Rider Profile No. 3: Mark Draz
Our favorite librarian Mark Draz has been an inspiration since we met him a few months ago at a Dallas Bicycle Coalition meeting. His brain is overflowing with ideas on how to make Dallas a better and safer city for cyclists. When we asked him to be a part of our rider profile series, we knew he would have some good things to say, but we were blown away by the wealth of information and fact based answers he provided. This blog deserves to be bookmarked as a reference tool for anyone that is interested in commuting by bicycle not only in Dallas, but is applicable in any city.
Local Hub will be partnering with Mark and the Dallas Public Library to help with their new bicycle maintenance series. The first class is October 10th and will teach you everything you need to know on how to buy a bicycle. The next class on October 27th , the first in our maintenance series, will teach you how to change a flat tire. Both classes are free and open to the public.
Rider Profile No.3: Mark Draz
Q: What inspired you to start commuting by bicycle?
I commuted by car for years and it always just seemed like such a waste of time. It seems ridiculous to me that we have these massive, expensive systems of highways and roads designed to move cars around at high speeds and they don’t even really work that great. The more you build car infrastructure the more you incentivize driving – which just leads to more traffic. I always kind of felt like a sucker when I was stuck in traffic on the highway. Now, instead of spending an hour or more of each day sitting in traffic, I get two nice bike rides every day – and I get rewarded for having awesome bike rides by saving money! I also appreciate the environmental and health benefits – but honestly I mostly do it because it’s fun and it makes me happy. I think it’s a great way to experience a city and I like the randomness of the street – no one ride is the same and I’m always encountering random people or seeing unusual things. It just makes things more interesting. There has been some research done on the effect of traffic on human happiness which is pretty interesting to read about.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face when riding your bike on the city streets of Dallas?
A: The biggest challenge for me is finding the best streets to take. There’s a perception that Dallas streets aren’t bike friendly but my experience has been that a little knowledge and planning can take a lot of the stress out of riding your bike for transportation. There are lots of tools you can use but to my knowledge there is currently no official map or routing system for bikes. I mostly use the Google Maps bicycle layer in conjunction with the most current map of bike infrastructure put out on the Bikeable Dallas blog. I also got a map of the older Dallas bike routing system (blue Pegasus signs) from the library which is no longer being actively maintained but is useful sometimes. But really the best way to figure it out is just taking the time to explore and talk to more experienced people. I think everyone has slightly different criteria for what makes a good route so you just have to find what works for you. Personally I prefer a low stress ride so I’ll take a pretty roundabout route if it means avoiding major thoroughfares. But no matter how good of a route you find occasionally you’re gonna need to ride on a busy street so you do need to have a basic comfort level with riding in traffic – which does mean you’ll deal with people who don’t understand that bikes have a right to the road. I always try to keep a positive demeanor when that happens and be the nicer person. The only thing that really bothers me is when someone passes really close when they could easily have not put my life in danger. But the vast majority of drivers are considerate – just like anything, there’s always gonna be a few assholes.
Q: How do you prepare to have everything you need for the day when you commute by bicycle?
A: I’ve tried a few different ways and I think it will be different for everyone. Part of what’s awesome about bikes is that everyone can customize what and how they ride according to their individual needs and style. I generally try to get everything ready the night before so I won’t be rushing around in the morning. I also store as much stuff as I can at work so I don’t have to cart it back and forth – clothes for the week, snacks, toiletries, etc. so I can have a backup plan. Other than that, panniers and/or baskets are your friend. And if you are going to bike in the heat, I highly recommend reading this comic 🙂
Q: Tell us about a couple of big projects you are working on at the library that involves bicycles? How can the public find out about the events?
A: I think we’re always open to whatever the community wants us to do. In that respect I’m trying to bring the League of American Bicyclists classes to the library. And my dream of dreams is to have a book bike. You can mostly find out about this stuff through social media – either the library’s accounts, or I’ll usually spam all the local bike social media groups with whatever we’ve got going on. I’m always open to working with whoever wants to use the library to start a conversation with the community – obviously libraries have books but I think their most important function is as a community space where people can come together and learn from each other.
Q: Top 5 recommended books that can be checked out at the Dallas Public Library?
A: Bikenomics – This was the book that inspired me to start riding for transportation. Just page after page of cold hard facts about how bicycles fight inequality, foster economic development, create healthier communities, and just generally make the world a more beautiful and just place. Required reading if you want to advocate for bicycles and bike infrastructure. Also in general, Microcosm publishes so many good bike books.
On Bicycles – A bunch of short essays so you can put it down and pick it up as needed. Covers all different facets of bike culture so there’s something for everyone.
Just Ride – Dispels a lot of the myths created by racing’s influence on the bike industry and drives home the fact that riding a bike is simple and fun
Everyday Bicycling – It’s a how-to guide written for people who want to start using their bike for transportation. Covers all the basics and it’s inspiring how simple it makes it seem.
In the City of Bikes – Chronicles the history of Amsterdam’s bike culture. Something to aspire to!
Q: What is the best advice you can give someone who is new to bike commuting?
A: Obviously you need to have enough knowledge to be safe, but once you’ve got that, my advice is to just start doing it and learning from your experience. Riding bikes is supposed to be fun – try to connect with that childlike joy and don’t worry too much about having the perfect bike or gear or plan. Part of the fun is the adventure of it and learning from your experience. And do it as much or as little as you want – it can be an occasional adventure or an everyday thing or anywhere in between.
Q: What inspires you to help get more people on bikes?
A: I love bikes for the same reasons I love libraries – they’re all about personal freedom, self-reliance, and community. As more people choose to ride the diversity of those who ride – both in terms of who they are as well as how and why they ride – makes it more reflective of our diverse society and brings people from different backgrounds together to bond over bikes. I also find it inspiring that even though the bicycle is so simple it can be part of a solution to so many complicated problems. I think that our experiment of the last 70 years of designing cities for automobiles has pretty definitively been proven to be unsustainable in the long run. So figuring out alternate ways to get around the city – whether that be biking, walking, or public transit – is a key aspect of making our cities work for us instead of making our lives inconvenient and stressful. I also think that once we have more people on bikes, we will have more people advocating for bike infrastructure – and I think the evidence shows that if you want a significant portion of the population to use a bike for transportation you have to provide physically separated bike lanes (not paint!). So hopefully if we can get enough people on bikes and advocating for bikes as transportation it can lead to better infrastructure which will lead to more people on bikes which will lead to more infrastructure, and so on.