Pro-VC versus Pro-Infrastructure

Recently, while reading a post from the Lovely Bicycle! blog, I came across the terms Pro-VC and Pro-Infrastructure. These terms were intriguing to me since I had been thinking about the different views on city cycling and now had an easy way to label them. In case you’re unfamiliar with these terms, Pro-VC (vehicular cycling) was coined by John Forester and describes an integrated approach to cycling where cyclists share the road with cars and follow the same traffic rules. Pro-Infrastructure describes the practice of building cycling infrastructure like bike lanes and protected paths with the goal of keeping cyclists and cars separate.

With Indy committing substantial resources to build the cycling infrastructure, including a Bikeways plan to create more than 200 miles of bike lanes in the next 12 years, it would seem that the City supports a Pro-Infrastructure approach. This isn’t surprising considering that this seems to be the preferred method across the United States, while many European cities adopt the Pro-VC approach.

While I understand the benefits of both, I lean towards a Pro-Infrastructure view. As a commuter with a fitness bike (that lacks the speed of a typical road bike), I like the safety that the bike lanes and paths like the Monon, the Central Canal Towpath, and the Cultural Trail offer. I’ll admit that I even get a little annoyed when I see cyclists on roads like Mass Ave. while the Cultural Trail is wide-open…though it’s possible that my annoyance is really just jealousy that I can’t comfortably ride on the road with cars yet. Either way, some part of me wonders if the City will continue to put resources into bike lanes and paths when people choose to use the roads instead.

On the other hand, a Pro-VC approach would likely create a change in culture. If cars were forced to share the road with cyclists, one would assume that it would increase awareness and create a safer space for everyone. I think it would take years, maybe even decades, for our commuting culture to make this pro-cycling shift. For now, I think I’ll stick to the bike lanes and let the road bikers choose their own path.

What’s your view? Do you think we should continue to build the cycling infrastructure or move to a public awareness approach supported by Pro-VCers?

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A Cycle-Friendly Indy

I’ll be out-of-town for the next three days on a work trip. Though this trip will be fairly active, I won’t be bringing my bike with me (which is very unfortunate!) On the bright side, I was able to spend part of this beautiful day exploring the city before I have to leave tomorrow. My sister, who lives in Bloomington and enjoys cycling as much as I do, was in town and wanted to take a tour of the city. This post will take you on our 20-mile loop around this cycle-friendly city using (almost) only bike paths.

The Route:

  1. Central Canal Towpath
  2. White River Trail
  3. Cultural Trail
  4. Monon Trail

We started our ride in Broad Ripple Park. With the addition of bike lanes on 62nd/Broad Ripple Avenue late last year, riders can now safely make their way to the Central Canal Towpath (though we took a quick detour to The Bike Line to fill our tires.)

1. The Central Canal Towpath

The Towpath is the perfect way to take in the natural world. Every time I ride it, I almost forget that I’m in the middle of the city. On our ride today, we saw dozens of ducklings and goslings (beware: the geese get rather annoyed if you are crossing the path while their little ones are present.) This path takes you past the Butler campus and the Indianapolis Museum of Art and meets up with the White River Path around 30th (just follow the signs.)


2. White River Path

From the Towpath, we connected to the White River Path. This is another scenic ride with views of the White River (including the dam pictured below) which takes you right into the heart of downtown Indy near the NCAA Hall of Champions, Indiana State Museum, and Eiteljorg. We made a quick stop at the Growing Places Indy Slow Food Garden which was a definite highlight.


3. Indianapolis Cultural Trail 

To get through the city safely, we stuck to the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. If you’ve never spent time walking/running/biking/skating on the Cultural Trail, then you’re missing out. If you have the time (which we didn’t today), I would highly recommend stopping by the City Market for lunch. We headed northeast on the Cultural Trail, and eventually reached the Monon Trail (at 10th.)

4. Monon Trail

We finished our ride this morning on the Monon. This 10-mile trail goes all the way from 10th to 465 (and keeps going after that on alternate routes.) It’s paved and well-marked, making it an ideal path for commuting in Indy.

We arrived back at Broad Ripple Park about 2 hours after we started our journey feeling refreshed and a little sunburned (I guess I got a little too excited about the ride and took off without applying sunscreen…)

What’s your favorite bike path in Indy?

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BikePort Tip

Tip from a reader about the Indy BikePort in reference to my post:

Hey, good tips on the BikePort!  I’m also a cubicle-bound Downtown worker who periodically likes to use the Monon and  7.2FX to get to work.  And I use that particular BikePort you posted a photo of.  But in addition to calling before you leave home, I’d also recommend making sure you program the troubleshooting number into your cellphone.  A couple times I’ve been caught with the key pad not working, or the automated phone system failing, and they’ve helped fix it so I can get my bike back!

