Ray Irvin Interview (cont)

Ray: And we need to grow the system and we need to maintain the system. And, you know, the battle right now is our right to be there on a bicycle and the car’s feeling, well we’re the ones paying the gas tax and everything else, so this is our road, we need to basically buy back our right to be there and I hate to say it that way, but that’s the reality of it because there is no other money out there. But I think we can put together a system in this country, and I think it can pay for itself, and I don’t think it would be painful for anybody to do it.

NBG: So, do you want to do it with me, Ray?

Ray: I’m more than glad to. You know what, I bought a new bicycle, I paid $500 for it. But I went up the other day and I saw a bicycle that was $5000 and the bicycle I have now costs more than my first car and I had to pay license on it. I think it’s fair and equitable and reasonable to consider a few bucks for a license for my bicycle out there to go into developing a place where I can ride it and I would gladly pay it.

NBG: What I was asking you was, in the industry there’s a long standing desire to invoke a buck a bike tax and it just never has been floated to full....it just never happened. So the buck a bike as something we can throw into this mix. But what I was asking was do you foresee a possibility of possibly taking your success there in Indy where you’ve turned a town that was once known only for its motor speedway. Maybe what I want to talk about after I ask this question is I want to talk about also how the dynamic of socioeconomic structure has changed in Indy. You see a whole different kind of people there now I would think in the last 10-15 years you’ve been building greenways. Is it kind of a different type of people,different breed of animal coming to Indy?

Ray: Well you know it’s interesting, and if you look at our history in Indy, we should have been the automotive capital of the world. At one time there was more automotive manufacturing going on in our city than in any other place and unfortunately for the geographics of where we were located, Detroit won out. But Indy has long been a city dedicated to cars and motor vehicles and that’s a rather colorful history in itself. But there has been a change. We have literally gone from a rust belt city trying to reinvent ourselves into a biotech city, an education based city, an arts and cultural based city. So you know it’s basically growing our city. People reinventing themselves and it’s a city just rich with those sorts of opportunities right now. And I think that’s something that could be taken anywhere in this country. Everybody wants a brighter future, everybody wants more and better, and I think that’s kind of where we’re going. It’s interesting in our quality of life that around the country you see more and more gated facilities and more walls and more barriers to people and I think what greenways are about is building bridges. Greenways are about the place the America that we all want to live in. It’s interesting because on the street, and we just did another little study with Indy University and their Sociology Department, and we did a survey with some people just walking on the trails saying hi to somebody and if anybody would speak to them. Everybody on the trail will speak to you, make eye contact, and yet you go do that on the sidewalks and they won’t look at you, they won’t speak to you, they won’t return any type of a greeting. And what’s interesting about that is we start to recognize that when we’re out there in our community on our trails that we have this appreciation for our community and we automatically see that in other people. But on the street we don’t see that in them and always see them as competing for our time, for our space, our ability to get somewhere. For example, go to a car show and you’ll automatically be able to speak to anybody there and say something, a stranger, wow what a pretty car, and get some kind of a response from them. But that same person on the street may not even acknowledge you. We need to start talking about civility in America. It would be a great idea for politics and if we in America lead, maybe the politicians will catch on. But if we can actually start promoting the idea that people do want to know each other, that building these walls are based on fear, and building bridges are based on an acceptance of each other, an appreciation for where we live and who we are. That’s what we’re all about in greenways.
NBG: Wow. What you essentially delivered was the punch line in what I wanted to ask you. I guess the punch line being would you be interested in helping me replicate your success in Indy on a national level?

Ray: Martin, I’ll tell you what, I’m probably the second enthusiastic person in America about greenways and that would be behind you. And I absolutely would. I absolutely would. You know that Dr. Lindsey and I are working on a book right now on greenways. I know you’re writing a book, I promise to swap copies with you. LIke I said, your vision is for coast to coast and what I try to do here locally is design and build a system that really works and it can serve as a model for communities around this country. I thoroughly believe in it and I think there’s so many wonderful places and if we just start connecting each community with each other, I think everybody’s going to find an incredible place to live and work and grow your families and your life.
NBG: This is totally awesome, Ray. I think for our listeners to understand is that I caught Ray at home and he’s taking time away from his busy travel schedule and his sailboat and every other which thing like that, to give me a pretty extensive interview, give us an extensive interview which at some point I also want to transcribe if there’s anybody out there who wants to help me transcribe this... This is powerful stuff, very powerful stuff. Ray, in the last interview we did, which got garbled by the phone lines, you talked about the fact that you were willing to help anybody out there that wanted to know about how your system has become such a winning program. Are you still of that mindset and did you want to give out your website or anything?
Ray: Not only my mindset, but let me give everybody a couple of addresses to get ahold of me if they would like to. Go to <www.indygreenways.org>. That’s run by our greenways foundation, they’ve been very successful, that’s absolutely one of the finest websites in the world and it usually comes up second or third on the list if you run your search engine and just hit greenways and indy greenways will come up pretty high on the list nationally. You could also get ahold of me at RayRIrvin@aol.com, that’s my home email. I will send you out information. You could also contact me at my office at 317-327-7431. If I can send you information, if I can help, we do a tremendous amount of research and I’m very anxious to share that with anybody in the country and if I can help anybody in the country on greenways, I’m there.

NBG: Alright Ray. You’re a total legend, the giant of really the whole greenway phenomenon which I’m starting to feel is sweeping the country. Affectionately, Ray Irvin, we’re here talking to is referred to as “Mr. Greenway”. It’s been an honor, guy, it really has.

Ray: Martin, thank you so very much. I’ve enjoyed it and if there’s anything I can ever do to help you, you know I’m there and best wishes to you and all the listeners out there.

NBG: So are you gonna write a chapter in my book “How America Can Bike and Grow Rich”?

Ray: Absolutely.

NBG: Alright, the National Bicycle Greenway Manifesto. So you are the best guy.

Ray: Thank you, sir.

NBG: Take care of yourself, have a great weekend.

Ray: I enjoyed it.

NBG: Bye bye.

Ray: You too. Okay, bye bye.

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