Creative ideas encourage bicycle commuting

 
Published6/10/2008 12:03 AM

In early February, I received an interesting e-mail from two students at the Illinois Institute of Design.

Chicagoans Jessica Gatto and Kristy Scovel were developing a graduate project aimed at discovering ways to encourage bicycle commuting and wanted to discuss their thoughts. I met with them a few days later and was blown away by not only the research that they had done, but the creative ideas that they had developed.

 

With preliminary input from the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, Jessie and Kristy came up with three high-level ideas to help encourage bike commuting. Each idea was presented in an in-depth color guide that looked as if it were produced by a multi-million dollar market research firm.

The first was to develop a web site that would form a virtual community of cyclists. Membership on the site would include personal profiles, maps, tips, forums and facilitation to help riders meet up with those having similar daily routes to travel.

A second idea they presented was to develop a network of Bike Stops. Initially these would most likely be located in Chicago and would take advantage of commonly traveled bike routes. Signs similar to those currently used at CTA bus stops would define regular meet-up times for groups to depart that location by bicycle. Riding together makes the cyclists more visible to traffic and having companions makes the ride more enjoyable.

Their third -- and ultimately favorite -- idea was a method to form and support Green Teams within organizations. As the environmental movement continues to spread throughout our country, companies are finding many benefits in supporting earth-friendly endeavors. Promoting bike commuting scores high on many levels and the Green Teams that Jessie and Kristy propose would help employees stay fit, reduce carbon emissions, save money on transportation, and offer a promotional benefit to the companies whose teams are most successful at it.

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The Green Team idea originated with the CBF's existing Bike Commuter Challenge, which is under way this week, but it takes the challenge to a whole new level by extending it from one week to a full year Clean Air Commuter Challenge.

To support participants, there would be a website that would track progress of the individuals and teams, as well as allow co-workers to praise (or razz) their teammates. Implementing this project would involve three phases: promoting team building and community within an organization, increasing support for teams from the organization, and finally "incentivizing" sustainable organizations.

After months of refinement, Jessie and Kristy presented their plan to the CBF on May 9. The audience was very excited with the proposal and is hoping to incorporate some of the ideas into this year's Commuter Challenge, as well as the future. To learn more about the 2008 Commuter Challenge, visit www.biketraffic.org/commute.

Based on the professionalism and creativity of this graduate project, I fully expect that these two young ladies will be making a positive impact on our planet in the years to come. Great job!

Todd Underwood covers cycling in the Chicagoland area. E-mail todd@peppergroup.com or write to him c/o Daily Herald, 385 Airport Road, Suite A, Elgin, IL 60123.

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