City of Ithaca peddles pedaling: Mayor, employees take to fleet

“It's part of implementing pieces to get our carbon footprint down,” said Mayor Carolyn Peterson, who uses one of the bikes to get around town whenever possible.

Published September 25, 2007 by The Ithaca Journal 

ITHACA — Not including police or fire department vehicles, the City of Ithaca's fleet includes 72 vehicles over 1 ton, 21 cars (including one hybrid), 17 pick-up trucks, 12 vans, three SUVs, and, as of this year, three bicycles.The sunny-yellow bikes, like the other city vehicles, are available for city employees to use for work-related trips.

“It's part of implementing pieces to get our carbon footprint down,” said Mayor Carolyn Peterson, who uses one of the bikes to get around town whenever possible.

Peterson said the bikes are a small part of a Local Action Plan the city passed in 2002 to reduce its municipal greenhouse gas emissions. When Ithaca signed on, it was joined by about 200 other municipalities. Now that number has doubled, to about 400, Peterson said.

City engineer Kent Johnson came up with the idea to buy municipal bikes as a way to encourage city employees to use means of transportation that are less costly for the city and for the planet.

“It was really part of a larger effort to provide employees with a broader range of options for traveling for work-related purposes,” he said.

City employees are encouraged to walk, carpool, bike and take public transportation.

“So they don't have to just get in a car,” he said.

The city bought three used bikes from Recycle Ithaca's Bicycles, then the city's Streets and Facilities division painted them yellow and inscribed “CITY OF ITHACA” across the down tube of the bike frame.

Although any city employee can sign up to use them, the three bikes are stationed at the mayor's office, the Ithaca Youth Bureau, and the Waste Water Treatment Plant, Johnson said.

The bike at the Plant has been particularly helpful, Johnson said.

“It seemed like they had to make very often short trips and they would travel in the trucks to get from one work area to another and it was much easier for them to use the bicycle,” he said.

Allen Green, director of the Ithaca Youth Bureau, said several employees there use the bike.

“It's a nice alternative,” Green said. “You're not polluting the atmosphere, you get some exercise,” Green said. He often uses the bike to get from the Youth Bureau, near Stewart Park, to meetings downtown.

“It doesn't take any longer and on some days it might even be quicker,” he said.

Joe Gibson, interim director of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program at the Youth Bureau, said he's been riding his own bike around town since he came to Ithaca three or four years ago. When the city bikes became available in the spring, he started using them.

“They're definitely a lot nicer than mine,” Gibson said, laughing.

Gibson said he rides to “board meetings at the library, City Hall, Boynton Middle School. Occasionally if I have the courage I might go up South Hill on it.”

Johnson said the city has three more bikes to fix up, paint and make available for city employees.

“It's worked out really well and part of the effort is that this is something that employees were really interested in,” Johnson said. “Employees from almost every department indicated excitement about it.”