Waking up to the sound of rain, I was cheered that the drought had broken. Then I thought, “Note to self: get fenders for bike.” It is not typically an issue but for the second time in three years, it was raining close to the start of the Dump the Pump (DTP) Challenge, an annual event that dramatizes the efficacy of modes of transportation other than automobiles.
So, I scrubbed the notion of business togs for my riding habit and defaulted to cargo shorts, t–shirt and bike shoes; I knew I would get a bit splattered and, with 100 percent humidity, warm. The Challenge is a race between a bicyclist (me), a Chatham Area Transit (CAT) bus rider and a car. My route, designed to avoid stoplights, from 12 Oaks Shopping Center to City Hall, is 4.6 miles. As participants must strictly obey all traffic rules, I wanted to spend as little time as possible listening to the crosswalk repeat, “Wait, wait, wait.”
Fortunately, other than a short wait at Habersham and Derenne, I did pretty well. It took effort to make the green at Victory Drive (while negotiating with left-turning cars) and I managed to avoid a long wait at Bay Street.
The minute and a half saved turned out to be the margin of victory over the bus rider. (The car, by the time it parked and its passengers got to City Hall, finished a semi–distant third.)
The bus has come in a respectable second place each year of the challenge – a tribute to the efficiency of our CAT transit system. A bicyclist has the great advantage of knowing exactly where it will be at any given moment–it is the only competitor with a schedule to meet, and CAT runs on time.
If I had not been racing the 14 Abercorn bus this morning, I might have taken it due to the early inclement weather. I love that bus; its pretty route is convenient to my house, and there is a community of regular sociable riders. With lots of passengers on each bus and the new more fuel–efficient fleet, it is also a clean way to travel. (We had a very clean race this year: the car in the race was one of two electric Chevy Volts in Georgia.)
Buses and bikes offer tremendous economic efficiencies over travel by car. MSN Money reports eliminating a car from the family fleet can save $7,000 – $12,000 a year depending on the vehicle and driving habits.
Alternate modes of transit also take stress off capital investments that accommodate travelers moving in, around and out of our cities daily; roads are freed up (until they fill up again – sadly, most capacity increases are absorbed by added mileage by local users), and less parking is needed.
One joy of biking is always having “executive parking.” With the City of Savannah’s ongoing bike rack improvements at high activity sites around town and all the “street furniture,” there is usually something to lock up to.
Alternative modes also produce significantly less pollution. Short trips by automobile – which buses, bikes and walking most easily substitute for – are incredibly dirty undertakings. Cars’ pollution controls don’t really get going for a couple of miles and with 40 percent of car trips in America being two or less miles, the impact of substituting any mode of transportation for driving is huge.
The Savannah Bicycle Campaign works to Build a Better Savannah through Bicycling. We use Advocacy, Education and Encouragement attacking this goal. Advocacy addresses legal issues like effective enforcement and improved laws to make cycling safer (like the new state law requiring a three–foot safe passing distance) and better facilities for cycling like the new bike lane planned for Price Street.
Education helps build the skills necessary to operate a bike safely, whether on a bike facility or operating legally as a vehicle on our roads. It helps build the better bikers who will help us all build a better city.
Finally, Encouragement helps make people confident enough to take to the roads and reminds them how much fun cycling is.
The Dump the Pump challenge, other rides and socials get people involved and out on the road. To see a bit of what those are about, join us for the Midnight Garden Ride on Saturday, Sept. 3 (Labor Day Weekend).
You can register online for this “Festive Nightime Bicycle Ride” at www.midnightgardenride.com.
We hope you will visit our website, too, and find out how you can help us continue to make Savannah a premier bicycle community. Check out www.bicyclecampaign.org.
Frank McIntosh is executive director of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign.