University of Michigan campus. Abandoned bikes being tagged for removal. [photo]
The sales consultant was keen to point out that Suburban Chevrolet was the first area dealership to have a vehicle available for test drives. But test-driving a car is pretty remote from The Chronicle’s mission, and even more remote from my personal transportation choice.
I share a membership in Zipcar with my wife, but don’t even remember the last time I’ve sat behind the wheel of a car myself. Zipcar, a car-sharing service, is like an insurance policy – a backup plan I never use. I get around by bicycle.
Still, in the Chevy Volt, I spotted a chance to write about a major public works construction project in downtown Ann Arbor – the Fifth Avenue underground parking structure, which will feature around 640 parking spaces on a lot that previously offered 192 spots.
Twenty-two of those new spots will be equipped with electric car charging stations. Dave Konkle, former energy coordinator for the city of Ann Arbor who now consults for the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority on its energy projects, identified the federal grant that’s helping to pay for the stations. The grant is worth $264,100 and will also pay for photovoltaic panels that will provide the energy for two of the spots – it was obtained through the Clean Energy Coalition’s Clean Cities Program.
That public project is closely tied to the assumption that visitors to downtown Ann Arbor will continue to make a personal choice for private transportation in the form of an automobile, and that some of those people will choose electric cars like the Volt.
The idea I want to think about in this column is that public choices depend on the sum of many private, independent choices made by actual people. It’s an idea that was driven home to me at a public transportation forum hosted earlier this week by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority at SPARK East in Ypsilanti.
At that forum, Bob Van Bemmelen – recent Republican candidate for the Washtenaw County board of commissioners – had this advice for the AATA as it pitches to the public the idea of countywide public transit: You have to make it personal, he said.
So I’ll begin by telling you a little bit more about the Suburban Chevrolet sales guy who gave me a ride in the Chevy Volt – who is as much a car guy as I am a bicycle guy: Nic Allebrodt.
Do you like your bicycling excitement measured out in 20-second doses? On Monday night, The Blind Pig on First Street played host to 500-meter bicycle races – sprinted out on stationary rollers lined up across the stage. Winners of the two divisions (men’s and women’s) took home $50 gift certificates from Ann Arbor Cyclery.
The event attracted around 50 participants, among them Jon Royal, who pedaled to The Pig from South Lyon just to take part. As a trailing spouse, he moved there recently from Milwaukee, where he was a bicycle messenger.
On Monday, Royal was looking forward to paying the entry fee of $1 for folks in his line of work – which was a discount from the $5 charged to non-messengers. He was prepared to show race organizers his tag book (the notebook where he kept a record of his calls for pickups and deliveries) in the event there was any question.
Bright fuchsia cards printed with the Ann Arbor Police Department seal have been threaded through the spokes of the wheels on nine bicycles locked to the hoops at the 4th & Washington parking structure. The cards weren’t placed there as decoration, but as a warning: these bicycles face possible impoundment starting Feb. 5.
What’s the problem with people locking their bikes to the hoops provided for exactly that purpose? As the notices say, “Your bicycle may be impounded as provided by city ordinance when it has remained unattended on public property for a period of more than 48 hours after a written notice has been affixed to the bicycle.” The notices reflected that they were written on Feb. 3 and indicated a possible impoundment date of Feb. 5.
On Sunday afternoon, eight 3-person teams from Traverse City, Ionia, East Lansing, and Ann Arbor descended on the “Thunderdome,” to compete for top honors in a double-elimination bicycle polo tournament. The Thunderdome is a parking structure near downtown Ann Arbor, which generally sits empty on Sundays. And on this last Sunday, it was empty and cold. The Chronicle could not disagree with the assessment of one polo player: “It’s like a meat locker in here!”
Adam Say, who works as a mechanic at Ann Arbor Cyclery on Packard Street, expressed some confidence before play started that his team would prevail – there was a spot on a shelf at the bike shop with a label on it to hold the trophy. But at the end of the day, the trophy – constructed from spoke protectors, wheel hubs, and a dog bowl – went back to Dan’s Bike Shop in Ionia, Michigan, with the team who finished the tournament undefeated: Seth Higbee, Gary Ferguson, and Tim Heyboer.
Sunday morning dawned wet and rainy here in Ann Arbor – less than ideal conditions for a series of downtown bicycle races on a course that already featured rough pavement, six 90-degree turns, and two railroad track crossings. Just an hour before the first race was scheduled at 10 a.m., rain was still falling on the already-barricaded streets. At the 1st and Liberty street closure, one driver who was stopped by the orange and white barriers sought directions to the nearest place to park to get to Sweetwaters.
Along Main Street, race workers were unfurling red netting across metal barriers. In addition to providing space to print advertising, the netting served the practical function of …
Most people ride their bikes for fun, if at all. For Gary Hochgraf, it’s not just fun (though it’s more pleasant than driving), not just part of his job (though it’s an integral part now), but part of a broader connection to the world around him.
When the Ann Arbor News reported a bicycle-car collision on 25 June 2008 at the intersection of Packard and Wells, it generated considerable online chatter in the WBWC newsgroup. Exact details, especially concerning the outcome of the investigation, were not immediately available. Kris Talley, president of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition, wrote in a related thread, “I’m especially interested in finding out if the driver who right-hooked the Packard cyclist was ever charged.”