Advocates for alternative transportation are hoping car-addicted Quad-Citians will try new ways of getting around for a week beginning Saturday.
The Quad-Cities Transportation Advocacy Group, or QC TAG, will promote healthier, more environmentally friendly alternatives. It’s the third year for the push, which began as Bike to Work Week in 2006.
“We decided to change it to Alternative Transportation Week because we want to promote a more balanced approach,” said Jeff Cornelius, spokesman for QC TAG. “Some people may not be able to bike. Maybe they can’t for health reasons, or have too far to go, and mass transit may be a better solution for them.”
Activities are planned each day of the week through Friday. People are encouraged to bike to work, school or worship and to ride the bus.
Chuck Oestrich, a Rock Island bicycling enthusiast, said he seldom users either of his two cars anymore. In fact, he went to start one of the vehicles the other day and it didn’t turn over because it hadn’t been driven in so long.
“I try to do all my errands on a bike — go to the library, the dentist, everywhere,” he said. “It’s a fun way to get around the community.”
Oestrich said observances such as Alternative Transportation Week really do help increase awareness about different ways of getting around. “Just this morning, I was at the Rock Island Library and out of the blue a gal checking in my book said she would be riding to work next week. She had picked up on this.”
In fact, it does appear the Quad-Cities is embracing the concept of “Think Outside the Car,” QC TAG’s motto.
Becky Passman, transit project manager for Bi-State Regional Commission, pointed to several examples of an increased acceptance of non-car modes of transportation. Ridership on all area transit systems are up, she said.
“It has been a steady increase and that’s a year after the gas prices have begun to fall back down again,’’ she said. “When the prices were sky high, people that normally didn’t use transit gave it a try, and it must have worked out because a lot of people are sticking with it.”
The commission’s Transportation Policy Committee, a group of elected officials from the Quad-Cities, has adopted the “complete streets” concept. That means local cities have shown an interest in making roads friendlier for cyclists and pedestrians by adding bike lanes, signage, crosswalks, bus shelters and the like.
She said Davenport’s CitiBus is working with Palmer College of Chiropractic and St. Ambrose University to develop free rides for faculty, students and staff, much like an arrangement Augustana College has with Metro on the Illinois side of the river.
St. Ambrose also has applied for a grant to provide 15 bicycles to college students who pledge to leave their cars at home, another program modeled after a similar one at Augustana.
More people are getting around with a combination “bike and bus” strategy, Passman said. All area buses are equipped with bicycle racks, making it easy for riders to bike to a bus stop, jump on a bus, go to their next destination and bike some more.
Although Davenport does not keep statistics on the number of bikes it puts on its buses, Bettendorf Transit Manager Matt Simaytis said that city has more than doubled the number of bikes it puts on its buses in the last three years, from 1,258 to 3,200.
On Wednesday, a “Ride of Silence” will be held to honor cyclists injured or killed on the roadways. According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, there were 454 injuries statewide in 2008 that resulted from bicycle-car collisions, as well as five fatalities. Area cities are continuing to expand their bike trail systems to reduce bicycle traffic on roadways.
Oestrich said he thinks motorists and cyclists have become more respectful of one another through the years, but there still is work to do.
“There still are a minority out there who think they’re in childhood — the ones who ride on the wrong side of the road, weave in and out of traffic, go through stoplights and things like that,’’ he said. “Accidents happen to people like that, whether they’re in a motorized vehicle or on two wheels.”
Cornelius said cities that encourage alternative modes of transportation and make them easy to use tend to prosper.
“If you look around the country at the most vibrant cities — those that are growing, seeing increased real estate values and attracting young people and new businesses — they’re all looking toward older types of urban development, such as strong city centers, walk-ability, bike-ability and strong mass transit systems,’’ he said.
Bettendorf Alderman Dean Mayne, 1st Ward, a proponent of mass transit and bike trails, said everyone needs to chip in to encourage new ways of getting around.
“Many hands make light work,’’ he said. “If we all do a small part, we can make a big difference to help our community adapt and flourish during these historically challenging times.”