My sub-theme for this research is winter biking. I am an international student from China. I haven't try to bike to the university before. But when I was in my high school, I bike to school for three years. In terms of the geography, my hometown is located at the middle of the China by north. The winter there is also snowy, but it is not as heavy as it in the Minnesota. So in order to have a good research on my sub-theme, I planed to interview three people who have rich experience of winter biking.
When I considered my interviewee, I thought it's not necessary to narrow the experience of riding, but it also can be the experience related to design a bike, sale a bike or manage the bikes. Since two weeks ago I received a letter from my apartment manager to announce the residents who have bicycles should put them inside the building.
I am curious about why our apartment has this policy, so I made an appointment with my apartment manager Joe to interview his experience about winter biking. Before went to meet him, I practiced how to ask my questions and guide my interviewees to tell their stories at home. I prepared some questions and use the audio recorder app during the interview.
Joe has worked for my apartment for more than twenty years, and he lived in Minnesota for more than fifty years. Actually there are three buildings under his charge. He said every year, at the end of the October, the management office will announce the residence to move their bike inside. I asked why they have this police. Joe said because during the winter, most of the residents won't use their bicycles. The bicycles left on the Bike Racks looks like junk in the yard. The manage office want the yard looks great so they don't like the junk-like bike chained to the bike racks. Then I ask why those bicycles will looks like junk. Joe said, since people don't bike to school after snow any more, and they don't take care of their bikes. I traced the problem by asking another why. Why they don't use their bicycles any more? Joe said, there are about 30 people biking to school in the three buildings. After the first heavy snow, there are only about 5 people keep biking to school. He thought the reason was the snow will cover their bicycles and every morning you want to use the bicycles, you need to dig the bicycles out in the cold wind. Plus, the ice on the road is the potential risk that threat to safety of biking.
This is the bike rock at the yard of my apartment:
After Joe, I interviewed another staff in the management office, Mike. Mike used to live in Seattle, and moved to Minneapolis later with his family. Based on his experience, he said, the temperature varies the experience a lot. The winter in Seattle is not as cold as it in Minnesota. There is no snow cover on the ground, but a lot of rain. When it is raining, he wears the hat or hoodie to protect himself from wet. In Minnesota the most challenge things are straggle against the string wind, the snow cover on the bike after one class, and the ice on the road. But he still prefer bike to school, because the time is more flexible and don't need to worry about traffic issue especially when the peak time.
My last interviewee is my neighbor, Jiang. I haven't talk to him before, but after explained my assignment, he was willing to help me. Jiang comes from China too. His hometown is ChengDu. The winter there is warmer than it in my hometown, since he haven't see snow in his hometown. Similarly like Seattle, the winter in ChengDu is wet due to the rainy. He usually bike to school except the day after heavy snow. Because, there is too much sludge on the ground and makes him easily to fall down. He has fallen down three times before. All these occurred when he wanted to turn the corner. But he still prefer bicycles because it is the most economical way compared to other transportation. He mentioned that compared to the bike route in China, he felts unsafe when he was biking on the road in Minnesota. I can understand it, because in China, there are some physical separate barrier between the auto lane and the bicycle lane. However, in Minnesota, the two lanes are just separated by lines drawn on the ground and different colors. If the road is slippery, the risk of the vehicle, as well as bicycles turned to an unexpected direction is high. Based on my experience as a driver, I always keep myself far away from the biker when I approached, even though it may lead me pass the white line on the road. Sometime when I need to turn right at the intersect, I have to pass across the bike lane to reach the right-turn line.
These two pictures are from internet that show the bicycle lane in China, from the picture, it is obvious that the bicycle lane is separated from the auto lane by landscape:
To farther explore the sub-theme, I observe the people on the street who are riding the bicycles, include the tires of the bicycles, the clothes they wear, and the behavior they have.
These pictures show how they store their bicycles:
These pictures show how they ride and what they wear to keep warm:
During this weekend, I tried to bike from home to school. I plan to rent a bicycle from the Metro Bike on the St.Paul campus and returned it to the station at the front of the Williams Hall. But it seems like they don't provide the service any more.
Fortunately, I borrowed a Jiang's bicycle. It took me some times to adjust the height of the seat. Finally, I started my trip. This is my neighbor's bicycle:
It was a little bit cold. Even though I wear hat, gloves and scarf, my face still feel cold due to the oncoming cold wind. Since it is the first time I am riding on the road in United States, I found it need some effort to force the bike in the green bicycle lane.
The opportunities I found from the research is:
- Cover the places that store the bicycles, so that students don't need to dig their bicycles out from the snow after their class.
- Need something to protect the face from the cold wind.
- Redesign the auto lane and the bicycle lane to low the risk of traffic accident.
- Need something to provide a warmer environment for the rider.