Member Q&A with Smart Trips Austin / Ghisallo

So, to start, which is it: Smart Trips Austin or Ghisallo? Or both?

It’s both! Ghisallo Cycling Initiative is 2019 Smart Trips Austin community engagement partner. We are Ghisallo employees executing the community engagement portion of the Smart Trips Austin program. 

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Can you tell us what Smart Trips Austin is and what Ghisallo is?

Smart Trips Austin is a transportation-demand management and community-engagement program co-funded by Capital Metro and the City of Austin designed to help Austin residents use sustainable modes of transportation. We connect with the community to understand how people get around and provide accessible resources, tools, and fun events. The overall goal is to reduce congestion and single occupancy car trips by familiarizing people with transportation modes such as transit, biking, walking, micro-mobility, or carpooling. We offer a free E-Toolkit full of transportation resources and discounts for getting around the city, including customized maps, safety tips, free transit passes, B-Cycle passes, and promo codes. The E-Toolkit, available in English and Spanish, is delivered directly to residents’ email. Sign-up today at www.smarttripsaustin.org/order. We also host free events open to the public with various community partners and offer city cycling training for beginners. 

Ghisallo Cycling Initiative (GCI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2011 and based in Austin, Texas. The name “Ghisallo” derives from the patron saint of cycling, Madonna del Ghisallo. Our mission is to enable traditionally underserved populations to access their interests by bicycle. Cycle Academy is our primary work that empowers youth to develop into self-sufficient and confident riders who have the skills and knowledge to use their bicycles for transportation without depending on adults. With a focus on exploration, navigation, and transportation, we create the opportunity for youth to explore and connect with their communities, to learn to navigate and access the city, and to use their bikes for transportation to the park, the pool, their friend’s house, and school.

We also serve the other end of the age spectrum with our older adult and senior tricycle program called Golden Rollers. The City of Austin Cultural Arts Division funded a short documentary, just under nine minutes in length, which won SXSW’s 2017 Faces of Austin Film Festival and is available for viewing online.

Smart Trips Austin, Big Jump and other projects Ghisallo is a part of help serve everyone in between Cycle Academy youth and Golden Rollers groups.

Now that we have that out of the way, tell us who you guys are. We have Briana, Jake, Christopher, and Grecia? Plus Lulu sometimes, too?

Jake is a Night Owl Racer and has been racing bikes since he was 16, even competing internationally. Sometimes he brings his sweet dog Lulu in to play. He handles our Communications and Social Media platforms.

Grecia is a data scientist, Reddit diver, and podcaster. She interviews everyday women to share their stories about biking. She creates engaging audio/video content and focuses on our Spanish-community outreach. 

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Briana Cohen is a bicycle travel enthusiast and outdoor bird. She is spreading the joys of bike touring with her Adventure Cycling Association Outreach Project. She focuses on community outreach and partnering with local organizations for our program. 

Christopher is the founder and executive director of Ghisallo. He has lived in Austin for the past 22 years, right around the corner from Createscape for the last 18. Before Ghisallo, he was a software developer as well as co-creator of the C3FT device, which detects the proximity of passing vehicles to better enforce safe bicycle passing laws. If you keep an eye out you might even catch him riding around town with his pup Roux in his backpack.

This is for any one of you: How do you ride your bike to work each day when it hits more than 100-degrees? Are there any specific supplies you suggest having with you when biking to work on a sweltering day? What about a change of clothes?

The motions of riding to work are the same on a 100-degree day as they are any other day, but add choosing a well shaded route if possible, staying hydrated, and wear lightweight clothes. The arrival at work includes a five minute cool down inside and wiping away any sweat. Grecia suggests bringing wipes or using towels in the restroom. Briana usually doesn't bring any extra clothes since her commute is only two miles, but if you’re riding any more than that, we recommend wearing athletic clothing and then  changing into your workday outfit when you arrive. 

Who has the most scenic commute? And longest?

Briana has the most scenic route because she gets to ride on the Boggy Creek Greenbelt trail. Mostly shaded by trees, the trail has an abundance of live oaks, birds and open spaces to hang out. Grecia has the longest bike commute, and will do a mix of riding and loading her bike on/off the bus. The bus lets her relax on her way to work and saves her energy for riding to meetings later throughout the day. 

We know you guys like biking in Austin, but where else in the world or the country have you taken a bike trip?

Christopher just returned from a month long bike tour in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. He’s also biked from Canada to Mexico as well as in Europe. Briana did a bike trip in Oregon and does some weekend bike-camping trips just outside of Austin, staying at various state parks. Jake has raced in Mexico!

Supposing there are one or two Createscape members who have entertained the idea of biking to work but they haven't actually taken that step yet. What suggestions or motivators do you have so they can get on that bike tomorrow morning?

One perk of biking to work is you get to enjoy the fresh air and be active first thing in the morning, which tends to lead to a more productive day (plus you don’t need to go to the gym later!). Also, bike commuting can save you money and time because you won't have to buy fuel for your car, sit in traffic or struggle to find parking. Each day you bike to work, reward yourself with a smoothie in the morning or ice cream on your way home - you earned it! Test out your route beforehand so you get comfortable and check out this article for more tips about biking to work. 

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What are your favorite bike rides in Austin? 

A favorite is the Southern Walnut Creek Trail. We like the Social Cycling Austin rides for fun rides and good company. We also have some DIY rides posted on our Bicycle Resources Page

If after this Q&A someone is ready to take a ride, but their gears are a bit creaky from disuse, where do you suggest they get an affordable tune up? And is a tune up something anyone can learn? Have any tips?

On the east side, East Side Pedal Pushers and Cycleast are two great shops for tune ups. If you want to learn - Yellow Bike Project is the place to go. They have mechanics and coordinators who teach you how to tune your bike, change a flat, clean the chains, and more. They have open workshops to all on Wednesdays and WTF (women, trans, femme) nights every 2nd and 4th Monday.

How did you find Createscape and what is it like working on a team at a coworking space?

Christopher lives nearby, it was recommended to him by a previous Createscape coworker, and the location is pretty central/convenient to where we all live. It’s nice to be able to work together and openly chat with each other at Createscape. We’re usually in the Howdy Room, which is good for conversation and sunlight. It’s also great that we can book a room for more formal meetings.

If anyone is thinking about biking to work or for fun, come say hi!