I always said the best way to make cycling better and safer for everyone is simply to get more people out riding their bikes. If there’s one person I know who lives and breathes that philosophy every day, it’s Pamela Murray – founder of PMTNR, charlottespokespeople and last weekend’s Bike Fest.
Anyone who knows Pam knows her passion for cycling. Her goal is to get as many people as possible ride bikes. And it’s not just talk – Pam rides her bike everywhere. I’ve seen Pam many places all over town, been to many meetings with her, and never seen her drive a car.
Yesterday was the fourth annual Bike Fest on Thomas Street in Plaza Midwood. The festival has grown every year and this year it was a full-on street party with music, art, games, food and, of course, bikes, bikes and more bikes. Thomas Street was lined with various activities and contests (like the track stand contest where the stalemate was eventually broken with a drink hand-up), food and drink vendors, bike shops and repair stands, fun activities, like helmet decorating for kids, a Trips for Kids tent where even tiny kids could try out a bike and much more. The goal was “to get people out on the street and enjoying their street.” And that it did.
Pam isn’t a lifelong cyclist. She took up riding a bike when her kids became old enough to ride, so they would have a family activity. Eventually she began riding on the weekends, then evenings after work, then to and from work. She decided it was just a better way to get around.
Where most people end up was just a starting point for Pam. She started joining Charlotte’s critical mass ride once a month and, as she explains, “people said, we should ride more often, so I said, Ok and we started riding once a week.” For a while it was just a few people who knew each other. Eventually, a friend said, let’s put this on Facebook. They did and it grew from 5 to 20 to 50 and kept growing until they reached their record of 160 riders on the 2013 PMTNR Halloween ride.
How did Bike Fest get started? Pam saw an open streets event in New York and thought, “we need that here.” So the planning started and four years ago Charlotte’s first neighborhood open streets event was born.
Pam brought Bike Benefits to Charlotte the same way. She saw the national program, and thought, we need that here. Her goal was to get 5-10 businesses signed up last year for Bike Fest. We now have 99 businesses in Charlotte and are the third largest Bike Benefits city in the country.
Not one to rest on her achievements, Pam has plenty more projects in mind. The Charlotte Spokes People website has a page for people to suggest and discuss potential projects and the list includes putting reflectors on poles and fixing dangerous holes on the greenways and improving connectivity throughout the city. “I want to prevent people from having problems where they shouldn’t have problems,” she says.
The ultimate goal is “to show people you don’t have to have anything special. You just ride around and have a good time. I want to help people to build confidence for riding and being on the road.” And really, isn’t that what we all want?