Interview: why Sheena does not bike

I met Sheena last fall and was interested to learn that she is an LGRAB reader but does not ride a bike.  While she was an avid bicyclist as a teen, she transitioned to driving – like most teens – once she got her license.  Now practical considerations (safety, storage, commuting distance) keep her off the bike.

I think Sheena is a great example of the type of person planners and advocates should keep mind: she would like to ride a bike and is attracted to the idea of transportation cycling, at least for short trips, but will only do so if she views it as safe, convenient, and practical.  I am interested in exploring this more, so I asked Sheena if she would answer some questions and she graciously agreed.

First, tell us a little about yourself and your commute.

Hi!  My name is Sheena.  I recently received my MA in advertising and now work as an Interactive Project Manager .  I live in the Western Suburbs, about 10 miles outside of Chicago.  I currently work downtown and I commute via Metra train on most days.

What is your history with bicycling?

Biking was my main mode of transportation when I was a teen.  I grew up a bit further out and lived near quite a few biking trails, so that was a popular activity when I was younger.  We’d compete with one another by racing up steep hills without trying to fall.   We’d also set records for each other to see who could bike the furthest in a day—without getting in trouble for leaving town.

When did you stop bicycling  and why?

Pretty much the moment I got my first car at 16.  I was the first in my group of friends to get a car, but everyone else did soon after.  Biking to the local mall was less attractive when you had a car and we were able to go further distances.  Basically, biking was no longer convenient for us anymore and unfortunately we did not retain biking as a hobby.

What keeps you from bicycling now?

I’d say the lack of being able to use it as a commuting vehicle.  I think that if I lived in the city, it’d be much easier for me to bicycle and get around.  Biking into the city from the suburbs would obviously be difficult.  When I’m not taking the train to work, I mostly drive if I’m around in the suburbs or walk around my own neighborhood.   Couple the lack of opportunities to ride a bike with lack of place to store a bike, and it’s been hard for me to justify buying a bike.

When I do have the inkling to ride, I always look into renting a bike for a daytrip along the lakefront, which makes me nostalgic for my earlier biking days.  It’s still an activity that I enjoy and it brings me to a different place.

What are the top two things the city could do to help make bicycling more viable to you?

1.    I’d say safety.  Yes, I understand the city has come a long way, but I’ve seen more bike riders hit by cars than I’d care to.  I look to blogs (like Let’s Go Ride a Bike) for tips and to learn more about advocacy, but I think the city can do a bit more to ensure safety for bikers.

2.    More advocacy.   This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the safety issue, but this is a huge driving city or public transportation city.  While both of those options are fine, I think the city could do more to encourage the more reluctant population to bike to work by naming incentives and the benefits of doing so.

Earlier you mentioned that lack of bicycle storage is a hurdle for you.  Could you talk about that?

Yes, lack of storage for my bicycle is a huge issue.  I live on the top floor of a smaller apartment with no basement storage.  Since my apartment is smaller inside, there really is very little room for me to place a bike and it’s looked down upon for us to hang anything if I wanted to.  I’d consider a bike to be an important investment, so I’d want to make sure I could store it in a safe place.

How did you come upon Let’s Go Ride a Bike and what do you get from reading it?  

I love reading blogs, especially Chicago-based blogs.  This is pretty much my go-to blog to read about cycling, biking tips and learning about the bicycling community.  While I’ve seen people cycling in regular clothes, I had not previously found any tips that cover the topic like this blog.  Plus, I love the idea of seeing a community of passionate bicyclers who share their stories and view biking as much more than a hobby.

{Thanks so much to Sheena for answering our questions!  I might have to start grilling everyone I know who does not bike.}

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17 thoughts on “Interview: why Sheena does not bike

  1. Great interview!

    This is why I think bike share is so exciting. It lets people incorporate bikes in parts of their journey more easily. You can use public transportation for journey segments that are too long or dangerous to go by bike.

    • Dottie says:

      That’s a great point, Erik!  Bike share would certainly help with the storage issue, plus make it easy to incorporate with a train trip.  

  2. maureen says:

    I agree with Erik, bike sharing is such a great option for people to get around.  Since it started in my area less than two weeks ago,each day I see people using the bikes on the boardwalk, and at the railroad station. TFS!

