike lanes can play a key role in increasing the number of trips by bicycle, the organization’s primary mission. She explained that when bike lanes are painted on streets in a way that puts cyclists in harms way – if lanes are placed too close to parked cars, for example – it can have a negative effect on ridership.
“If there’s a bad bike lane, an experienced cyclist simply won’t ride it, but an inexperienced cyclist will ride it and be unsafe,” she said.
The Yay Bikes community, Girves added, has been relishing the opportunity to influence these projects.
“They really are treating us like trusted advisors, and we’re very appreciative of that,” she added.
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More information on Yay Bikes can be found at www.yaybikes.com.