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BikePooling

April 28, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Bicycle Maps, Traffic

Bikepooling is the practice of riding your bike in the company of at least one other cyclist. It is similar to carpooling, but usually each cyclist has their own bike.

Some of the advantages to bikepooling are different than the advantages of carpooling, but they both share at least one very important aspect: the company of others.

How does a bikepool even get started? Here’s an example from RocBike.com:

A few weeks ago, we were working together on a gender awareness workshop for Beyond the Binary. We both mentioned that we commute to work by bike, and realized that we live in the same neighborhood and work in the same direction. We also, unfortunately, had both faced motorist aggression on roads designed with cars, trucks, and buses in mind instead of bicycles. And so began our experiment in bikepooling — we meet up just about every morning for 25 minutes of commuting, conversation, and adventure.

Our experience has been fantastic. This morning we ate a small breakfast together in the convenience store parking lot where we meet. We said “Hi” to people as they walked by, and shared a smug conversation about automobile repair costs. We headed out on our bikes, riding side by side down a double lane road, while the conversation continued. A couple cars honked at us at an intersection without a shoulder, but shortly after that we were turning off the busy street onto a side street and through the Public Market. From then on, it was mostly easy riding, through the north side of downtown.

I like the “smug conversation” part.  :)

Why is this bikepooling thing even necessary? In that same post, the good folks from RocBike have given as good a definition as I’ve seen yet:

Carpooling attempts to mitigate the problems inherent with using automobiles—fuel costs, environmental impact, traffic congestion, and parking space; to name a few. Commuting by bike eliminates these problems altogether instead of merely reducing them, so at first glance bikepooling may seem unnecessary. But bikepooling shares carpooling’s benefit of social interaction and brings a whole other set of benefits to the table—increased visibility on the road, improved respect from other road users, and cooperative adventuring. If driving a car is a passive, rote task; and riding a bike is about actually living your life; then bikepooling is a way to share the daily adventure of bike commuting with someone, to learn how to be safe and fun together, to try new routes and get into the groove of familiar ones, to laugh and play together while being ambassadors for a safer, cleaner, happier city.

The previous post on Bicycle Highways made me think, “Huh. I wonder if it’d get lonely out there on those massive bike highways?” I figured, “Nah,” or, “I could deal with it,” or, “Sounds like a great problem to have!” But I also remembered the loneliness of my first couple of days on my bike trip from San Rafael to San Diego. (Zowie…700+ miles by the time I finished!) When I started out, everything was cool, but then the weather got rainy and cold, and I was tired (I never did more than 30 miles in one go) and lonely and very sunburned and I could hardly stand up straight because of a luggage-carrying back strain/thing I got just days earlier (which actually delayed my start date by three or four days). In short, I was in a bad way. And then my cell phone service went out (Big Sur has pluses and minuses). I thought I was gonna quit the trip.

And then I met up with another southbound cyclist, and it was really cool and fun from there on out. He was definitely a strange cat-he would say everything twice-he would say everything twice-but I’m a bit strange myself, so it all worked out.  :)   Anyone who’s been part of a cycling or running group knows that the camaraderie of other folks, and the expectation and hope that you’ll get to see other folks after you get out the door, is one of the prime motivating factors that allows you to get out of bed on those cold, dark winter days. Alone time can be great, but so can the community aspect of doing things together, even just commuting.

Here’s a special bikepool that happened in Long Beach yesterday. Going to the farmers market. Man, I could go for some fresh veggies right about now.

The BikePortland folks have an entire forum dedicated to bikepooling, and the sticky post at the top titled “Welcome to Carpooling” says this:

This forum is meant for people to connect, create and get advice on setting up bikepools in their neighborhoods.

Bikepooling is like carpooling. Portland cyclist Elly Blue started one up in her Southeast neighborhood. I wrote about it on BikePortland.org and someone suggested a forum where people could connect.

So here it is. But first, here are a few things to consider when posting your bikepool (suggested by Elly Blue):

A) Your bikepool announcement should include the following information:
-Starting point
-Starting time (specify a meeting time and/or departure time)
-General route (eg, over a particular bridge)
-Other important data, eg fast or slow, beginners welcome, etc.

B) Don’t ask if anyone’s interested in a certain route/time — just invite people. You have to go to work anyway, so if it’s a weird route and nobody shows up for the first week or two, well, what do you have to lose?

__________________
Jonathan Maus
BikePortland.org

And then there is the BikePooling.com website designed to help people organize their bikepools. It doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot of traffic yet, but maybe we can help change that, no? And, they’ve only just gone live, so I’m sure things will be picking up, now. Like every good website, BikePooling.com has an RSS feed to help us easily keep track of what’s going on. Good work, y’all! It appears to be a bit buggy, but hopefully that will get worked out soon enough.

Semi-side note: The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the Bike the Bridge Coalition, and the Bay Area Bike Coalition and others are all working on getting a bicycle route that spans then entire length of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (total length: 8.4 miles or 14km). This is not the famous Golden Gate Bridge, which already has bike/pedestrian access; this is the other Bay Area bridge. But the Bay Bridge is awesome. And being able to bike over it would be awesomer.  :)   If you were to bike it on a regular basis, you might want some company, so this is definitely a BikePooling-type bridge. It’s a worthwhile effort, so if you have some time, read through their websites and see how you might be able to help. San Francisco is a huge tourism town, of course, so even folks who don’t live there could have an influence by doing things like contacting the chamber of commerce and telling them you support such a plan.

I don’t have a regular commute in Austin yet, but I will be very interested to know about folks who are already bikepooling and anyone who decides to try it out, wherever they live.

One of the earliest groups (if not the earliest) talking about bikepooling was Bike Pittsburgh. Here is an article in the local newspaper about their efforts from two years ago.