“You’ll be scraping ice from your windscreens tomorrow,” warns the cheery weather presenter, ignoring the fact that not everybody drives. Where’s the broadcast information about glassy cycleways? It’s the same for traffic reports on radio shows: copious information for those who drive, next to none for those who don’t drive.
One of the reasons cyclists tune out of traffic reports is because they’re not affected by snarl-ups: cyclists sail past blockages and, unlike motorists, can usually time their commutes to the second.
But with no mass media mentions, cycling to work or school usually flies under the radar, and the dearth of bike commuting info has long been a bugbear of Travis Norvell, the pastor of the South Minneapolis’ Judson Memorial Baptist Church. He tweets as @pedalingpastor and, as the name suggests, gets around by bicycle, even in the depths of a Twin Cities winter.
A daily listener of Cathy Wurzer’s Morning Edition on Minnesota Public Radio, Norvell never heard traffic reports that he found useful, so he started tweeting the presenter with his own road and bike path info.
Wurzer now includes the updates on her show, an inclusion that Norvell says normalizes commuting by bike (and bus).
Norvell is fed updates from fellow bicycle commuters and scrapes data from key social media accounts. He also ropes in family members.
“People will text me their commutes on their way to work,” Norvell told MinnPost.
“Sometimes, my wife takes the bus downtown, and she’ll tell me what she’s seen on her bus ride. Sometimes my son, when he’s walking to school, will tell me what the sidewalks are like and ask his friends.”
“Clear bike paths, mix of hardpack, pavement, and ice ruts on bike lanes,” stated one of his recent reports. “Stiff mashed potatoes on the side roads,” went another.
Minneapolis has brutal winters, with snow changing rapidly from crusted ice to mush. The new traffic reports also include wind speed data, which cyclists can use to gauge whether to wear goggles and handlebar-attached gloves. No cosy cocoons for cyclists.
“It’s fun, though,” Norvell assured me on this podcast chat.
“Once you get started, your body creates enough body heat that you get warmed up pretty quick.”
Norvell has written Church on the Move, a new book describing how he uses walking, cycling, and transit as part of his ministry. Cars are unsociable, he believes, and traveling in planet-friendlier ways is an eye-opener.
“By riding your bike, by walking, by taking public transit you get to know the neighborhood,” he said.
“You’re making yourself open for new relationships.”
A 2002 TV ad campaign paid for by the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) in the midwest asked, “What Would Jesus Drive?”
“We’re called to care for kids and for the poor, and filling their lungs with pollution is the opposite of caring for them,” remarked the EEN’s Rev Jim Ball at the time. SUVs were therefore out, and the suggestion of many back in 2002 was that Jesus would drive a small car. Today it would be an electric vehicle.
(Old joke: Jesus would drive a Honda since the Apostles were in one Accord.)
“I don’t think Jesus would drive it all,” Norvell stated.
“I think Jesus would be out there on a bike. I think Jesus would be walking. I think Jesus would be taking public transit because he wanted to be around people.”
“Diving disconnects you from life, it puts you in a steel box, where you can have temperature control, but you’re disconnected from other people.”
And for the pedaling pastor, meeting people—in all weathers, in the fresh air—is an essential part of his job. He’s evangelical, mainly about bicycles, and he’ll keep filing his traffic reports so others get to hear the good news, too.