By Evan Hildreth
Getting from our home to our classes; for many that is half the battle. You could drive to class, but cars are expensive and emit toxic chemicals into our sunny blue skies. The free SPC PSTA bus pass is affordable, but many times the bus’ time is far from your time. Thankfully, living in the city of St.Petersburg, there is another option; it’s that rarely used bicycle in your parent’s garage. It might just be the thing you need to avoid the scornful look from your professor as you sneak into class late.
The city of St. Petersburg is quickly becoming one of the greatest cycling cities in America. Since 2006, the city has been named a ‘bike friendly city’ by The League of American Cyclist, and things are only getting better. Since the year 2003, the city has added 10 miles of paved bicycle trails and is finalizing a path that will connect Walter Fuller Park to an already robust cycling infrastructure. This includes the Pinellas Trail, which connects most SPC campuses. This is backed by a $25 million federal grant to the city of St. Petersburg to improve the pedestrian and cycling infrastructure of the city.
Why the push to make St. Petersburg a friendlier cyclist city? There are many reasons! The mayor of St. Petersburg, Rick Kriseman, and the head of his pedestrian and cycling board, Cheryl Stacks, are both avid cyclist. They see the flat and beautiful landscapes of St.Petersburg as a haven for cyclists and are striving to make it even more so. “We are working hard to make the city liveable,” said Cheryl Stacks.
What does one mean by making a city ‘Liveable?’ Cycling puts less stress on our roads by having lower weight compared to motor vehicles. They produce less carbon emissions as a cycling has none, whereas a cars and buses do by burning gasoline. With a bicycle, the engine is your own two legs, and it burns off excess calories, which many of us are concerned about. Keeping our skies clear and our air fresh should be a priority to everyone. By doing so, one can save a lot of time and money. Instead of putting extra time on the treadmill, you can get to class by having a solid workout. A 160lbs cyclist, pedaling at 15 mph burns 12 calories per minute of cycling. Cycling just 25 minutes a day can shave 300 calories.
Compared to buying a car, bicycles are incredibly affordable. While many people cannot forgo owning a car, the less you drive the more money in your wallet. According to AAA the weekly driving expense is $52.50. A entry level bicycle, like the GMC Denali costs about $200 and can easily pay for itself by reducing fuel purchases. This price can be lowered by buying used bicycles.
But for many, the idea of getting onto a bicycle amidst whizzing cars can be daunting. Or you may be a grown adult and have never tamed the bicycle like the famous Twain essay. Not to fear! There are many programs to get you pedaling. The city of St. Petersburg’s ‘Bicycle and Pedestrian’ webpage has many links to point you in the direction of online resources to assist you in your cycling education and safety. Their maps show the safest routes available for cycling to commute and tell the rules of the two wheeled world interacting with four. The city sponsors ‘Bicycle Rodeos’, which are training courses aimed at students to teach them how to bike safely.
Popular smartphone applications can further assist your cycling pursuits. The prominent Google Maps application has a bicycle mode that prioritizes routes that are cyclist friendly, fully utilizing many bicycle paths in our city. Fitness applications like Strava or Endomondo use your smartphone’s GPS to track your commute, estimating mph and calories burned. If connected to Facebook, you can compare your cycling habits with your friends. Nothing like a little friendly competition to get you going!
For those who are already adequate cyclist but don’t know the difference between a tire iron and a crankshaft, the St. Pete Bicycle Co-Op might be what you need. Located at the 5th Ave. shuffleboard court, it’s a collection of bike mechanics that meet every Thursday evening, teaching all the ins and outs of bicycle repair. With an emphasis on teaching, they will give you the knowhow to be able to fix your flat tire on your own instead of going to an expensive bicycle shop. For a $40 donation, you can pick through the collection of used/donated parts. It is not difficult, either. Johnny, a volunteer, says, ‘We had a 12 year old boy come in every Thursday for a month and learned how to build a bicycle from spare parts to give to his father for his birthday.” You are never too young or old to learn and ride!
Cars are expensive and buses are unreliable, and we all desire to get outside and have some good exercise. Maybe riding a bicycle to your next class could be the correct course to take.