Ithaca, footloose and car-free
Local celebration of national effort promotes biking, walking
By ANNE JU
ITHACA — Bicycle safety instructor Lois Chaplin said
she was “thrilled” to know there's a core group
of urban dwellers dedicated to promoting biking and walking
in the City of Ithaca.
“I think the key is to make it easier to do the right
thing,” Chaplin said.
To that end, a 14-member group — mostly city officials
and staff — took a long lunchtime break Friday, just
as the clouds broke, for a whirlwind walking tour of downtown
Ithaca. Organized through Ithaca's Curb Your Car Coalition,
the event was one of several planned in celebration of World
Car-Free Day, which was observed Thursday.
Ithaca is among about 1,500 communities holding events with
the goal of encouraging less car-dependent lifestyles. Event
organizer Jennifer Dotson, who also serves on the city's Board
of Public Works, added that the message isn't necessarily
“Curb your car doesn't mean chuck your car,”
Dotson said. A relatively simple change might be to choose
to walk to work one day a week, she said.
“That's 20 percent reduction already,” Dotson
The walking tour, which included Mayor Carolyn Peterson,
several city staff members, and Curb Your Car Coalition members,
was meant to highlight both the desirability of walking or
biking in Ithaca as well as to point out needed improvements.
More bike racks in more prime locations was one heralded
example when the tour group paused at The Commons.
Biking enthusiast BobWolfe Jung II explained the hazard of
the steel grate bridge deck that crosses over Six Mile Creek
on Clinton Street. Later, Public Works Superintendent Bill
Gray stood over a newly installed Americans with Disabilities
Act-compliant curb ramp at Tioga and Court streets, designed
to increase safety for visually impaired pedestrians and create
easier access for wheelchair users.
After starting at Clinton and Cayuga streets and weaving
through The Commons, the tour ended near the corner of University
Avenue and Linn streets. Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee
Chairman David Kay called University Avenue an effective route
up from “the flats” to Cornell University, but
said crumbling pavements and overgrown shrubs should be controlled,
particularly for the sake of uphill bikers.
According to U.S. Census data from 2000, about 41 percent
of City of Ithaca residents choose walking as their transportation
“I want to get people excited about not using their
cars,” Dotson said.
To cap the World Car-Free Day events this weekend, Curb Your
car members and the Cayuga Waterfront Trail Initiative will
provide bike valet parking from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. today
at the Ithaca Farmers' Market.
Originally published September 24, 2005