WOW. What a day. At 6am, the Navy started rolling in through the fog, and the coffee, pastries and fresh fruit were flowing on the grounds of the Great Friends Meeting House right up to the 10am wrap up of our Commuter Breakfast. More than 70 Newporters (and others!) rolled through on their way to work on our first Bike To Work Day. – we’d love to know how many other folks commuted right to work without passing by the greeting spot. Please let us know if you have reports from your workplace. HUGE thanks to Empire Tea and Coffee, Jonathan’s, A-Market, Ocean Breeze and Stop ‘n Shop for the delicious wakeup.
1pm – the count was about 50 people, most on bicycles, showed up for the Press Conference at City Hall. The sun was shining and we were all feeling good as a lineup of engaging speakers shared numerous perspectives on what bicycling means in Newport. B2WD Sponsor AARP’s Deanna Casey reported on what it means to be a Livable Community; Deputy Mayor Justin McLoughlin reported on the City’s commitment to bicycling and the upcoming City Council sponsored Community Forum on Bicycling (Date TBA); State Rep. Peter Martin shared his vision for a bike trail along the Old Colony train track; David Stookey of SavvyFamilies.org shared the vision of bicycling as a primary means of local transportation and an integral part of a sustainable lifestyle; East Bay Met School 9th grader Greg Terzis contributed a vital youth perspective on the awesome freedom and appeal of bicycling; and Richard Durishin of US Open Cycling Foundation gave us the lay of the land on kids, health, fitness and teaching kids bicycling for fitness, fun and transportation.
Then started the big announcements:
1) Superintendent Jack Ambrogi shared the results of a survey answered by 1,518 Newport public school students. We learned that 6% of elementary school kids ride to school and 55% want to; that 28% of kids don’t have a bicycle and 48% don’t have a helmet. And that 55% of our middle school and high school kids don’t follow the rules of the road. We learned that our students want bicycles and want to know maintenance. And that they want more bike racks and locks. Read the stats, the qualitative trends and the Superintendent’s recommendations here.
2) Evan Smith, CEO of Newport and Bristol County Convention and Visitors Bureau, talked about the appeal and promise of Newport as a destination for bicycling tourists AND THEN released the very first Newport Bicycle Map! The map includes RIDOT-designated Suitable and Most Suitable Roads, a close up of the center of town with many one-ways identified, and Rules of the Road in both English and Spanish. The fabulous map will be distributed to common resident and tourist destinations across the city and pdfs are available here.
3a)a In response to a resounding call by students and adult residents alike, BikeNewport.me is spearheading a Newport Bike Rack Project. Students from East Bay Met School, Rogers HS, and Salve Regina University will begin an inventory of bike racks all over the city: where they are, what condition they are in and where they are most needed. Residents are encouraged to help with the effort. Please email us to indicate your interest at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3b) We already have our first FIVE commitments for sponsorship of the Bike Racks shown here. THANKS to the leadership and forward-thinking commitment of Newport’s Historic Hill Neighborhood Association, City Councilor Kate Leonard, Salve Regina University, the Jane Pickens Theater and Newport Fed. We’re looking for FIVE more inspired sponsors to complete this first Ten-Rack initiative. We will then move into the fun process of working with steel-working artists from across our community to help us design more Newport-specific bike racks to accommodate our bicyclists all over the City. Read about the project here.
BUT THERE’S MORE! At 4pm some 60+ cyclists (including the fleet of Newport PediCabs!) met up again at the Great Friends Meeting House to set off on an around-the-city 5-mile Community Bike Ride – and what a sight it was!! The sight of every kind of bicycle and every age of rider was … well … beautiful! The cyclists arrived in waves (the earliest taking the Narragansett Ave shortcut!) at Kings Park where the day culminated in a fabulous Bike Fair where everyone relaxed and unwound to the great tunes of Rogers HS INCREDIBLE musicians – wow – are these kids talented! Everyone enjoyed, danced, ate, explored the vendors, marveled at the Art Helmets, joined the Bike Parade, registered their bikes with our best buddy Officer Cortes of the NPD, and had a great time.
NUMBERS say so much – and May w0, 2011 was a day where a few hundred Newporters came together to show their interest and support for improving and encouraging bicycling in our beautiful City. This day is, of course, a start, a wonderful spark to all that we will accomplish together. One step at a time. As Richard Durishin reminded us at the Press Conference, we can’t wait for the bike paths and the bike routes – the money just isn’t there now. We need to bike now. So let’s make the most of it and pool our talent, our time and our resources to make it the best it can be and to show the importance and value of bicycling so it CAN become part of our City’s budget considerations.
Check back here often, and be sure to register at the top of any page on this blog for updates. East Bay Met School is already on the ball with weekly Wednesday Comunity Bike Rides and student-run Bicycle Tours of Newport.
THANK YOU to EVERYONE who made our first NEWPORT BIKE TO WORK DAY such an incredible success. The list is so long and so amazing and such a great testament to what collaboration accomplishes.
Check back for photos soon 🙂