My Sadness

It is a sad thing.

Just take a look at this picture.

That’s the bicycle rack outside Pummil Hall on the MSU campus. I took this picture about 20 minutes ago. Nearly every rack on campus — and we have a bunch of them — looks exactly like this. The roads and (unfortunately) the sidewalks all around campus are full of students riding bicycles. The amount of bicycle traffic downtown — always fairly represented — has grown since Saturday.

Here’s the thing: By October, this rack will not look this way. Traffic will lessen (although the weather will still be great). By spring, the racks will be home to many abandoned bicycles.


There are many reasons. I want to discuss one briefly. I have no idea if it is a primary reason — probably not. But it is a reason that I believe does have an influence on students — and others — not to ride. It is a reason that must be met. And, through CyclingSavvy and this weblog, I hope to have some small influence in overcoming it.

OK, here it is: I think one reason students stop riding bicycles is that they have bad experiences riding them in Springfield. (I also think the anticipation of bad experiences keeps other people from riding.)

Bad experiences include: Close calls with pedestrians and cars because of riding on sidewalks. Close passes by cars caused by riding too far to the right and misunderstanding how traffic works and the role of a bicycle as traffic. Honks and anger from drivers caused by riding as a road salmon or making other unpredictable and dangerous maneuvers in traffic.

That’s a short list. And all of it (i.e. that short list) is eliminated by simply driving a bicycle.

I believe one’s experience of pleasantness on the road is determined largely by one’s willingness and ability to drive a bicycle. I don’t think bicycle lanes help (indeed, I think they can make things worse). I think education helps (if you can solve the problem no one has yet solved — getting people to take a class).

So, to that end, following the CyclingSavvy class for women (30 Sept. and 1 Oct. Registration link will be active soon!), I’ll be putting together a student class.

Wish me luck.

Better yet: help me! Gimme a holler if you’d like to be involved. We especially need another CS instructor in Springfield.

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Comments 12

  1. Keith R. wrote:

    What about those videos we talked about doing in the past. Contact me if that would be something you still want to do. Might make better sense to have the media class at MSU to do it instead of me!

    Posted 23 Aug 2011 at 9:46 am
  2. Andy Cline wrote:

    Keith… You bet! I would like to help make some videos. We need to meet and discuss. Beer should be involved. How are you looking early next week?

    Posted 23 Aug 2011 at 10:40 am
  3. robert wrote:

    Missouri State needs a bike share system.

    The students would get:

    -Better bikes
    -Perfectly maintained bikes
    -Lights always on (no more ninja riders)
    -No special trip to walmart to purchase their bicycle

    The university would get:

    -the grounds NOT littered with ugly, junk bikes
    -safer bicyclists
    -not having to try to track down stolen bicycles
    -safer bicyclists
    -many more trips made by bicycle

    They could all be painted with MSU colors and bears if they wanted.

    Bike stations could be throughout campus and key downtown locations (groceries, restaurants, bars, etc)

    Posted 23 Aug 2011 at 11:22 am
  4. Rick Scarlet wrote:

    I think that would be great Robert. Is there any funding for something like that? We just got back from Boulder and Denver. Lots of great bike sharing going on there.

    Posted 23 Aug 2011 at 12:26 pm
  5. Brad Mitchell wrote:

    Andy, I’m interested in assisting in some way, even instruction if I can find the time and I can help in some way 🙂

    Planning on (trying to) convincing my girlfriend to attend your upcoming class, maybe I can tag along and see what’s involved..

    Posted 23 Aug 2011 at 12:38 pm
  6. Andy Cline wrote:

    Brad… You bet. It would be great to have your GF take the class. I’ll post the registration link soon.

    Posted 23 Aug 2011 at 12:52 pm
  7. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… A few students began talking about a sharing program last year, but nothing came of it. Do you know of a funding source. That would really help things along. I’d be happy to offer faculty guidance for a student-run program.

    Posted 23 Aug 2011 at 12:53 pm
  8. Robert wrote:

    I dont know of anything specifically but they are expensive. A 1,000 bicycle system might cost like 2,000,000 dollars, not counting maintenance costs. I know that the bikes in Minneapolis cost $1,000 a piece and that doesn’t include the stations (which are computerized and networked)

    You need the real deal, like a bcycle program.

    They are generally funded by things like health insurance companies (want to increase physical activity) or advertising agencies (to put ads at the stations).

    Posted 23 Aug 2011 at 2:26 pm
  9. Andy Cline wrote:

    Robert… What do you think of semester loaner programs such as the one at Drury?

    Posted 23 Aug 2011 at 2:31 pm
  10. Robert wrote:

    The obvious short falls is that there are limited bikes and you have to register for the program and be responsible for that bike.

    The bike share is rack to rack.

    When I used it in minneapolis it was perfect for my needs. Grabbed one outside of a bar and rode it downtown to my hotel (didnt need to return it back to same rack). Then the next day, I grabbed one and rode it 3-miles to a light rail station. Put it in a rack and I was done in a few seconds. Much handier than even having your own bicycle in many ways.

    The downside, of course, is that it’s expensive.

    Posted 23 Aug 2011 at 2:56 pm
  11. John Brooking wrote:

    Much as I’d rather not, Andy, I have to point out an oversimplification I see in your argument: “all of it (i.e. that short list) is eliminated by simply driving a bicycle.” Specifically, honking and yelling.

    Yes, motorists honk at salmon and other unpredictable riders, but they also honk at assertive riders as well. At least they sometimes do to me and others I know. That is precisely what people are afraid will happen when they ride assertively, that “motorists will get mad”, and I think we bicycle drivers shouldn’t make false promises that it won’t ever happen again. (Not that I’m accusing you of that. I suspect you didn’t really mean to imply that. I’m just clarifying.)

    That’s the bad news. But as you know, that’s not the end of the story. Honkers and yellers are always in the minority regardless. When you are riding legally and predictably as a driver, even when they are honking and yelling, they are usually reacting to you safely at the same time, like passing in the next lane or hanging in back of you, they simply resent having to do so. They are generally not greatly endangering you, they just have a need to express their incorrect opinion of your riding. When you begin riding assertively, you notice that their honking and yelling mostly only happens when you are doing something other than what THEY think you should be doing. THEY would be using the sidewalk, shoulder (no matter what), or hugging the curb, so they don’t understand why you’re not. So you start to understand that it’s THEIR ignorance problem, not YOUR operational problem. (Only a true psychopath will really make it your problem, and they exist, but they are truly rare. I think my chance of encountering one is much smaller than my chance of getting into a crash by riding by other than the standard rules of the road.)

    So if a minority of people are going to honk and yell at me anyway, I’d rather have them do so while reacting to me safely, meanwhile having the confidence that I know what the law says and they evidently don’t. It is frustrating sometimes that I can’t have a rational discussion and explain it to them, but maybe that’s just me, and anyway, that’s better than having them almost hit me.

    Posted 23 Aug 2011 at 4:07 pm
  12. Andy Cline wrote:

    John… That’s a useful clarification. Having been a blogger for 10 years now, it’s easy for me to slip into blog-speak, i.e. positive assertions with limited nuance 😉

    Posted 23 Aug 2011 at 9:37 pm