One day Jim Morgan set out to adjust the culture at his workplace
Long time BikePGH member Jim Morgan is a great example of a guy behind the scenes that makes things happen. BikePGH emerged as a united voice for bicycle advocates 11 years ago and it’s people like Jim that have been at the heart of why the local bicycling community is so successful.
BikePGH launched Car Free Fridays in 2009. It inspired Jim to launch his own initiative called Car Free Breakfasts. As a principal at Urban Design Associates (UDA) he’d been bike commuting for years and he decided to make it a personal mission to see if he couldn’t encourage others to join him. He used Car Free Fridays as an opportunity to host shared commutes that would start with a hearty breakfast the last Friday of every month.
Attendance fluctuates between 3 to a dozen or more participants, but it’s Jim’s commitment that has been the one constant. The 7:00 am meeting time can be an obstacle for some, but the group meets monthly year round and it’s only fresh snow falls and rains that seems to dissuade people from riding. The temperature he observed isn’t as much a factor. “With a core group it makes it that much easier to encourage more people to ride, there’s more opportunities for sharing information [whether work or bike related], and more ways for people to connect.” In the corporate world where the pressure to produce can be stressful employees are usually focused on computer screens. “Car Free Breakfasts helped get folks to congregate for breakfast, laughs, camaraderie, and be part of a community that is work related, but not work focused.”
Almost from the start Jim invited mystery guests to join the crew for an opportunity to connect with people outside the regular group. It’s been fun for Jim to see how the guests and group regulars often have a lot in common, whether it be people (Pittsburgh’s 1 degree of separation phenomenon) or interests. The topic at breakfast often turns to meaningful conversations about urban design and bicycles, not because it’s required, it’s just something this particular group of people passionately cares about.
Over the years Jim has invited enough guests that Car Free Breakfast has extended its reach beyond UDA to include the community at large. Once you’re invited you remain on his email list. All are welcome to join. “It’s just sort of grown organically.” For July 26th Jim is introducing Car Free Breakfasts “Late Nite”. Instead of breakfast the group will meet up for a pair of evening events:
7:00 PM | Double Wide Grille – meet up on your bike for a bite to eat…
8:30 PM | Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe – cash in some of your bike challenge points for pints!…
Jim always ramps up events during BikeFest too. “Look for 3 Car Free Breakfast events [in August] including our regular early breakfast, a late breakfast, and another ‘Late Night’ pairing.” He encourages anyone who would like be included to contact him by email at Jim(dot)Morgan(at)urbandesignassociates(dot)com. If you’d like to start your own “Car Free” group, possibly as a way to build stronger connections at work Jim suggests meeting in places where people live, along their path. It makes it more convenient to follow the natural flow of breakfast stops along the way.
BikePGH works because people like Jim Morgan work to build the local cycling community one new rider, one new friend at a time. UDA now has 5 or 6 regular bike commuters up from 1. “In part it’s because the younger generation is taking to biking quite a bit, it’s more of a natural fit for them.” But Jim emphasizes it’s really important to give people who are considering bike commuting opportunities to connect with people that are doing it. “Riding together is important.”
Car Free Fridays – putting an end to rush hour traffic, one single-occupant car trip at a time. Car Free Fridays empowers people to step out of their cars on a Friday to try an active transportation option. With active commuting, Fridays are fun days and before long, Car Free Fridays are an everyday option. See a list of Car Free Fridays events and request a Car Free Fridays Action kit at www.CarFreeFridays.org