Musings on Bike to Work Day

Some interesting observations gleaned from the Internet on National Bike to Work Day:
— Grant Petersen, founder of Rivendell Bike Works in Walnut Creek, Calif., struck a blow on Friday for utilitarian bikes and comfortable clothing for bicycle commuting, suggesting that commuters abandon racing bikes and spandex livery.
“Wear the clothes that you’re going to wear at work,” he said in an interview with David Greene on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition program.
“If your commute is reasonable – say, 10 miles or under – no problem. Dress the way you’re going to dress for the weather, or the day.
As for the equipment a commuter bike should have, Petersen recommended: “A bell, lights, reflectors, kickstand, baskets, bags. You know, make the bike useful. Certainly for commuting, it is not a workout tool. It should be a pickup truck on two wheels.”
Petersen told NPR that for more than two decades he was caught up in the notion that bicyclists should aspire to be like professional racers, who ride lightweight, high-tech bikes in gaudy, tight-fitting clothing.
But now, he said: “I totally don’t believe that. Racing is fringe. Racing ruins bicycle riding for a lot of people. … Racing bikes are just workout machines, really. So, you can’t put a basket, you can’t put bags on them, you can’t carry weight on them. They aren’t designed to carry weight.”
Petersen’s remarks seem to reflect a changing public perception of bicycles and the people who ride them. Even Bicycling magazine, long the preeminent publication for cyclists, has reflected this change. It used to focus almost exclusively on high-tech bikes and gear. Now it also includes stories on utilitarian urban bikes as an alternative means of transportation.
— Kevin Buchanan, a friend who writes a blog called Fort Worthology, wrote on his Facebook page on Bike to Work Day:
“You know, it’s amazing to me when I think back to when I started Fort Worthology five and a half years ago … one almost never saw human beings on bikes on Fort Worth streets. Only the hardest of the hardcore spandex racer dudes. Today, I see people every day rolling up and down the streets — regular people, in regular clothes, men AND women, often with kids. We have group rides that draw anywhere from dozens to hundreds of riders, every time. We have miles of new bike lanes on the pavement, with more showing up at a regular rate. We have bike racks popping up all over. And hell, we even have a mayor who leads regular rides. It’s hard to believe this is still Fort Worth — truly amazed at the progress we’ve made. We still have a long way to go to catch cities like Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, or New York (let alone Copenhagen and Amsterdam), but I’m so proud of what we’ve done so far.”
— As an indication of how far some cities have to go, there was a somewhat poignant message on a bicycle club’s listserv from a bicyclist in Arlington, adjacent to Fort Worth, who had resolved to ride to work today.
Arlington, it should be noted, is the largest city in the United States with no public transportation. It has a sizable number of folks who not only are hostile to cyclists and bike lanes but consider them tools of tyranny, part of a United Nations plan to drive people into cities and give up their cars. (See June 29, 2011, blog post, “A parallel universe in the city next-door.”)
The Arlington cyclist wrote that he lives about three miles from his workplace and has to be there early in the morning. Last night, he wrote, he prepared a backpack to carry shoes and a ball cap “to hide helmet hair” and got up early to set out for work. But then he thought about the route, considered that he’d be riding during rush hour and wondered: “Is this really a good idea?”
“I love my bike; I ride a fair amount, around 5,000 miles per year,” he wrote. “But on the roads at rush hour with all the motorists who so dearly love us, I chickened out.
“For all the bikers who rode in this morning in support of making bikes truly a viable means of transportation in our everyday lives, I applaud you – keep up the effort. But until and unless we can convince our cities … to provide bike lanes and trails to facilitate everyday use of the bike as a transportation alternative, I am worried that the Ride of Silence will be in memory of too many bikers who lost the battle for the roads to the automobile.”



Filed under Americana, Environment, Politics, Texana, Urban cycling

2 responses to “Musings on Bike to Work Day

  1. Pingback: Bike Nation - Not Quite Hippie | Not Quite Hippie

  2. Doug

    I live on the North Shore of Boston and recently began an 11-mile (each way) bike commute. Nine of those miles are rural, two are urban, traffic-clogged and somewhat nasty — we’re talking about Boston drivers. I decided to bike to work to:

    – Lose weight/get more fit
    – Save money on gas (roughly $3 per day)
    – Lower my carbon footprint

    I started in early June and it’s been a success, mostly. My fitness level is getting better and I’m losing weight. And it feels great to go two or three days in a row without driving my car.

    But the goal of financial savings has been undermined by my 25-year-old Univega Nuovo Sports, which keeps needing small repairs and new parts (annual tune-up, replacement of a broken rear derailleur, new rack on the back, lock, tire repair kit and pump) all of which means that maybe, maybe I will save enough on gas to pay for the upkeep of the bike.

    The other downside is fatigue. I’m fine with the ride in, but by the end of the ride back I am dragging my sorry carcass down the road. When I get home I flop on the sofa and find myself nodding off 10 minutes later. I expect over time to get stronger and fitter so that my post-work energy level improves, but until then I am getting extremely full nights of sleep.

    Altogether, I am very happy and proud riding to work. The morning ride in particular is nice – it’s still cool, much of the ride is in the shade and being on the bike is a great way to start the day. The ride home? Not as great, particularly the urban first two miles. But hey, you have to take the bitter with the better.

    I plan to keep at it.

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