    • Dottie says:

      That’s great to hear.  I’m so excited for Chicago’s bike share.  It was supposed to start this summer, but unfortunately has been delayed until the spring.

  3. JaxandPuzzle says:

    Something like a Brompton would solve the storage and portability problem. As for safety, I understand and wouldn’t want to commute from the suburbs either.

  4. Julia Ringma says:

    Great interview, good intel to get out there. It is rare that people use the bike as their main mode of transportation and it is a whole different world when you do. And you almost have to have done that, to be able to understand the vicissitudes of cycling every day.

  5. Ash L says:

    Sheena sounds like the perfect candidate for a folding bike. A 25lb Dahon would be affordable and easy to store, she could ride it to the Metra, bring it onto the train in its carrying bag and then ride the last 1/4 mile to work. She could also use it to access her city’s downtown area. Many of the inner suburbs along the Illinois Prairie Path in the Western burbs have nice, walkable downtowns set up on a grid system. The trail could also easily connect her to other near-by towns. 

  6. Sarah W. says:

    Thanks, Sheena!

  7. Sue says:

    Sheena I love your story and your honest concerns. Sometimes cycling is not feasible for everyone, but I hope you get a chance to ride again and more often. And Dottie, I love your photograph of Sheena with the natural light coming in from the window. Very nice photograph.

  8. Veronica says:

    I’m so happy to see this interview with Sheena, as she expresses a lot of the same concerns that I have in my new city. I moved from the rural outskirts of a bike-progressive city to a very small city in the middle of the North Dakota oil boom, and feel like all of my hopes for bike commuting have been dashed – my new city is built on the only two steep hills in all of North Dakota, and the narrow roads are choked with horrible horrible drivers. I read this and other bicycling blogs simply so that I can live vicariously through all the lovely Ladies Who Bike featured.

  9. Veronica says:

    I’m so happy to see this interview with Sheena, as she expresses a lot of the same concerns that I have in my new city. I moved from the rural outskirts of a bike-progressive city to a very small city in the middle of the North Dakota oil boom, and feel like all of my hopes for bike commuting have been dashed – my new city is built on the only two steep hills in all of North Dakota, and the narrow roads are choked with horrible horrible drivers. I read this and other bicycling blogs simply so that I can live vicariously through all the lovely Ladies Who Bike featured.

  10. This is great – thanks Sheena!

  11. Sam says:

    I loved this interview too! I know a lot of folks who live outside city centers and commute to work by train/car or do the reverse commute but find biking to be impractical for similar reasons that Sheena stated. I just wonder how planners/policy makers are going to recognize and address that deficiency that Sheena articulated. To me an easy investment (like others already mentioned) would be a wide reaching bike share program that extends outward. I believe D.C’s bike share program is now moving into some of the suburban areas because it has been so popular in the city. But until the policy leaders actually work up the gumption to actually make the bicycle a feasible mode of transport for all residents, I’m not sure how this problem will be fixed.

  12. […] this link: Interview: why Sheena does not bike « Let's Go Ride a Bike – life on … This entry was posted in Blog Search and tagged advocates, bike, cycling, great, mind, person, […]

  13. ladyfleur says:

    When I lived in a studio apartment I wanted a bike, but didn’t have anywhere to store it.  There was car parking and even a little storage locker, but nothing safe for bikes. So I waited until I moved into a place with a garage.  The bike was one of my first (and favorite) purchases.  Not having storage space is definitely a reason people don’t buy bikes.

  14. Hyedie says:

    What a great interview!!

    Sharing Sheena’s point of view with us cyclists is so important. She isn’t alone, though, within my group of friends so many people are hesitant to ride a bicycle in the city because of a lack of infrastructure.  Most people find cycling to be a dangerous activity.
    So thank you!!

  15. TrekRiderMark says:

    Storage problem?  Simple, look up Dahon or Brompton folding bicycles.  I know REI has a couple of folding bicycles that are reasonably priced.  They take up little space, are simple to get out of sight and would easily serve as a reliable mode of transportation!   I know, I know, they are not the best looking bikes around, but they work.

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