The Little Blue Bike Bell

Three magic words

bikeablebiz.jpgThis past weekend, I rode my bike from my home in Dunwoody four miles to the Sandy Springs MARTA station. Then I took the train to Arts Center and rode my bike to Decatur by way of Piedmont Park, Belty, Freedom, linear parks on Ponce, a bad mile or so, and finally a gloriously wide bike lane welcoming me to Decatur (for my League of American Bicyclists Smart Cycling Course). I did the same thing in reverse, and the same to and from again the next day. That added up to 50 miles, which is a personal record for me in a weekend, and may I add the summer sun was beating on me the whole time. SO, you can believe me when I say there are three magic words that make this possible in Atlanta. And these magic words are . . . King. Of. Pops.

King of Pops is a local ice pop company that uses natural and organic ingredients, some of which are grown on its own farm. It has mind-blowing flavors like watermelon basil and coconut lemongrass. I can assure you that it is THE thing you want when sweat is dripping in your eyes and down the backs of your knees. I had one at the King of Pops headquarters one day and a King of Pops stand with its iconic rainbow umbrella at an arts festival in Piedmont Park the other day. Both spots were bike-friendly and accessible via safe bike facilities. And so, King of Pops joins us as a Little Blue Bike Bell-certified Bike-Friendly Biz.

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Dreams come true!

dreamcafeI had been to the Dream Cafe in the Castleberry Hill section of Atlanta a few months ago — I even read the book written by the owner, Stevie Baggs, Jr. — but I hadn’t been back since. Then, I saw yesterday that the City of Atlanta’s Bike Czar, Becky Katz, posted on Twitter about new bike lanes on Peters Street, which is where Dream Cafe is located, so back I went!

bikelanepeters.jpgI got there via side streets because I was coming from another direction (and, yes, there was a bike rack when I arrived). I took the bike lane downtown afterwards (well, it sort of dropped me onto a busy street recently renamed after Ted Turner, but hey, it’s a start).

The Dream Cafe is so lovely — really a worthy destination if you’re a work nomad like me and can work anywhere. It was mid-morning so I just got a delicious blended juice. The economic impact of that bike lane from one bike rider, one stop = $7. Just imagine what’s possible. Or rather, dream. Because dreams of safe access for all really can come true.

The Dream Cafe joins the other businesses named by The Little Blue Bike Bell so far as a BikeAble Biz. Congratulations.

 

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One of our faves named a BikeAble Biz

bbSACM.jpgEvery business at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market in Downtown Atlanta is now certified as a BikeAble Biz by The Little Blue Bike Bell. We only go to the Sweet Auburn Curb Market because we can ride bikes there safely and there is a terrific bike rack when we arrive — those are the only two qualifications for becoming a BikeAble Biz (see more here). We’d like to give a special shout-out to our personal fave business there, Rawesome Juicery. We vote with our dollars there for the Awesome Remix wrap with cashew lime dressing and Gorgonzola because we absolutely love it. In fact, we dream about it.

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Bravo to these four businesses

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Atlanta BeltLine Bicycle and all the businesses at Ponce City Market in Atlanta, and Starbucks (Dunwoody Village location only) and Publix in Dunwoody are all now a certified BikeAble Biz by The Little Blue Bike Bell. They are all accessible for at least a mile via bike, and they all have bike parking.

In case you think all businesses on or by the Atlanta BeltLine qualify, they don’t. I’ve ridden by Yofaria frozen yogurt shop and Paris on Ponce literally hundreds of times and have never once stopped at either one on my bike. No bike racks. And the list of businesses with bike racks and safe access in Dunwoody is super short. In fact, we’ve almost covered all of them already.

Since Publix in Dunwoody just got awarded (and I voted with my dollars when I voted with my pedals there today), I thought I’d run through the other supermarkets in this 12-square-mile city. Fresh Market has a bike rack and safe access, but that bike rack is not really accessible! Weird spot, with not enough room really, so we’re holding off on awarding them. And Sprouts has a great bike rack but no safe access. Ouch. I’m rooting for Sprouts! (It’s the one closest to my home, and with the kind of options I tend to support.) Forget Kroger (both of them — the one in Georgetown and the one just over the Sandy Springs line). No safe access/no bike rack. Double fail.

