The Year of Yay
Local bike advocacy group mobilizes with multi-month community outreach
By Matthew ErmanPublished August 1, 2012
Much has been made of Columbus’ efforts to become a more bike-progressive city, and the health and financial benefits of cycling have become the core rallying cry of many a community initiative. With the rise of Pelotonia and the city’s 2 by 2012 campaign, there are more two-wheeled vehicles on our flat, friendly streets than ever.
With so many ways to bike around Columbus, why aren’t more people involved?
That is one of the issues Meredith Joy tackles as Executive Director of the biking advocacy group Yay Bikes.
“Why do people make the transportation choices that they do, and how do we get them to start interrogating those choices?” she said. “[We’re] getting them thinking about the impact they’re having on their own lives and their communities.”
Yay Bikes has taken their commitment to community, passion, and safety to a new level in Columbus with a number of initiatives in 2012.
This year they first piloted their How We Roll campaign, aimed at reducing car-cycle collisions on the heavily trafficked Ohio State campus. The 12-mile trek is primarily designed to increase the overall level of confidence for the rider and their bike – particularly on city streets – but also includes a social component, as the tour makes several stops for samples of wares from local businesses. Led by a Yay instructor, How We Roll also stresses the importance of being aggressive about your rights as a biker and pedestrian.
“We do offer safety courses, but more than that we like to do the How We Roll model, which is getting people on their bikes and having fun,” Joy said.
With the success of How We Roll growing to other universities over the next two years, Joy is confident that in the future their model will set a high standard by focusing on riding malpractices such as biking through red lights, riding on sidewalks, and not having the proper equipment.
“You’re not going to become a cyclist because someone handed you a brochure; it’s an experiential thing that you get out and do,” Joy explained. “All of our rides are pretty short, lots of stops; very slow, urban rides, and very social,” she commented on the intensity of How We Roll.
Everyone’s reasons for biking are personal; they can be rooted in health, global or economic concerns, but for Joy, it was the 9/11 attacks. After researching on oil politics, she opted to sell her car, and began relying solely on her bike. Since then, she’s discovered hidden socio-cultural benefits to the bike.
“In the realm of the all possible problems I could pick, why would I choose bicycling? It is actually a big problem now with a breakdown of relationships and loneliness and people just feeling like they’re broken,” she said. “If you take it back to the reliance on the automobile as a sole form of transportation, it is a root piece of these problems because you are isolating yourself in a vehicle and forcing yourself from interaction with people. It has implications in how you experience life and your neighbors.”
The organization’s Year of Yay, a special 2012 edition of their casual monthly ride – 15-25 miles of cycling with themes ranging from Fine Dining to Halloween – is another component of the group’s goal to increase the social incentive to get on your bike.
Incentivizing the community is another large piece of the puzzle, and Yay works with knowledgeable local leaders to offer discounts and vouchers to riders and members.
While studies and stats tout the money saved and pounds lost by switching to more miles on the bike, Joy said the Yay mission is simpler than that: local people, seeing and supporting more of their city.
“Just come out and ride with us,” she said. “It’s a very low bar to jump to be part of a supportive and growing community.”
For more on Yay Bikes!, visit www.yaybikes.com.