Meet Bicycle Friendly America’s Bill Nesper
Next up is Bill Nesper, Director of the Bicycle Friendly America Program.
Hi Bill, this is your ninth Bike Month with the League. How have you seen the event change over the years?
I think the biggest thing has been the growth in the number of communities and businesses that are promoting National Bike Month. There are a lot of creative ways to do it, too. Bike Month offers all sorts of opportunities for communities, states, businesses and universities to promote bicycling, from simply proclaiming May as Bike Month to community rides and offering incentives to cyclists. Everybody can find a way to celebrate.
What are you enjoying about this year’s Bike Month?
I am enjoying seeing social networking become such big tool for organizing and promoting events. Already this month we have seen tons of events popup on our event calendar.
You can follow Bike Month on Twitter with #BikeMonth.
As the director of the Bicycle Friendly America Program, can you give a few examples of cities that really impress you with their Bike Month festivities?
There are so many. A few to bring up are Eugene, OR, Greenville, SC, and Pittsburgh’s CEO Bikepool Challenge. Also, Bicycle Friendly Business Kimberly-Clark, in partnership with the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, has launched a statewide Scott Brand Get Up and Ride Wisconsin Bike Challenge.
Lots of public officials participate in Bike Month events. Any notable examples?
A big Bike Month highlight for me so far was kicking off Bike Month in Minneapolis at the Active Living Bike Expo where I presented Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak with the Gold Bicycle Friendly Community designation. Mayor Rybak is a real champion for bicycling and has made the city a model – in a all-weather environment. One cool thing he has done is compete as a bike commuter in the city’s Commuter Challenge – see the video (warning: It’s long and shaky).
When and why do you ride your bike?
Biking for me has always been primarily about transportation, first as a teen getting the freedom to get out by myself to now getting to work, going to the store and transporting my two year-old to the better playgrounds in other neighborhoods. I have to add that there was a period of childhood recreational riding which was based on making ramps to jump on the street in front of my house.
What’s the longest ride you’ve ever done?
I don’t want to point any fingers but my longest rides are those done in places where bicyclists are not accommodated or worse, driven out of the transportation system by angry drivers, poor planning/engineering, etc. We all know these places.
Happier answer: A century…ehem, metric century that is. Sixty-something miles at El Tour de Tucson a few years back.
What tips do you have for new bike commuters?
If you want to be a bike commuter, make a commuting buddy who is already doing it in your neighborhood or workplace give you the lowdown. Bikeleague.org is great for learning important riding tips and finding a cycling class near you. Also, it is important to be visible but do not worry so much about what you wear. If you like Lycra go for it, if you like riding in a sport coat or dress, or whatever, go for it. Lastly, if you want to commute and your town is really not giving you what you need, show up at council meetings, write letters, find an advocacy group near you to join and use the Bicycle Friendly Community program as a roadmap for improvement.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started to ride frequently?
Most trips that we make are pretty short and easy to do on a bike. Honestly, my nine-mile commutes, which are the biggest trips of my week, take about 35 minutes and I feel great when I get there.
What do you typically wear to ride?
For my work commute, I usually wear shorts and a tee shirt (add a couple layers and wind pants/jacket in the colder months) and change when I get there.
For most other trips I wear what I am going to want to be in when I get there.