I want to ride my bicycle
The Hot August Bike Ride hopes to raise community awareness about bicycles and their place on the roads
There is strength in numbers.
That’s bottom line for Hans Frischeisen, co-owner with his wife of Everlasting Health, which has been in operation since 1990. He’s acting as media pointman for the Reno Bike Project’s group ride scheduled for Aug. 8 at 6 p.m. The group ride, prosaically enough, is called the Hot August Bike Ride, and while organizers don’t promote the event as a reaction to the fuel-guzzling Hot August Nights, its timing is suggestive.
But Frischeisen has more than just the email lists and health-conscious clientele to get the word out. He’s got street cred with the bicycle set. He’s ridden around the world on a bicycle—OK, skipping the oceans—more than three times. He’s been extolling the benefits of bike riding for decades.
Frischeisen speaks with a noticeable German accent. He’s a 6-footer with brown eyes, a bit of a salt-and-pepper combover and a neatly trimmed matching beard. He gives off an energetic, friendly and healthful vibe—the kind of guy you’d expect to own a vitamin store. And at 67, he looks dramatically younger than his years.
The Reno Bike Project’s flyer promoting the ride exposes their lefty bent: “Are you concerned about pollution and dwindling fuel reserves? Are you disturbed by certain interest groups abusing us for their political and economical exploitations?”
They hope to raise the consciousness for bike riding as a wholesome, ecological transportation alternative; to make a statement for better biking facilities (routes, lanes, paths), biking education in schools and corresponding law enforcement; greater health and fun and camaraderie.
“I have made myself visible several times in front of the City Council and Regional Transportation to encourage better bike facilities,” said Frischeisen regarding his association with the Hot August Bike Ride. “I got some listening ears but really no action out of that. I don’t really know why that is. Then I kind of thought if bikers would band together and go on a ride in large numbers, we could get some attention that way and encourage our authorities to make biking safer. As you know, I have biked around the world and, frankly, Reno is one of the most dangerous places to bike. If you jump on a bike, you will see that.”
The ultimate goal of raising awareness is similar to other bike groups in the Truckee Meadows, like Critical Mass, but RBP’s approach is less confrontational. For example, the Hot August Bike Ride expects a police escort—on bicycles—for the three-mile ride. This may decrease the profile of the en-masse bike riders, but it’ll be pretty hard to hide a cytoplasm on wheels. And really, the message is the ride’s purpose: This city and its roads belong to the bike riders, too.
“It’s not only that there are no proper facilities, like trails, paths, routes, but there is also a lot of debris in the streets that does not get cleaned up,” said Frischeisen. “First of all, it should never be there. It’s horrible. There’s glass out there, nails. That’s a certain danger because if you try to avoid this, you have the possibility of getting into the stream of traffic. So the main thought is to get some greater visibility and recognition to spur our authorities into some action to do what Davis [California] has done, or Portland [Oregon] or Seattle or even New York City.”
As someone who’s biked across every continent on the planet—excluding Antarctica, and don’t count him out on that one—Frischeisen is an expert on the world’s regulations and attitudes toward bike-riding and bike riders. He argues that other countries created a more bike-friendly environment based on need—a need that he and many others see picking up speed here in the United States.
“All of a sudden, people have realized high gas prices, and they look for alternatives,” he said, flipping though pages of a notebook with press clippings and letters to the editor about bicycles. “Other countries have gas prices that are easily twice and sometimes three times that of ours. Our community has been very slow taking a look while other communities have put in lanes, bike routes. We’ve put on a way so bikes can be put on the front of the bus—so something has been done—but not enough to really offer safe driving as you can experience in the other communities.”
If it’s true that necessity is the mother of invention, then it may be that desperation is its father—and these are desperate times.
Frischeisen said other places, like South Africa, Australia and Europe, have chosen to split sidewalks into pedestrian and bicycle routes. The two streams are separated by a fence or hedge to prevent bump-ups between the two user-groups. One photo showed a divided sidewalk, basically double the width of a typical neighborhood sidewalk in Reno, with bikers and walkers separated.
“That’s what a lot of communities have done, and I have a lot of documents with details of what other cities have done.”
There’s a lot riding on this. The Truckee Meadows could become the standard by which other cities, which are facing the same fuel, environmental and economic issues, make their own plans to enhance and encourage bike traffic.
“Physically, mechanically, to make Reno the safest bike city in the United States, I don’t see any problem at all,” said the bicycle activist. “I think the problem is the lack of understanding from our government. They listen, but they don’t act. They see what’s going on in other parts of the world, but they don’t act. They see that there are more cyclists in the streets now—there’s quite a big swing now—and there’s no response to that. There are meetings, but they are always fruitless. I thought, ‘Start from the bottom, and have the people raise and speak up so that maybe eventually government officials who get elected, get elected to take care of the needs of the people.”