You're assuming an exciting new role in bike advocacy here in Long Beach. Will you give us an overview of your position as Bike Nation’s Long Beach General Manager, and what your responsibilities will be?
Rolling out a bike share system is a big job, and my role will be to steer that ship within the city. I’ll serve as the point-person to the City of Long Beach, business associations, and the diversity of community organizations with whom we’ll work while also overseeing day-to-day operations and fielding media inquiries. I’m looking forward to assembling a diverse team and also working with our staff in our corporate office on this team effort.
What do you hope your background in community advocacy will help make possible in this role?
I want the bike share program to bring more residents, work commuters, and tourists into our local business districts on bike – thereby increasing customers and sales and decreasing car traffic and parking congestion. This is what I help do through my bicycle-friendly business district work around the U.S. and Canada. I’m passionate about supporting small businesses – the backbone of our economy and what gives each city and business district its unique flavor. I’m happy to say a few big property owners and small business merchants have already asked us for stations in front of their property, because they understand it will help them as well as their neighborhood.
When does Bike Nation expect the system to launch?
We’re rolling out in phases, starting in downtown, where most of the employment and tourist activity is located. We hope to launch the first phase in spring.
How did you personally come to the decision to give up your car? What were the pros and cons that you weighed and overall how do you feel about the decision? What were some unexpected perks?
I had to sell my car at age nineteen for financial reasons but quickly found I enjoyed taking the bus more than driving. It was less stressful and made me feel more happy and relaxed. I remember quite clearly my first day on my bus commute from home to campus in Santa Cruz and the peaceful feeling I had. It was an epiphany for me. My internal monologue switched from “that driver’s so slow!” to “wow – look at that beautiful tree” and “gee, this is a beautiful day.” That day laid the foundation for my new relationship with U.S. transportation. I’ve lived mostly without a car ever since, choosing to live in cities with good public transit and good walking and bicycling infrastructure. This goes hand-in-hand with my environmental ethics, which are part of my spiritual foundation.
Communal responsibility aside, not owning a car has also brought me a plethora of personal benefits. I save about $8,000 a year from not owning a car, which I instead invest into living in a nice neighborhood where I walk my daughter to school and not stressing out if the organic produce I buy costs a few dollars extra a week. While I bike for most errands, I occasionally rent a car to pack in a ton of errands in far away places or take a day trip. When I do drive, it feels like an extravagant treat, not a stressor. Not owning a car also keeps me fit. If I stop bicycling and walking for a week, I gain a few pounds and feel sluggish. But the biggest perk is that bicycling makes me really happy. You can’t beat sunshine, fresh air and fun.
Your daughter, Audrey, age seven, very much enjoys riding her bike around Long Beach with you. What advice do you have for other moms who would like to get their children interested in riding a bike on a regular basis?
I love how Audrey often sings while we ride – a welcome difference from the “are we there yet?” whine from the back of a car. If I give her a choice between a taxi ride, bike ride, or walk, she always chooses active, not lazy, transportation.
To start riding with children, parents must first feel confident on a bike themselves. Some people have an irrational fear of bicycling – irrational because statistically, car driving is much more dangerous. But fear is real, and it must be acknowledged, then overcome. This is usually easily done by asking a friend to take them out for a few fun, no stress rides.
Next, they should purchase a child bike extension, seat, or trailer. The latter two are great for kids under four. For kids four to seven, a tag-along or co-pilot extension is ideal. This is what Audrey and I ride and call our “bike limo.” I like that she’s connected to me and gets to pedal, too. Ours cost only $80 and quickly attaches to the back of my bike. After age seven, most kids will want their own bike to get around.
I’d advise families to start riding on weekends to rediscover the joy of bicycling. Instead of driving to lunch or to run that errand, bike there. Then start bicycling to school. Focus on the short trips. Notice how parking is free and right in front of your destination. Notice your waistline shrinking. And most of all, notice how more joyful your family’s life has become.