John Mott-Smith is a member of the Cool Davis Initiative core group. This article is cross-posted from the Davis Enterprise
I really appreciate readers sending ideas for columns. Other ideas come from meetings, talks, conversations on the street and out of thin air. Although it may not be obvious from the columns I write, many take some thinking about, and I keep these ideas in mind for the future.
Some folks offer an interesting factoid, or short news item, not enough for a column. This last group I collect and periodically string together into a single column, like today’s, generally around something approaching a theme, in the hope others might find them as interesting as I do.
* Bike facts: At a recent talk, Bob Androsca, executive director of the Yolo Transportation Management Association, let fly a few startling facts. One, with direct relevance to recent events in Davis, is that a single automobile parking space can accommodate roughly a dozen bicycles.
A single automobile parking space can accommodate roughly a dozen bicycles.
The city has been taking this to heart in our downtown, converting a few car parking spaces to bike parking. This seems like a win-win idea, and I notice that almost all the bike parking stations are full during the day, and many in the evening, which must mean that people are finding it easier to visit downtown on a bike and businesses are seeing more customers.
Other interesting statistics from Androsca’s talk indicate some of the advantages that could accrue from implementing on-street bike parking, including: It’s possible to manufacture 100 bicycles with the energy required to produce one mid-size automobile and, the obvious, riding a bike creates zero greenhouse gas emissions, compared to about 20 pounds for every gallon of gasoline used by an average car.
* Sidebar: Speaking of average cars, the new mpg standards appear to be working: Fuel economy of new cars purchased nationwide in 2011 improved from 21.7 mpg to 22.2 mpg. This may seem like a small improvement, but there is more to come as the standards increase.
Still, even this small improvement of a half-mile per gallon translates into a reduction of gasoline consumption of an estimated 215 million gallons which, at today’s prices at the pump, saves motorists about a billion dollars.
* Back to bikes: Before Androsca’s talk, I didn’t really know much about the Yolo Transportation Management Association or the work it does to encourage employers to encourage employees to commute by bicycle. For example, it turns out more than half of all American workers live within 5 miles of their workplace and the IRS provides a tax incentive for employers who help employees purchase, maintain, repair and store bikes for the purpose of commuting.
And, because sometimes it rains, or is too hot, or the employee has to stay late, or for some reason it just wasn’t convenient to bike to work that day, workers whose employers participate in YTMA programs are eligible for free taxi or rental car rides up to six times a year. YTMA also distributes (free) bike baskets through participating employers.
For more information, contact Androsca at (530) 554-9400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Speaking of parking: A couple of days ago I was driving in downtown Davis at my usual snail’s pace when I had to swerve suddenly to avoid a car backing out of a parking space. The driver wasn’t doing anything wrong: He or she (I didn’t have time to look) just couldn’t see oncoming traffic without getting his/her car almost halfway out of the parking space. It was an accident narrowly averted and made me wish the city would, once again, consider “reverse diagonal parking” as an option for downtown.
The title sounds weird and different, and change is always somewhat difficult. But once you try it you can’t help but be impressed by its elegant simplicity, and wonder why this hadn’t been implemented before. It just makes common sense. It’s safer for bicycles and cars and is calculated to actually increase the number of parking spaces in the downtown.
* The last bit (for now) on bikes: One of our intrepid county supervisors, Don Saylor, included a message about “Bikes for Wellness” in his regular newsletter. This program collects bikes from people who no longer want or need them, fixes them up and provides them, along with a helmet and a lock, to people with mental illness so that they have a source of independent transportation to and from activities.
As Saylor states in his newsletter: “If you want to volunteer, donate, get more information or are someone living with mental illness who could use a bike, please phone the Yolo National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) helpline at (530) 756-8181 or visit www.namiyolo.org.”
* End note: I have a “Careful Reader” who is an excellent reviewer of my articles, pointing out errors, omissions and occasionally offering perspective. He isn’t a natural-born bike rider; in fact, he much prefers a car, and often makes gentle fun of my focus on bikes as some sort of silver bullet for greenhouse gas emissions reduction. But, he is pragmatic.
Perhaps the best news of the month was that, due to an upcoming change in his commute, he’s looking for a foldable bike to combine with his train ride.