Dinner and Bikes crew: Joshua Ploeg, Elly Blue, and Joe Biel. Photo by Gary Kavanagh.
Dinner and Bikes crew: Joshua Ploeg, Elly Blue, and Joe Biel. Photo by Gary Kavanagh. http://garyridesbikes.blogspot.com/

Hungry to learn more about the economic, societal, and health impacts of riding a bicycle? The Dinner & Bikes Traveling Roadshow will provide a seven-course vegan meal on Monday, May 11, while author and filmmaker Joe Biel plays a series of his short films about bicycle activism and culture – a unique and stimulating combination. The short films will be followed with a presentation by author Elly Blue about her book “Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save The Economy,” and teach the audience how to make a case for improved bicycle infrastructure and culture in San Antonio.

This is the fifth, month-long tour for the Dinner & Bikes crew across the nation. Tickets for the dinner, film screening, and presentation at AIA San Antonio‘s office at 1344 S. Flores St, are $25. Click here to buy online. Proceeds from the dinner will go to Earn-A-Bike Coop.

Biel said people have had a hard time moving away from their traditional mental image of a cyclist; a white man over the age of 40 wearing spandex shorts. He said Memphis has increased its ridership by 500% during the last three years by embracing all walks of life and accepting cycling as a way of transportation rather than just a sport.

“By continually focusing on the most fit and the least fearful of bicyclists … you just don’t grow a movement that way,” Biel said. “Expanding the idea of who a bicyclist is has been a very effective way to grow that movement.”

Biel said a man in Mexico City named Peatónito acts as a super hero figure in his community by controlling intersections and hand-painting bike lanes to promote pedestrian safety.

“We’re looking at why this is being better received than the traditional public process policy meetings and feedback from planning meetings,” Biel said. “Those (meetings) have never really delivered the kind of results … to create social change.”

Portland bike activist/journalist and Dinner & Bikes mastermind Elly Blue addresses the crowd at Dinner & Bikes Fort Worth, April 15, 2012. Photo by Kevin Buchanan.
Portland bike activist/journalist and Dinner & Bikes mastermind Elly Blue addresses the crowd at Dinner & Bikes Fort Worth, April 15, 2012. Photo by Kevin Buchanan.

The dinner is presented by both BikeTexas and the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. BikeTexas Membership Coordinator Jack Sanford said one of the biggest challenges he faces in the local community is inspiring neighborhoods to embrace bicycling as an everyday form of transportation.

“This event will provide many great examples from around the world of ways communities have creatively addressed local inertia, resulting in great improvements to quality of life,” Sanford said.

He said corralling people to accept bicycling as a necessary mode of transportation is a challenging feat. San Antonians are used to their autocentric way of life, but if they stepped out of their cars and onto a bike, car crashes and congestion would decrease while safety and overall health would increase.

"Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save The Economy," by Elly Blue. Publisher: Microcosm Publishing (2013)
“Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save The Economy,” by Elly Blue. Publisher: Microcosm Publishing (2013)

“If we could replace just 15% of trips three miles or less in the central city with bike trips, we would see a drastic improvement to traffic congestion – in some cities it has been shown to have as much effect as building a new lane on a highway, for a much lower cost,” Sanford said.

Biel said Blue’s book “Bikenomics” presents a case for bicycling by focusing on its overall economical impact. He said bicycle infrastructure spurs neighborhood development and sales while diverting people from driving cars, decreasing the need for road maintenance.

San Antonio is slowly but surely accommodating those people who already bike on a regular basis, but it hasn’t come so far as to attract more people interested in biking. The City has implemented separated bike lanes on some streets such as Avenue B, Market Street, and South Flores, but consistent infrastructure has not yet been developed.

“We need an entire network across the city of roadways that feel safe for kids and older adults to try biking and walking for everyday trips,” Sanford said.

The Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails System is a labyrinth of hike and bike trails that wind through 47 miles of natural landscapes along San Antonio creeks. The ultimate vision of the trail way is to create a ring around San Antonio which would total more than 130 miles of greenway trails. (Voters will decide whether to continue funding these projects this Saturday during the May 9 City Election. Click here for voting information.)

“What we need to do to make this a viable transportation network is to better connect neighborhoods, job locations, and commercial centers via street and transit networks to these trails,” Sanford said. “We also need to open them up to use after dark, and in many cases widen the trails where they have heavy use by people walking, running, and biking.”

*Featured/top image: Dinner and Bikes crew:  Joshua Ploeg, Elly Blue, and Joe Biel. Photo by Gary Kavanagh

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Former Rivard Report Assistant Editor Joan Vinson is a San Antonio native who graduated from The University of Texas with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She's a yoga fanatic and an adventurer at heart....