Friday, July 11, 2008

In which your correspondent finally confesses to have gotten religion . . .

. . . about this bike-commuting thing.

What follows are excerpts from an e-mail I sent this morning to Sharon Fearey, Wichita City Council's District Six representative (roughly, as this map shows, the northwest corner of downtown and points north and west):

Dear Ms. Fearey,

I write to you both out of ignorance and a desire not to take up too much of your valuable time.


I was wondering if, in your contacts with other constituents or discussions with your colleagues on the council and at Visioneering Wichita meetings, you've had discussions about initiatives resulting in infrastructure improvements that would make streets safer and more amenable for cyclists, pedestrians, and public transportation. Some hasty searching didn't turn up any such discussions, but I could very well have just missed them. The Vision Document [pdf file here] does mention cycling, but within the context of recreation; it doesn't appear to address making streets bike-friendlier.

Many people in your district besides myself use bicycles not merely or only for recreation but as a practical mode of transportation, and I'm certain more would if they felt the streets were safer for them. The long-term health and economic benefits, not just for them but, indirectly, for all citizens (not to mention more local and global economic and environmental benefits), are indisputable, it seems to me. Thus, I respectfully ask you and your colleagues to consider bringing this issue up for discussion.


One final question: to your knowledge, has there been any discussion of a future use for the abandoned railroad right-of-way between Wichita and Andover? I'd think that would be an ideal candidate for conversion to a trail or--may I dream a bit?--some sort of commuter rail route.

I'll post Ms. Fearey's response here when it arrives.


R. Sherman said...


I see John Brown. I trust that carries with it no implied prohibitions of visitors from Missouri.



Ashley said...

I'll be sending this site on to my husband and his brother...

Jon rode his bike to work a few days a week until a number of circumstances piled up and well, now he doesn't. Both his job and we have moved, and further apart, for one. Additionally, he was hit by a car at the river festival a year (or two?) ago while commuting home after work and the fireworks. He wasn't badly hurt, but the driver did not even stop to see if he was okay. Unfortunately he bent up a wheel pretty badly and it nearly bent in half a couple of weeks later as he encountered a curb (I can't recall if this was due to him goofing off or trying to swerve around a car).
Anyways, my brother in law cycles to work every day, and even comes home for lunch. His advantage is that he lives just southeast from downtown and he works downtown. At this point, my husband would have to bike, according to google maps, exactly 9.4 miles, one way, to work.
I know he still wants to cycle to work (and learning about your new habits and his brother's as well will only fuel the fire) but I'm not sure either of us trusts the drivers of Wichita that much. And honestly,I am not ready to give away the time it would take him.

I'm just hoping that my job will be closer... (and maybe today I'l finally remember to pick up a bike lock!)

I'll be checking back to see how your adventure continues.

And in response to the bikes here at WSU... I personally only know of one student that rode a bike to school. I've considered throwing one in the back of the car/truck for the days I have to park by the baseball field!

John B. said...

The Children of Quantrell are always welcome here.

Thanks for coming by and for forwarding links on to Jon and his brother. I hear you about the risks of cycling in this town--I've been warned by lots of folks. All I can say, early on as it is, is that so far the only troubles I've had with cars were my own fault: I'm still a novice, and so I'm still learning to be (much) more observant at intersections than motorists have to be. Drivers have been respectful and, at times, even deferential.

As for commuting: from here to McConnell will be about a 10-mile commute one way for me. While I'm on sabbatical, the time and distance won't be big issues for me; come the spring, when I resume teaching a full load, I'll be reduced to cycling there no more than twice a week (I'll have classes that end after dark, and I don't want to ride that distance at night and through the parts of town I have to go through). Still, using the bike only once a week will save me a gallon of gas for that week.

And you mention time. Yeah. If one's schedule is tight but one has various errands that have to be run, cycling isn't going to work that well. I also know that I live in an ideal part of town for this sort of thing; people who live in the ex-burbs and work downtown will have to be very very committed to making all sorts of other choices besides the relatively-easy one of buying a bike. I'd think, though, that no matter where we live, we all go places within a couple of miles of home that we could just as easily manage on a bike, things like the run-to-the-store-for-some-milk sorts of errands.

Anyway. Thanks again for visiting and commenting, and for the support.

Warren T said...

Excellent job on the letter. I'm looking forward to seeing the response.

In regards to the excuse that riding a bike takes too much time out of an already busy day: the A.C. Nielsen Co. says that the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year).

For my "me time," I'd rather spend the extra few minutes on my bike than hypnotized by the box. That's my rationalization, I suppose.

John B. said...

Warren T,
Thanks for stopping by, and for the kind comment on the letter. I'm looking forward to visiting your blog to do some reading around in the archives.

As for your other comment, I'm working on a navel-gazing kind of post that addresses just how profoundly life(style)-altering using a bike potentially can be, something I had no clue about before half a month ago. It might be of interest only to me, but that's the risk one runs with this blogging thing, no?