Commuting Tips for Women

Many potential commuters I’ve talked to have the same type of responses for the reasons they don’t bike to work: “I don’t have showers at my work,” or “I don’t want to smell.”

I’m here to tell you that you can be a commuter without offending the people around you. In my workplace, business casual is required, and as a person in a position of leadership, professionalism and hygiene are very important to me. This post will provide some tips on how to commute while maintaining a professional appearance.

1. Carrying Your Supplies: There are two primary options here, a backpack or pannier bag. A lightweight backpack is a good option for people that don’t have a cargo rack or those concerned with speed (it’s my personal opinion that panniers slow me down.) Pannier bags are good for people that don’t want to get a sweaty back (it’s inevitable even on cool days) and are concerned with comfort. Though many have weighed in on this debate, it comes down to personal preference. I have used both, but I typically commute with a backpack.  

2. Clothes: If your commute is quite long (in my case, 8 miles) then you probably want to wear bike-friendly clothes (bike shorts are a must for me) on the ride and change when you arrive to work. There are a number of ways to approach this dilemma.

  • Bring your clothes with you. I bring wrinkle-resistant clothes (usually made of polyester, acrylic, and nylon) on my ride.
  • Keep outfits at work. This is a nice option for people that have an office and can secure their belongings. I work in a cubicle, so it’s a little less convenient for me. This is also a good option if you don’t want to be limited on the type of clothes you can bring.  
  • Use a commuter-friendly facility, like Indy Bike Hub. This facility has showers, bike lockers, and a service facility – which is great, but not the best option for those on a budget ($10/day for access to all amenities, monthly rates based on income.) Though this may be cheaper than owning and maintaining a car.

3. Freshening Up: Assuming that you don’t have a shower facility at work (since most do not), you’re going to need a way to freshen up when you arrive. I’ve found that baby wipes or makeup remover cloths are ideal. You can purchase these in packs of 25 or 50, and throw it in your backpack/pannier. Typically, I only need one cloth to freshen up for the day. Quick tip: it’s recommended that you do not flush these as they are not good for the plumbing. Another option is to bring a soapy washcloth in a plastic bag. The earth (and your pocketbook) will thank you if you dry out and reuse the plastic bag each day. Also, don’t forget the deodorant (just keep a travel-size bar in your bag.)  

4. Makeup: My husband tells me all the time that I don’t need makeup. While I really appreciate the compliment, I also just can’t go without it. The few times I have, I get those wonderful questions that every woman loves to hear: “Are you feeling okay?” or “Are you tired today?” On the days I commute, I bring along my makeup bag and apply it when I arrive at work. I wouldn’t recommend applying makeup before you leave the house, especially as the temperature begins to rise. 

5. Hair: Safety is #1, so a bike helmet is a must, and hair is one area where women commuters have to sacrifice a little. No, your hair will not look as good as it does when you don’t ride, but there are ways to cope. I have naturally curly hair, which has to be tamed whether I’m riding or not. Regardless of whether I wear my hair straight or curly, I always keep a frizz-taming product in my makeup bag to deal with the inevitable flyaways that only get worse on humid days. If your hair is long, a ponytail or quick updo is the best way to go. For people with short hair, a sculpting product can be a lifesaver. For more commuter hair-taming tips, visit this Bicycle Network page.

Also, I typically carry a clutch (my fav is my People for Urban Progress clutch) instead of a purse, making it easier to transport essentials like my phone, credit cards, and cash. On commuting days, I just throw my clutch in my backpack. It’s also a good idea to keep a bike lock, gloves, and water-resistant jacket (for those pop-up rainstorms) in your commuting bag. Once I finally learn how to change a tire, I’ll be carrying a tire change kit as well.

This may seem like a lot to consider, but like any routine, it just takes some time and practice to become an efficient, hygienic commuter.

If you have topics you’d like me to cover or questions you’d like to have answered, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Just Ask or leave a comment! 

Do you have any commuting tips that I didn’t mention?


2 Wheels, 1 City – FREE Pro-Bicycling Event Sponsored by IndyCog:

Time: Saturday, May 5, 2012 @3pm to 6pm

Where: West Wing of the Indianapolis City Market, 222 E. Market St.

What: Free Admission, Secure Bike Parking, Food, Vendors, Sun King Beer, Kids games and More. More info on the website. See you there!