Volume 81, Number 5 | June 30 - July 6, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Local kids are getting involved with bike planning through the new group Local Spokes.

Local Spokes seeking local folks’ input on bicycling

By Muneeza Iqbal

Chinatown and Lower East Side residents now have an opportunity to make their neighborhoods more bicycle-friendly. Nine local groups with a common interest in mobility and preservation of the environment have combined to form Local Spokes, an organization that allows residents to speak up about ways that they think that biking can be improved in the community. 

The group is currently collecting information from local residents about their transportation trends, and taking their suggestions on how to improve the biking options in the neighborhood. The survey is available in English, Chinese and Spanish on their Web site, www.localspokes.org, and volunteers also hand out surveys at local events.

“Through the community we need to find new opportunities and reduce the barriers to cycling for people of all ages and backgrounds,” said Wendy Brawer, the founding director of Green Maps System, one of the coalition members of Local Spokes. “We are trying to create a conversation that puts upfront diverse points of views.”

“Local Spokes is a really nice model of how local coalitions can promote biking and how biking can benefit neighborhoods,” said Caroline Somponaro, director of bicycle advocacy at Transportation Alternatives. 

The program’s funding comes from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, which is dedicated to preserving the environment, among other noble tasks, in New York City and beyond. The coalition’s nine members had applied for the fund to do individual projects that were more or less similar, and Kaplan brought them together under the one umbrella organization, Local Spokes.

Velo City, one of the member organizations, has already done a project in the Lower East Side and Chinatown. Hence, working in these neighborhoods again is an exciting opportunity for them.

“So far, the people are very engaged and there is so much that they have to say about what they want the future of biking to look like,” said Naomi Doerner, co-founder of Velo City, commenting on the positive and enthusiastic response Local Spokes gotten on its surveys.

Doerner thinks these two neighborhoods have a lot of potential for change. Given the areas’ lack of subways and buses, she noted, the option of safe bicycling would make locals’ lives so much more convenient. She said that all nine members agreed there was a dire need for a transportation change in the neighborhood.

Local Spokes also plans on engaging local youth in the group’s work. Their summer program teaches children about issues in their community and how to disseminate Local Spokes surveys and ideas.

Other Local Spokes coalition members include Asian Americans for Equality, Good Old Lower East Side, Hester Street Collaborative, Recycle-a-Bicycle, Times Up! and Two Bridges Neighborhood Council.

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