Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Early nagging history

My life as a transportation nag began over 15 years ago with a letter addressed to Group Health Cooperative. "The present bicycle parking arrangements at Group Health Central are not appropriate for consumers," I wrote. "The bicycle racks in front of the hospital are not usable, as it is not possible to chain a bike to them safely."

This was the first of many, many letters, emails and phone calls to Group Health, continuing for over ten years. Several people responded to me, assuring me that the bike racks would very soon be replaced - but nothing happened. Despite Group Health's very visible sponsorship of bicycle sporting events - STP is the most prominent - the ancient, useless bike racks remained. To me as a person using my bike for everyday transportation, this sent clear message: Group Health thinks bikes are only for recreation. I was tempted to pull up at night with a pickup truck and haul the useless, insulting racks away!

Finally, somehow, after ten years, the right person received one of my messages at the right time. An email arrived informing me that the bike racks would be replaced - and this was followed by another email giving a more or less specific timetable. Only a few weeks later, the hideous bike racks were gone, and usable (although still less than perfect) racks took their place.

I wasn't finished with Group Health nagging, though. Their website continued to give directions to facilities only for car drivers - no information for public transit, bicycle or pedestrians. I nagged about that from time to time; a reference to Metro Transit appeared on the website, nothing about bicycles. A few weeks ago, I spent half a day printing, addressing and mailing real snail-mail letters to every member of the Board of Trustees and every person listed as a Group Health executive, explaining how unwelcoming their facilities are to bicyclists and offering suggestions for improving transportation information for consumers. A few responded, generally in a positive vein. Then on June 12, an official, detailed letter arrived from the Exective Director of Administrative Services.

The letter promises to "provide directions on ghc.org on best bike routes to Group Health facilities.. and where to park your bike...I will work with our Facilities team to develop a plan for enhancing bicycle parking capabilities... upgrades .. will make all of our facilities more cycling friendly."

The letter closes with profuse thanks for my nagging efforts, a direct phone number and an offer to discuss these issues further. I called, of course, and left a message. I guess I'll have to call again. Meanwhile, if anyone sees biking directions on Group Health's website, let me know!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bell Harbor Conference Center responds to the Nag

The Bell Harbor Conference Center sits right on the bike path that runs along the Seattle Waterfront from below the Pike Market through the Olympic Sculpture Park and on to the Elliott Bay park and the public fishing pier. I attended a public health conference there once, and was distressed to find no visible bike parking. I checked the "directions" on their website, and found nothing but driving-by-car directions.

In my usual nagging mode, I wrote a detailed email to the webmaster, suggesting a number of improvements. It is not unusual for webmasters to respond positively to these suggestions. What was unusual in this case, however, is that I got a personal phone message from a facilities director, her voice radiating positive enthusiasm, thanking me for the wonderful suggestions and promising to follow up.

Today I checked their website - and it's true - the whole "Directions" page has been revamped.

There's even a whole paragraph about how to walk to Bell Harbor from Downtown - as well as a list of bus routes that serve the area, with links to the bus schedules.

Check it out: http://www.bellharbor.com/directions.php

My only ongoing beef is that the website still gives driving directions first. I think drivers should have to scroll through the walking, biking and transit directions to find what they're looking for. In the process they might find themselves educated.