Each May since 1956, thousands of people across the country have participated in Bike to Work Day, an event that promotes bicycling as a healthy and environmentally friendly alternative to commuting by car. Ithaca’s own event will be held on the morning of May 16, when volunteers will be serving free breakfast and beverages to cyclists at nine different locations throughout the city. Event organizer Ray Weaver says that demonstrating the “bikeability” of Ithaca’s urban core is a major focus this year. “We want to show people how accessible downtown is, even if they don’t work or live there. People can use the bike racks on TCAT buses if they need to go a farther distance or are not comfortable biking the hills.”
For many participants, this event will be a new challenge; for others, it will simply be a way to show support for their favored mode of transportation. Vikki Armstrong, who works at the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County in Center Ithaca, reports “I bike to work 90% of the time. I get fresh air in the morning, sometimes a wave hello from a friend walking by, and no parking tickets. I can’t think of a better way to start my day.” Andrew Baker, who works one floor below Armstrong at the Downtown Visitor Center, also bikes to work nearly every day and exclaims that “Ithaca makes it easy!”
Armstrong and Baker are just two of thousands of people who have helped to make downtown Ithaca a national leader in alternative transportation. CleanTechnica, a resource for clean energy and transport, estimates that 72 percent of our community’s workforce gets to and from work by some means other than a personal car – second only to New York City in a study of over 2,000 urban areas nationwide. What is especially remarkable is that this stellar rating is achieved with a relatively low percentage of commuters regularly opting for public transportation – 10 percent, as compared to New York City’s 54 percent. This suggests that downtown Ithaca is a unique haven for bikers and other “active commuters” who delight in the many economic, environmental, social, and physiological benefits to forgoing cars and buses.
Not content to rest on its laurels, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance seeks to take a lead role in further reducing the need for automotive usage in the center city. Executive Director Gary Ferguson notes, “We are looking ahead to unprecedented growth and development. That will mean more traffic and demand for parking. Biking is one excellent way for individuals and families to save money as well as to assist the community.” Events Manager Patty Clark, who will be helping to run Bike to Work Day, adds, “Together we can make downtown Ithaca even greener and happier!”