High gas prices empower cycling explosion
By Mindy Cooper/ The Portland Observer
Throughout the nation frustrated drivers are pulling into gas stations with fuel prices the highest they have been in almost three years. Gas station signs read $4 a gallon and no one seems to know when or how the prices will go back down to normal.
While many Portlanders are reorganizing their lives, trying to find a solution to the highest gas prices they have seen since 2008, many are realizing that bicycling around town could be just the answer.
The Community Cycling Center, located at 1700 N.E. Alberta St., is determined to help the community have easy access to the benefits of riding bicycles throughout the city.
Founded in 1994, the organization is one of the oldest bicycling non-profits in the United States and has helped thousands of people throughout the Portland area.
The center is celebrating a recent expansion and remodeling of their space, which allows an increase in their ability to connect with even more people and the growing number of bicycle commuters.
Alison Hill Graves, the cycling center’s executive director, said you don’t need to know anything about bikes to feel comfortable in their shop. While a lot of bikes shops target specific kinds of bicycles, their main priority is to cater to the people.
“Everyone deserves to walk into a bike shop and feel welcomed,” she said. “And with the additional space we can actually build more bikes for our programs.”
According to Graves, 40 percent of all car trips within the city are two-miles and under, a relatively short distance that produces the most pollution.
“Those are also the easiest to convert to bike trips,” she said.
The cycling center receives its funds from their small bike shop revenue, as well as individual donors, grants and sponsorships. More than 50 volunteers help with planning, construction, deconstruction, logistics and the artful signage, Graves said.
The extra space expands their volunteer program, including a free workshop every first Tuesday of the month teaching community members how to fix their own bikes.
Mychal Tettah, who has directed operations at the bike shop since 2009, said the expansion will also help increase the opportunity for more classes, including the maintenance class, to run simultaneously, allowing the cycling center to reach more people more frequently.
“We may see a return of the volume of traffic in the bike shop that is similar to what we saw in 2008, which is the last time gas rose to proportions we see now,” said Tettah.
The high cost of running automobiles is obviously making more people consider the benefits of using a bike.
According to the latest Kelley Blue Book Market Intelligence survey, 84 percent of respondents said that fuel costs are influencing their car-buying process, and 90 percent expect gas prices to continue to rise.
“Folks are going to be looking for ways to save money and travel without driving,” said Tetteh. “In the short term you might spend money to get your bike fixed, but over the course of the summer you will save money and be healthy.”
One program that is evolving for the Community Cycling Center is the Understanding Barriers to Bicycling project, which began in 2008 with a needs assessment to building a healthy community. According to both Graves and Tettah, the effort has driven every program they have created since.
The mission was carried out by first investigating the cultural and transportation histories of north and northeast Portland and improving the organization’s own cultural competence, and then by reaching out to meet the needs of the diverse populations within the community.
One such effort between the Hacienda Community Development Corporation, the New Columbia community, and the cycling center worked to reduce the sense of social isolation that immigrants often experience within their new communities, as well as increase a more attainable healthy environment.
Currently, the Community Cycling Center is working with these partners build more places for bike storage, which makes biking more practical for many commuters.
Were focusing our education program and advocacy initiatives with the community out there because the need isn’t just about bicycles,” said Graves. “The need is also for people to come together and work together to build community.”