By Heather Ruckterstuhl
Heather is a CAC AirKeeper and parent to 14 & 17 year old girls. She also is a Montessori assistant teacher, Girl Scout leader, and leader of Two Wheel Tuesday & Bicycle Friday groups.
The last bike commute of the school year for ‘Two Wheel Tuesday’ was on June 5th. Some of our riders gathered at Freedom Park at 7:15 am to start at the beginning of our commute, others would join the ride along the route. I love this time of morning when the world hasn’t quite gotten going yet and we’re preparing for our seven mile commute to J.T. Williams Secondary Montessori School off of Statesville Avenue. Mary Stauble of Clean Air Carolina (CAC) met us by the train playground and set our riders up with their AirBeam particle pollution monitors. There wasn’t a great way to carry the monitors while riding our bikes so we all just put them around our necks and let them dangle. We kind of looked like camera toting tourists from an earlier time. By 7:30 am we had learned about particle pollution and got details on how to operate the android devices that pair with the Airbeam monitors and we were ready to roll.
This first segment of our ride is pretty glorious and serene as we travel along the greenway path and follow the Sugar Creek. Our first stop is at the Greenway and Elizabeth Avenue which we call the CPCC stop. We picked up two riders and Charlotte Cadioux, our second leader. Mary has very kindly equipped us with additional devices and monitors so everyone gets to use one. From this point we leave the greenway and travel up 5th Street along the sidewalk until we reach the rail trail at the Spectrum Center. Our second stop is at the rail trail and 9th Street, we call this the Lab School stop because we stop across from the Charlotte Lab School. We enjoy our stops as much as riding and we usually snack on donuts at each stop. This week is no exception and we had Krispy Kreme mini-kruellers for the trip. I like to leave the bags of doughnuts open in my pannier for ‘drive by’ snacking. From here we head across 9th Street and through Fourth Ward (so adorable) and turn onto Graham Street. After navigating a couple of lights and getting over the bridge, we turn left onto Hamilton Street and head to the Music Factory to stop at VBGB’s Beer Hall and Garden for our Third and final stop.
Many of our riders are super skilled at trick riding and enjoy the stop at VBGB’s because it is a big empty parking lot full of space to do bike jumps and ride on one wheel (we did take off our monitors for that). After water, doughnuts and bike jumps we head out for the last segment of our ride. We ride through the Genesis Park neighborhood, Brightwalk and then Statesville Avenue along the sidewalk before arriving at J. T. Williams Montessori tucked back along Carmine Avenue. Gram says this is his least favorite part of the ride because it is so hilly. I was curious if we would see a difference in the particle pollution along the Statesville Avenue stretch of our ride because it is a four-lane road occupied by many large trucks. As it turned out, the particle pollution along our entire route stayed green except for when we passed a person smoking a cigarette. We had five riders for this commute and all five students kept the AirBeam devices for the day to share their route and the technology with their fellow students. Thank you Clean Air Carolina for offering us this opportunity and helping us to make air visible.
CAC note: The AirBeam monitor only measures fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5. The day of this ride on June 5, the air quality index was moderate due to ozone pollution. Ozone levels are usually fine in the mornings and get worse as the day heats up. In the summer, get your outdoor exercise in early to avoid high ozone levels. You can check the daily air quality index by going to www.ncair.org.