In fact, entire shopping centers fail — Georgetown, Williamsburg, Target, Barnes and Noble, and more.  Ouch, ouch, ouch. C’mon, gang. Don’t get me going on the mall — one bike rack, and try finding it! (Hint: it’s where everyone smokes. Just what bike riders want!) It’s 200 bucks for a bike rack and installation. The economic impact of one customer buying a coffee daily is that in just a couple of months. These BikeAble Biz winners are getting that business. Others are losin’ it.

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Congratulations, PNC Bank

PNCBank.jpgFor the very first certified BikeAble Biz, The Little Blue Bike Bell has chosen PNC Bank on Mt. Vernon Road in Dunwoody, GA. I believe it may be the only bank in this Atlanta Regional Commission gold-level Green Community with a bike rack! It’s also right on a bike lane that provides safe access in at least one direction for at least a mile, so it fulfills both criteria for BikeAble Biz for 2016. A BikeAble Biz sticker has been slid under your door, PNC. Congratulations.

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Quick hint for biz owners

bbcollageSo The Little Blue Bike Bell is paying close attention to businesses that fulfill the two simple criteria to be certified as a BikeAble Biz. (And the cute stickers are on their way, so the first recipient of this honor will be named soon!) These are: (1) be safely accessible via bike for one mile, and (2) have a bike rack. That’s it.

These two businesses (pictured) where I voted with my pedals today each passed on number 1, but were colossal fails on number 2.

Psst — quick hint for business owners. If you’re actually located on a road with a bike lane (as both these businesses are), install a bike rack. It’s your welcome mat to those passing by. No bike rack is like a door slammed in our faces. Ouch. (And if you’re a municipality that’s not requiring bike parking and/or including it as part of your streetscaping, what are you thinking?!)

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Are You a BikeAble Biz?

 


bellThere are all kinds of criteria for what makes a business truly bike-friendly. Here on The Little Blue Bike Bell, we’re keeping it simple. We’re rewarding those businesses that make it easy and safe for us to get to their locations and secure our bikes while we’re there.

If you do that, we will be more likely to vote with our dollars for your products and services when we use our pedals. We will also shout it out to others about your biz by designating you a BikeAble Biz with a photo of The Little Blue Bike Bell at your location amplified throughout social media. And we’ll even give you a free BikeAble Biz sticker (while supplies last) to showcase however you want.

Not sold on why being BikeAble matters? For businesses, being BikeAble matters because  bike riders shop local more and shop more often than those in motor vehicles. Additonally, women, in particular, use bikes to run errands, make or influence 80% of all consumer purchase decisions, and overwhelming prefer protected bike lanes and other safe-for-all bike infrastructure. We are more likely to consider environmental issues when making purchase decisions, and we are more active on social media so the chances of you getting some public love as a result of your responsible business practices are higher. Oh, and we’re also the fastest-growing demographic segment (at all ages) for bike use in the United States so we are literally a growing market for you. Another nice side benefit of bike riding, especially for women? It gives us access to places where me may feel hesitant to go otherwise, for a variety of reasons. See Freedom Riders for more.

With that said, here are the two questions we’ll actually verify via road-testing to determine whether or not your business qualifies to be certified as BikeAble for 2016:

(1) Can we get there without being forced to rely solely on motor vehicle drivers for our safety? We’re looking at a one-mile route in at least one direction to your business. What, you think this is unfair because you don’t determine the safety of the roads? Well, yes, you do. Get to City Hall and speak out in support of safe bike infrastructure by your business. Join organizations like the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition that are advocating on the behalf of your customers for safe access for all.

(2) Are we made to feel welcome when we arrive? In short, are you telling us you actually want our business? This means we can get through your parking lot safely (if needed to get to your front door) and we can park our bikes securely once we arrive. UPDATE: We’ve decided not to include the parking lot access in our criteria for 2016. But the bike rack, yes. You have to have the bike rack.

