Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pleasant Surprises at UC Irvine

More and more often I find that people I might have dismissed as uninterested in bicycling and transit lifestyles are actually intrigued to hear about my work.
Last night I met the other participants in a community-based research workshop I'm enrolled in, and after listening to all their project descriptions I felt a bit defensive about my project with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC). Most projects involved social justice activism for the poor in OC and LA, and I wondered what my colleagues would think of my work in bicycle activism. After all, bicycling does get associated with the bourgeois classes in some cases; for instance there was a long discussion on this spring where many bicyclists responded to dismissal of their activity as privileged and out of reach to the poor (tried to link to it, but it didn't work).
Of course, the whole reason I am focusing on sustainable transportation is that I firmly believe that our mobility (or lack thereof) plays a huge role in our lives, affecting every other area. It is a concern for social justice that drives me to advocate for better streets for pedestrians and bicyclists. But I know that this doesn't hit the same empathy chords that working with homeless mothers does.
Here's the first pleasant surprise: several people in the room were bicyclists, and everyone seemed interested in my project.
Further surprises: Today I visited the Parking and Transportation office at UC Irvine, intending to find out why there aren't bike route signs between the Irvine train station and the campus, why there isn't a shuttle to that train station, etc. Guess what, they've got four (!) employees working on alternative transportation. I spoke with one guy for a while about the obvious commitment Irvine has to bicycling, even if there are still gaps in making the city an easy ride for commuters versus recreational cyclists. Then we swapped specs on folding bikes, as he's considering getting a Citizen for super cheap, like a third of the price I paid for the Loose Goose (which is a Dahon Speed). UCI also has a bicycle advisory group. And there's an OC bicycle coalition. As for the Irvine train station, they do not have a shuttle in place but there are two zero emission vehicles parked there for use by the university. They were put in place by some experimental lab here. It sounds like they don't have the logistics for these vehicles figured out, like who would get to use them, but I'm impressed anyway. Looks like it's leads city for this little investigator!
Last surprise: Strida folding bikes are much cheaper in Korea. I saw one in the, er, flesh today in the UCI bookstore, and its owner told me he paid about $400 for it in Korea. Here there over $800. He is quite happy with his orange triangle.