07.08.14: Beth Heyde, senior events manager at Bike New York; Hayes A. Lord, director of the bicycle program at the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT); AIANY Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Robert Eisenstat, AIA; Stacey Hodge, director of the DOT Office of Freight Mobility; Alison Conway, assistant professor, Department of Civil Engineering, City College of New York; Wenzday Jane, owner, Metro Pedal Power; Gregg Zusman, owner, Revolution Rickshaws; and Bob Nesson, filmmaker and adjunct professor, Emerson College, gathered at the Center for Architecture to discuss sustainable transportation at “Power to the Pedals: Wenzday Jane and the Culture of Change.”

Pedaling the Last Mile

It’s no fluke that bike shares and bike lanes are popping up everywhere. They provide easy transportation, require no fossil fuels, have no emissions, occupy little space, and are basic mechanical machines. Power to the Pedals, a 30-minute documentary, shows that bicycles provide opportunity for economics, the environment, and urbanism.

Focusing on the plight of one woman, Power to the Pedals follows Wenzday Jane in establishing a cycle-based business to deliver goods and haul recycling, all at a livable pace and scale. Jane found that learning cycle mechanics and associated skills also fosters self-reliance. From building her own bikes and trailers, Jane built a fleet and a business in Cambridge, MA – a worthy model for other cities.

Although the business admittedly struggles at times, she maintains that it’s “more than economics, it’s the idea of a better environment.” This DIY attitude evolved into a network of like-minded people – organic farmers, composters, locally-minded businesses – that ultimately affects perception and changes habits.

The panel discussion that followed the screening at the Center for Architecture elucidated the advantages and hindrances of instituting citywide bike programs, in New York at least. While everyone agreed that trucking is necessary for large-scale movement, Alison Conway, Ph.D., assistant professor at City College of New York, suggested trikes (which can haul 600 pounds) for the final leg of local deliveries. The push for Transit Oriented Development seems to focus on rail and automobile. Meanwhile, pedestrians and bicycles provide cleaner, more flexible solutions at a human scale and pace. In New York we’ve seen bike lanes come and go in a season as the right system and flow is developed. Overlaying bike paths and transport is an important step in creating sustainable cities and micro-economies in new approaches to sustainable urbanism.

Stacey Hodge, of the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Freight Mobility, accounted trucking for most city deliveries, but their limited access to loading docks and curbs often results in bike lane obstructions – and up to $1 million in parking tickets per business – just the cost of doing business. While a windfall for city coffers, less congestion, cleaner air, and safer streets would be better. While lauding bike lanes, Beth Heyde of Bike New York commented that prior to dedicated lanes bike flow was an indistinct integrated system, but now cyclists and drivers have become more defensive in battling for turf. To enforce awareness Hayes Lord, of the NYC DOT Bike Share program, suggested issuing more tickets to bike lane parkers; Jane prefers conflict mediation training before people even get on the road. Greg Zuman, owner of NYC’s Revolution Rickshaw, commented that our infrastructure was built for semi-trucks and is stacked against other forms of transport. He is investigating ways to temper the freight footprint with bikes. Academic, agency, entrepreneurial, and planning interest shows that the pedal is gaining momentum.

James Way, Assoc. AIA, Marketing Manager at Dattner Architects, frequently contributes to e-Oculus and is an avid motor-cyclist.

Event: Power to the Pedals: Wenzday Jane and the Culture of Change
Location: Center for Architecture, 07.08.14
Speakers: Alison Conway, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, City College of New York; Beth Heyde, Senior Events Manager, Bike New York; Stacey Hodge, Director, Office of Freight Mobility, NYC Department of Transportation; Wenzday Jane, Owner, Metro Pedal Power, Boston; Hayes A. Lord, Director, Bicycle Program, NYC Department of Transportation; and Gregg Zuman, Owner, Revolution Rickshaws, NYC
Organizers by: AIANY Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Sponsored by: Bike New York