We’re not even getting into two-mile access from all directions, covered bike parking, or how bike-friendly (Commute Options incentives, showers, etc.) you are for your employees. Those may come later.

So, that’s that. We’re getting stickers made. We’re out there riding. And we’re spending our dollars where we can safely do so. Stay tuned for news on our first certified BikeAble Biz. Contact us if you are located in Atlanta or Dunwoody, GA and want to be considered.

The Little Blue Bike Bell is a passion project from Sustainable Pattie

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Trying to Cross in “Family-Friendly” City

ghostbikead.jpgThe following videos (the first two of which are from yesterday) are examples of what happens almost every single time I try to cross a street (at a crosswalk, often at a light, while walking my bike) in the self-proclaimed “family-friendly” city of Dunwoody, GA.

The correct infrastructure is in place to allow me to cross. The correct laws are on the books, and the local police have even performed numerous “sting” operations to catch lawbreakers (see Drivers Don’t Even Stop for Dunwoody Officers in Crosswalks from 11 Alive recently). Yet . . . here ya’ go. It doesn’t stop.

I don’t know what the answer is. I just wanted you to see a collection of these super-short everyday videos in one place with the hopes that someone, somewhere has an answer. My hope and prayer is that we never see our first ghost bike in this city, but we are playing with fire by not solving this problem. The time for change (but what?) is now. Perhaps a public safety campaign is in order. I emailed my city leaders to suggest its staff research some public safety campaign best practices from elsewhere. And I offered my help.

PICT0004-1And, no, that’s not The Little Blue Bike Bell painted white in the photo on top of this post. It’s the bike my daughters used to ride to school and the pool when they were younger. Thank goodness they survived that, although don’t get me going about trucks parked on sidewalks . . .

 

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Pointy Is Getting Fixed!

pointy.jpgYou’ve met Pointy on this site before (appropriately included on the WTF? page). It is located in the metro-Atlanta city where I live, which was the newest city in the United States when it launched a little over seven years ago and which achieved the highest level of Green Community status within just five years (mostly because of policies passed and master plans adopted). However, when you actually get out there where the rubber hits the road (and that’s what we do here at The Little Blue Bike Bell!), there’s Pointy. The city said it would fix this clear mistake five years ago, and hasn’t. I’ve continued to bring it up. Others have brought it up. “We’re going to be repaving” was the answer for allowing this life-threatening embarrassment to continue to exist.

Well, good news. I finally got word that Pointy will, indeed, be fixed within the next couple of months. Let’s hope no ghost bikes show up before then.

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Mayors of U.S. Cities: 3 Ways to Reduce Traffic in Your City

IMG_3336Is bumper-to-bumper a bummer in your city? Things could be different, and as an advocate for making our communities more sustainable (they don’t call me Sustainable Pattie for nothing!), I aim to help. According to The National Household Travel Survey from the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly fifty percent of all trips in metropolitan areas are three miles or less and 28 percent are one mile or less – distances easily covered by foot or bicycle. However, due to the lack of safe and easy-to-use bike and pedestrian networks, people are forced to use their cars and, thus, more and more drivers clog the roads not just at traditional rush hour but all day long (for instance, when you grew up, around half of all kids walked and biked to school; now, only about 13% do, according to SafeRoutestoSchool.org, with a large number arriving via car, thereby making school drop off/pickup times a vehicular nightmare in many communities). Local trips via car, therefore, are increasingly difficult, dangerous, and stressful.

You know those biking and walking networks those pesky advocates are always bugging you to complete (or fix)? They actually make life easier and safer for everyone — and fun, too. Have you ever sat in traffic and seen a bike rider with flowers in her basket, or a family walking by, and thought to yourself as you bang your head on the dashboard, “Those folks are having a lot more fun than I am right now.” You, too, could be greeting your neighbors hello instead of watching your gas gauge drop low. Plus, you could be making your city a magnet for Millenials (who have the lowest rate of new drivers licenses since mass production of the automobile began) and retaining your “young senior” Empty Nesters (who are flocking to healthy-living-focused urban centers). Here’s how you, as mayor, can achieve this:

  1. Show pride. Make bike/walk improvements a point of pride rather than a point of divide in your city;
  2. Value knowledge. Pay local advocates for their expertise rather than shun them for their constant emails (they are doing the legwork — literally — that your high-paid consultants may not be doing);
  3. Dare to dream. What often happens when a mayor dares to dream is that an entire city rallies around him or her and helps the dream come true. You really won’t believe what’s truly possible.

When you create a truly bike/friendly community, you boost your city’s bottom line as well. Walkers and bike riders shop locally — and more often — than those in cars, so creating a community where they can get places safely without a car provides a boost to your business community. Please note that women, in particular, strongly prefer protected bike lanes, and considering they are probably about half your population yet make 80% of all consumer spending decisions, this is a demographic you don’t want to ignore. (Additional fun fact: women in their 20s and 50s are currently showing the greatest percentage growth in bike ridership nationwide.)

What about barriers to change? Well, there are certainly some big ones. Many people simply don’t like change, and they will let you know this at city council meetings and in local newspaper letters-to-the-editor. Please remember that access to the biggest public spaces in your city (known as streets) is a question of public safety and equity, and that the paving of roads in the USA was originally to accommodate bike riders.

Next, there are costs involved, of course. Sometimes private property needs to be acquired (and the property owner compensated) through eminent domain, and that gets personal. Third, there are excuses just to make excuses — I even heard of one city that says it won’t add protected bike lanes because the street sweeper it is thinking of purchasing won’t fit in them! (That one’s easily addressed with this great post from People for Bikes about street sweepers specifically for this purpose. Some cities use minor offenders for community service to sweep the lanes.) But mostly, I find the biggest barrier to change is simply lack of awareness of what it’s like currently to ride a bike to run an errand in your city. For instance, may I introduce Pointy? (See picture at the top of this post.) This is a perfect example of something that would simply not exist if folks at city hall or the consultants they hire actually got out there on bikes and rode.

No time, desire, or ability to ride? No problem. You  can do this from the comfort of your car: When you drive around your city, see if there are any women riding bikes in it. If you don’t see any of this “indicator species” for a bike-friendly community, your city is not safe for bike riding. If you see grown men riding bikes on your sidewalks, your streets are not safe for bike riding. If you see no or few bikes at your local schools’ bike racks (or if the schools don’t even have bike racks), your city is not safe for bike riding. It’s just that simple.

Another way to see if your city is safe for bike riding? Well, if you’re in north metro Atlanta, you can hire me for a day or two to give my $79 bike from Target (The Little Blue Bike Bell) a whirl around your city. I’ll give you the good, the bad, and yes, the WTF. Pardon the phrase, but someone had to say it — because I can tell you for sure that your citizens do each and every day. Contact me here for rates/availability, and then let’s see how things look from The Little Blue Bike Bell’s point of view. (Trust me — it doesn’t lie.)

If you would like to see what it was like for me to ride my bike from Alpharetta,GA to Dunwoody, GA (a 20-minute car ride, which took four hours on bike), see here. It’s boiled down to a one-minute video.

If you would like to do a self-guided bike ride of some best practices in bike infrastructure in the City of Atlanta (which aspires to become a Top 10 Bike-Friendly City by this year, believe it or not), see here. I’ve planned it all out for you. Give it three hours. It will change your life. (It changed mine.)

If you would like to see what I discovered during a two-week test-ride of New York City’s bikeshare, see here. (Free advice: learn from my experience before you launch your bikeshare program.)

Going one mile to the supermarket or school, two miles to the park or post office, or four miles to the mall or city hall should not involve taking your life in your hands. You are better than this. We are better than this. Let’s get this job done, and have fun along the way because we all remember what it feels like to ride a bike. (Note: you can’t feel like a kid when you ride a bike again if you didn’t ride a bike as a kid. Don’t deny the kids in your city this life-long memory and life-sustaining joy.)

 

pattiebaker_1428071611_87Pattie Baker (aka Sustainable Pattie) harnesses the power of storytelling to change the world through fact, fiction, and photography. See her website here.

 

 

 

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