Bicycle Spokesmodel Terry Thuemling: worth reading

Terry is one of the smartest and most well read guys I know.  He sent me a bit more commentary that I did not have in time for his Spokesmodel debut yesterday, and I wanted to share it.

OTBMKE: Tell us a little bit about your cycling history and why you decided to start biking to work.

Terry: Like a lot of UWM students, I used a bicycle for transportation when I was a student in the early 90s. I guess I stopped riding for about 10 years after I was hit by a car on Water Street on my way home from work one afternoon. I started riding again about a year and a half ago. Bicycling around Tosa Village was so easy and convenient, I decided I might as well bike to work too.
OTBMKE: How did you decide to get a Dutch bike?  Tell us a bit about your bike and what do you like best about it.

Terry: I ended up with a Dutch bike almost on a whim. My wife wanted a new bicycle, something stylish and fun that she would want to ride around. I’ve seen photos of Dutch bikes for years, but honestly I had no idea how much one cost or where to get one outside of New York or Portland (Chicago too, though I wasn’t aware of all the shops carrying Dutch bikes when I bought mine). I was surprised to find a pair on sale at Willy Bikes in Madison. I bought a red Batavus “Old Dutch” step-through 3-speed for my wife and a black Batavus “Old Dutch” classic 3-speed for myself. I love the utility of a Dutch bike. With a rear rack and a set of panniers, you can carry a ton of groceries. You don’t go anywhere fast, but that’s not really the point. 
OTBMKE: Do you ride in any weather or are you somewhat of a fair weather commuter?

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I’m an April to November commuter. I guess that would put me in the “fair weather” category. I have a ton of respect for people who commute all year round. 
OTBMKE: Do you change clothes at work or do you take advantage of the indoor bike parking, showers or lockers provided at work? 

Terry: I don’t need to. Unless it’s really hot outside, I don’t get sweaty riding a Dutch bike. The full chaincase, front and read fenders, mud flap, and rear wheel spats keep my clothing clean.
OTBMKE: How often do you bike to work and how long is your commute?

Twice a week. I’m a lecturer at UWM, so I only work Tuesdays and Thursdays. My commute is about seven and a half miles each way, or fifteen miles total.
OTBMKE: You have read the Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne and Pedalling Revolution by Jeff Mapes.  Did those books change the way you look at your neighborhood or the City of Milwukee? Do you think you have a better personal understanding of how to design a bicycle friendly street or community after reading those books?

Terry: Definitely. I would add Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic to the list as well. In Traffic, Vanderbilt asks why traffic is getting worse and who are all the people causing all the congestion. Interestingly, he discovers that women now make the largest contribution to congestion. Vanderbilt refers to the work of Arizona State University professor of urban planning Sandra Rosenbloom. According to Rosenbloom, in 1950 women made up 28% of the workforce; now they account for almost 48%. In addition, in 1950 about 40% of daily trips were “work trips”; now that figure is only 16%. So are people making less work trips? No. In fact, people are driving more than ever. Today the average American drives about 12 more miles per day than in 1960. Due to the social reality that women do a much larger share of household activities, women end up doing more driving. Vanderbilt says, “women make roughly double the number of what are called ‘serve-passenger’ trips—that is they’re taking someone somewhere that they themselves do not need to be. All these trips are squeezed together to and from work in a process called ‘trip chaining.’ And because women, as a whole, leave later for work than men, they tend to travel right smack-dab in the peak hours of congestion…on the kinds of local streets…that are least equipped to handle heavy traffic flows.” Sandra Rosenbloom argues, “Women are not to be blamed for congestion. The fault is the way families live today.” Vanderbilt offers the following evidence: “Where it was once the overwhelming norm for children to walk to school, today only about 15% do. Parents on the ‘school run’ are thought to boost traffic on roads by some 30 percent.” In addition, Vanderbilt points out the other chauffeuring duties that too often fall to women. So the key to any successful city in terms of bicycle commuting is women. Do women feel comfortable commuting on bicycle? If they don’t, you’re not going to get very far. According to your recent series on women bicycle commuters in Milwaukee, we are not doing very well on this front. The best advice I’ve seen regarding how to change the situation comes from John Pucher of Rutgers University and David Horton of Lancaster University. If you care about this stuff at all, please read “Fear of Cycling” by David Horton. Here’s the URL: It’s a five part series, so make sure to continue on to parts two through five. Much of Pucher’s research is available on his website:
OTBMKE: What do you like best about riding a bike for transportation?

Terry: I feel better, both mentally and physically, I save money on gas and parking, and I’m part of the solution instead of the problem when it comes to congestion and global warming.  
OTBMKE: What do you like least?

Terry: The conditions of the roads in Milwaukee. They’re pretty awful in places.
OTBMKE: Bicycling for transportation is growing at a rapid rate in Milwaukee, but still only accounts for a small percentage of all trips.  What do you think should be done to get more people riding bikes for transportation?

Terry: Again, the key is making bicycle commuting safe and comfortable for women. If you don’t address the gender gap, you won’t move those percentages. Interestingly, there is no gender gap in Copenhagen or Amsterdam. It can be done, but it going to require a radical change in values and practices.
OTBMKE: Do you have any advice to other people who are thinking about bicycle commuting?

Terry: If you think you don’t have the time, try it. My guess is that if your commute is under 10 miles, you’ll save time and feel better, both mentally and physically.


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
This entry was posted in Advocacy, commuting, Dutch Bicycles, Spokesmodels and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Bicycle Spokesmodel Terry Thuemling: worth reading

  1. ed h says:

    oh- this is precious. I can’t wait for the next Haley gathering. (yes- I’m proofing my text, per-fessor.)

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