Issue: May/June 2012
Bicycle commuting is gaining traction in Cleveland and the city is helping encourage the effort.
Alex Nosse enjoys the freedom that comes with biking.
Instead of being isolated in a car, he can enjoy his surroundings, be it a park or the city. Nosse’s daily two-wheel commute through the streets of Ohio City is no more than five minutes and beats all the hassles and payments that come with owning a car.
The problem for Nosse and his business partner, Renato Pereira-Castillo, was that they couldn’t find a shop that addressed their needs as commuters. Most shops they visited were not ideal for urban commuting, offering mountain or road bikes. Those shops also lacked accessories like racks, clothing, bags, fenders and lights.
So they took matters into their own hands last summer and opened Joy Machines Bike Shop in Ohio City. The store offers various lines of bikes designed for commuting, including Jamis, Linus, Surly and Redline.
Commuter bikes have fewer speeds for simplicity, provide an upright posture for comfort and are equipped with fenders for extra protection in bad weather and racks to transport items while riding.
“It is obvious to anyone who lives around here that there are more people on their bikes,” Nosse says. “People are trying to commit to a certain kind of lifestyle.”
For many people in Northeast Ohio, that means a lifestyle that’s more health-conscious, local and sustainable. Over the last decade, bike commuting in Cleveland has increased by 280 percent, one of the largest increases in any American city, according to data from the U.S. Census.
“We see people who are interested not only in the gas savings, but also the health benefits,” says Martin Cader, Cleveland’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. “It’s also good for the environment. Anyone who is not driving a car is not polluting the air and helps ease congestion on the roads.”
The city is doing its part to foster bike commuting as well. Partnering with the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, the city opened a downtown bike station in August 2011. The Bike Rack, located at East Fourth and High streets, provides parking, showers, lockers and rentals every weekday from 6:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. for people who bike downtown.
That growing number of riders and increased visibility is good news for Nosse and his West 25th Street shop.
“Bike commuting is definitely growing in this part of the city,” he says. “We’re just trying to play a part in it.
IB: What advice would you give someone looking to switch to bike commuting?
Find a bike that’s appropriate to what you’re trying to do, one that you feel comfortable and safe riding. Start out by just riding in low traffic areas, whether that’s just around the block in your neighborhood or somewhere else, before jumping into rush-hour traffic downtown. Another good way to get used to riding on the road is by riding in groups.
IB: How would you rate Cleveland as a town for bike commuters?
It’s OK, but definitely has a lot of room for improvement. The city needs more infrastructure projects that really make people feel safe riding their bikes. It would definitely make it a lot easier for people to do so. A lot of people feel insecure about biking in the city streets because they are designed for cars and cars alone.
IB: How do you deal with the weather?
Start out by just riding when it’s nice. If you already ride in good weather, that’s a really good start, because a lot of people don’t even do that. Once you’ve achieved that, you can challenge yourself to ride year-round. There are ways to winterize bikes that make it easier to ride one when the weather is bad. It’s also important to have proper apparel in the cold or the rain to stay warm and dry.
IB: What is your favorite street or bike route and why?
Probably the Metroparks. They are pretty easily accessible from most parts of the city and they’re very scenic. There tend to be some hills, so that gives me a little bit of a challenge if I’m trying to get some exercise in. South Chagrin Reservation is the most serene.
This record has been viewed 772