11 May SPOTLIGHT | Emily Macri
As a graduate student at Hawai‘i Pacific University, Emily Macri constantly is on the move, going from class to class, to work, and all over Honolulu — and she does it all on a bike.
“I love riding bicycles for many reasons. The first is obvious: It’s faster than walking!” Macri says. “Secondly, using your own energy, you can create an effective, efficient, and sustainable mode of transportation. Finally, what isn’t there to love about getting closer to nature while commuting, especially in Honolulu? The scenery is incredible and inspiring while cycling.”
Since October, Macri has been sharing her passion for biking as a Kupu Sustainability Initiatives fellow at Bikeshare Hawai‘i, the nonprofit that created Biki.
Macri has loved riding bikes as long as she can remember, stretching back to her youth in a small town in upstate New York. But with long, cold winters, the biking season was limited. When she moved to Arizona to attend Northern Arizona University, Macri got her first glimpse at a truly bike-centric community — people loved biking, and there was the infrastructure to support it. There, Macri landed an AmeriCorps position handling outreach and advocacy for bicycling on campus.
“A lot of college students, if they get a flat tire, they just put the bike away and forget about it,” Macri explains. “The whole idea was to avoid that and teach students easy, easy bicycle mechanics … (and) to get people riding.”
When Macri discovered the Kupu fellowship opportunity at Bikeshare Hawai‘i, it felt like fate.
Bikeshare created Biki with the goal of providing a convenient, affordable transportation option that’s good for the environment. Biki, which offers bikes for rent throughout Honolulu, launched last summer and currently has 1,000 bikes and 100 stations.
“There are just too many cars on this small island, and I think having a bike-sharing network is super important,” Macri says. “Not only do you not have to worry about maintaining your own bicycle, but you have so many options: If you want to go downtown, you can take a Bikeshare bike; if you have to go to Waikiki after that, you have bikes and you have docks there as well.”
Macri has worked to raise awareness about Biki throughout the community, met with stakeholders, written grants,
and hosted outreach events as a part of her fellowship.
“Emily keeps me organized on grant budgets and tracking program progress for our grant reports, and brainstorming next steps,” explains Bikeshare grants and program manager Justine Espiritu (herself a former Kupu fellow). “Having her on the team has allowed Bikeshare Hawai‘i to expand our capacity to participate in other community events as well.”
Much of Macri’s work has focused on creating a more “bicycle-equitable framework” — which is one aspect of bike-sharing that she is most passionate about.
“Bicycle equity is ensuring that bikeshare access and usability is for everyone … We have all of these different micro-populations in Honolulu, and creating an equitable framework would mean that we are including all of these demographics,” she explains.
“We have to really keep equity in mind as we expand — because there is no point in expanding if you are not doing things that are making it better for everyone.”
To this end, she has been researching how other cities have incorporated cycling and best practices to maximize bikesharing accessibility. Macri has been exploring barriers that certain populations, like students or those who don’t speak English, may face. She also has helped Espiritu spearhead a pilot program at community clinic Waikiki Health to help get people more active.
Macri hopes that her work can help make Honolulu more bike friendly in the long run.
“All of our cars run on fossil fuels, and fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource,” she says. “(Biking) creates all of these different opportunities to engage with the environment and cut down on your carbon footprint.
“I see the traffic in this city, and if we could get even 100 more people out of their cars and onto bicycles, we’re not only helping the environment, but we are creating this community of bicyclists, and that is the way of the future,” she says.
As for her own future, it’s approaching quickly. She just graduated this week with an MA in Global Leadership and Sustainable Development, and she’s set to wrap up her fellowship later this month. Not only has her fellowship aligned with her studies, but Macri says that it’s also provided her with a set of skills that will be useful as she enters the workforce — things like time management, professionalism, and public speaking.
“It has been a really tremendous experience … I think it has helped me grow a lot as not only a fellow, but it has given me practical tools that I can use in a career.”
Bikeshare has plans to expand by 30-40 stations and 300 bikes this summer. New stations will be added in areas including Iwilei, Makiki and near UH. For more information on Bikeshare, visit gobiki.org. For more on Kupu fellowship opportunities, visit kupuhawaii.org/programs.