Returning to old-school transportation

By Erika DeLeo
Staff Writer

The bicycle: It is a child’s play toy, a twenty-something’s transport, and a retiree’s exercise regimen. Though bicycles make for greener cities, they can be dangerous for inexperienced riders, and the risks are made worse by a lack of infrastructure.

“The Bicycle: Vehicle for Social Change” is a course at Prescott College that aims to make Prescott more accommodating to cycling. How do the people of Prescott view bicycling? Do they want streets safer for bikes? I walked around town in search of answers to these questions.

“People should be more considerate of bikers,” said Glenda Juan, answering my questions as she waits for her wash at a laundromat.

“It’s an uneducated bicycle community,” said Shayne Taylor, a young performance artist, as he stood on a friend’s porch, taking a puff of his cigarette. He meant that many cyclists don’t know the rules of the road.

“Bike shops should have mandatory training,” Vita Marie Phares, a staff member at Prescott College remarked, “because many people don’t know the rules.”

Twenty-two people from Prescott and Prescott Valley were surveyed to find out what their pedaling habits were and what they thought about bicycling. Prescott College student Ryan Burns, who primarily walks but used to bicycle, would like to see more bike lanes in the streets.

Bike shop volunteer Spenser Williams described cycling as “the unadulterated conservation of momentum.” He rides regularly, but also drives. “I realize how easy it would be for a biker to slip my vision. I have a lot of respect for drivers who give plenty of room.”

Adam Rowling, laundromat professional and a resident of Prescott for more than 20 years, has “no problem with law-abiding cyclists, and the majority are.”

“I think it’s overstated how dangerous bicycling is,” said cycling enthusiast and college professor Dave Craig, citing that riding in rural areas is more dangerous than in cities. “In urban areas” he said, “people are more alert to what’s in the road, such as parked cars, pedestrians and cyclists.”

Of the 22 surveyed, half were affiliated with Prescott College, half were not. When asked about their main means of transportation, two said walking, four said biking, and 16 said driving. When questioned about whether the streets need improvement for bicycling, 18 said yes; four said the streets are satisfactory. “Encouraging a feeling of safety on the roads only reenforces the town motto that “Prescott is everyone’s hometown,” said Aaron Wilson, a student.

“We’re only as good as our worst cyclist,” said Caleb Wilcox, a student and bicycling advocate. On achieving safe roads and riders, he offered: “We’ll get there eventually.”

This article appeared in the March 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.

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