Thursday, January 12, 2012

Koula Gets Her Groove On

Bike Jax has been growing steadily over the last 4 years and while that growth has meant more time spent in meetings about bikes and parking bikes than actually blogging about bikes. It has also meant meeting a greater number people that want to get involved with bicycle advocacy. I'm happy to post this intro written by Koula Redmond, Bike Jax's newest board member as Bike Jax is moving to non-profit status.

Koula is a local Potter who is currently setting shop in the new CoRK Arts District and will be a contributing writer here along with Abhishek which most of you already know from here and most recently from here.

How I got Started
By Koula Redmond

When I first got into biking as an adult, I wasn’t even aware that all these different kinds of styles of bicycling existed. I started riding a beach cruiser style bike around the neighborhood, but wasn’t comfortable riding in the road; when my husband wanted to try trail riding, I tried too and quickly realized it wasn’t for me. I loved being on two wheels, but the dirt and tree roots was just not my thing. It wasn’t until I started riding a road bike on a paved trails that I got really comfortable riding a bike as an adult. Finally I found a bike that was comfortable and that fit my tiny frame and I discovered that I actually kind of liked riding a bike. I started riding the Jacksonville/Baldwin Rail Trail more often and I got accustomed to starting and stopping with some semblance of gracefulness, and also learned to hold a line while controlling my speed. At the few intersections with cars, I grew accustomed to interfacing with traffic once and awhile, too. But, riding on a trail and seeing the same scenery started to get to me. Chucking my bike in the back of my car became a hassle. So, I started riding around my neighborhood on my road bike. I explored my neighborhood and the ones surrounding it by not really having a destination in mind; sometimes I consulted a map, and I would stay within reasonable distance of my house, but I loved being able to wander to wherever looked interesting. 

Pretty soon, riding to a destination close to home within the urban core became the norm, but the road bike started becoming less and less practical when I started carrying my heavy laptop in a messenger bag, or when I thought about doing a quick grocery run. At this point, I stumbled upon and started devouring the Copenhagenize and Cycle Chic blogs, and it was all over- I really wanted a dutch-style bike. Step-through frame, basket, fenders, internal hub, generator lights, rear rack-- yes, please!  Most of all, I wanted a bike that would allow me to sit up straight so my neck and wrists would get a break during longer rides. So, I did some research and ordered a Pashley Princess Sovereign sight unseen from the fine bike-loving gents at Nest Living.

        I was in love with this new freedom bicycling afforded me. I would take little trips to the local caf├ęs with my laptop and my knitting project, or make a quick run to the grocery store. It started to make sense to replace my little neighborhood car trips with the bike, and eventually I just got into the habit of parking my car in the driveway for the entire weekend. Every Saturday, my post work-week treat became a nice ride to the Riverside Arts Market. I would go alone usually, and enjoy the early morning fresh air and quiet, leisurely ride. One of the biggest perks of going to RAM was parking at the Bike Valet, where I knew my (new, expensive-for-me) bike was safe. One day, I realized the valet was quite busy, and only one guy was running it. So, I asked Matt if he needed help, showed up a couple weeks later, and have been helping out almost every Saturday since then.

        The more I used cycling as a means to get from point A to point B, the more I started noticing that there were some aspects of bicycling as transportation in Jacksonville that were less than optimal. Like how biking around Jacksonville isn’t so easy if you step a foot outside the urban core. One almost need balls of steel to ride vehicularly in Jacksonville, and must not mind sharing personal space with car traffic. So, I started reading more, and every Saturday I’d ask Matt more questions. Instead of answering me directly, he usually suggested that I read some more or read something different, and those answers were perfect. The more I read, the more I wanted to help with this enigmatic thing called bicycle advocacy. When I started riding a bike more and more, I never expected for bikes to become such a large part of my life. But, that’s where I come from and the rest, they say, is history!


JohnnyK said...

What a wonderful article, thank you Koula. BTW riding outside the "urban core" is not so bad. You just need to be attentive. Some roads are better to ride than others. Honestly it is primarily the other users of the roads that make riding outside the urban core such a pain and sometimes very dangerous. Also note the more lanes a road has the more dangerous it can be. Also I have found that people in Florida seem to think that bicycles are not allowed on roads. I have lived in Florida all my life over 40 years and I have always known that bicycles are allowed on the road as any vehicle would be. Anyway I think more cyclist should venture out beyond the urban core to see the rest of our beautiful city.

JohnnyK said...

Sorry I was having issues with posting my comment. Anyway to finish my thoughts. IMHO the reason the urban core is "more bicycle friendly" is probably due to the number of bicycles you see on the road in the urban core where as you just don't see as many the further away from the urban core you get. Anyway I really encourage cyclists to venture out more just like I said in my previous post. The attitudes of those using the roads will not change until we give them a reason to change. We have the right to use these roads and we should not limit ourselves due to fear. So key things to keep in mind when riding with traffic ride straight and true, be very predictable in your movements, and be visibly obvious. Also remember if they are blowing their horns at you then that means you have their attention.

Anonymous said...

Koula, I adore the romance interlaced within the relationship you have with the bicycle. You are a wonderful advocate, you were the one who inspired me to become one myself, and my world has changed for the better because of it.

Matt and Abhishek, what would we have done without you laying down the foundation for much needed change in this city? I admire you. All three of you.