Friday, March 28, 2008

Bike Jax Commuter Profile #1

Bike Jax is starting a new feature to spotlight those of us that choose to commute to work by bike and those that chose to live car free. If you are one of those fine folks or know of someone that is. Please drop us an email with contact info.

Our first is the very lovely Jennifer McChren. She is a staple sight on her red vintage Schwinn in and around the urban core. Between her job at RADO (Riverside Area Development Organization) and her other commuinty projects such as The Community Garden. Chances are good you'll catch her spinning through just about any part of Riverside, Downtown and Springfield.

What do you use your bike for?

I live in Riverside and work in Riverside, and work on a community garden in Springfield. Very little of my life takes place outside Jacksonville’s urban core, so I use my bike for almost everything.

How often do you ride?

Every day. It’s rare, at this point, that I go a day without using my bike.

How long have you been commuting by bicycle?

I started biking to work in Manhattan when I lived in Brooklyn. It was fun to go over the Brooklyn Bridge everyday, but New York is so dense it was also stressful. Cars, pedestrians, other cyclists…especially the pedestrians on the Bridge pathway. Tourists. When I moved back to Jacksonville I wasn’t working for a while, but once I decided to stay I looked for (well, prayed for) a job I could commute to by foot or bike. In September I got the Americorps-funded job at RADO that I have currently. It’s a dream. I barely need to bike it’s so close to my home.

What would you say to convince someone who is considering commuting by bicycle to go for it?

You get to know your environment if you actually get out into it, and move at a more human pace through it. You’ll notice so much more, and become more connected to everything around you. It’s good exercise (well, not if your commute is as short as mine), and it’s a lot of fun. Gas prices help. But mostly I love the way it feels to ride a bike. It’s just your body and a very efficient machine. It’s beautiful.

What could the City do to make biking better?

Educate motorists about bicycle laws…you know what, forget that. The city needs to stick up, in a big way, for this transit mode. It’s the government’s job to make life more just for minorities, and this counts. We need more aggressive marking of bike lanes, we need MORE bike lanes. More bike racks. Bike racks need to be mandatory in new developments, they should be part of the DOT regs. Bicycle laws need to be part of driver education courses…they could do lots of things.

What reaction do you get from co-workers?

I think they’d bike to work if they lived a bit closer. We’re thinking of including a pair of bikes with each of our Green Street homes. The RADO crew is very bike friendly.

What’s the best thing about commuting by bicycle?

Increased understanding of my neighborhood, and a very unique view of the built environment.

Can you give a brief description of your route?

I typically bike up Herschel to Barrs, up to College and over to Stockton.

When I head from home to the Springfield Community Garden I usually go straight up Oak to Margaret to Park, and over the Lee Street overpass into downtown. Then I head up Broad Street to First, and over to Main. On the way back home, when I have more time, I ALWAYS take the riverwalk. It’s gorgeous.

Where are your favorite places to bike in Jacksonville? Least favorite?

Riverwalk. Southbank at night. Least favorite would be any sprawled out place with cars going too fast…most of the city I guess.

What do you like about biking in Jacksonville? And dislike?

I love biking around downtown. It feels like a city, but it’s so much emptier than New York. I think that’s usually seen as a bad thing, but I really like it for some reason. I like how the bike culture here is expanding and organizing. The motorists really need some work though.

Have you ever combined transit and biking or used a bus bike rack?

Yes. I actually photographed a wedding by taking my busted beach cruiser on the bus out to the beach. It was awesome. I would do it more, but I don’t have time. That’s usually the one thing that makes me use my car these days. Either I’m running short on time or I need to carry stuff to the garden.

What’s your favorite piece of cycling clothing?

I don’t wear anything special. I like my Crumpler messenger bag but it’s a bit too big.

Any bike gadget/gear cyclists should not go out without?

I believe a burro bag is becoming an essential accessory for any Jacksonville cyclist. I can’t wait to get one myself.

Are you a member of any cycling organizations/clubs? If so, which ones?


Favorite bike stories?

None come to mind.

Scary bike stories?

Whiskey and cycling do NOT mix. Just ask the pavement on the corner of Park and Forest, I think it still has a chunk of my left knee.

In Brooklyn I once mis-read a traffic situation and ended up swerving to miss a huge delivery truck. I turned and braked when I saw it, and ended up parallel to the yellow line (wheels on the line), looking up at this Hispanic driver who was obviously in shock and REALLY glad he didn’t hit me. I scrambled to get back on my way, thinking to myself, “It wasn’t that close. I didn’t just almost die. I thought quickly and did the exactly right thing…” Then an older cyclist passed me on the right and as he did turned to me and said, “Did you see your childhood?” That’s when I realized how close it was.

Anything else?

I’ve seen an uptick in cyclists the past month. Hooray for gas prices!

No comments: