Friday, May 3, 2013

Am I a Spoke Addict?

Portland, Oregon's  popular weekly paper.

Maybe the title is misleading. Of course I love bikes. I have three and ride each one. But bear with me a bit.

I love all things Portland, because, well, I used to live there. (For perspective, I'm closer to the eastern Portland, but this city is quite different.) I have friends that still live in bikey Portland and once in a while they send me tidbits of two wheel-related stuff, like this recent edition of Willamette Week. The title captured me immediately and I read every article, even the ads, because it's been a long time since I've been in this city. This weekly rag has a tendency towards quirky, edgy material but exemplifies to a certain degree where some of the bike culture has headed. And, it's not all roses.

In spite of all that Portland has accomplished with getting people on bikes there was one article that was rather telling. The author and regular car commuter was cajoled—for purposes of the article—to ride a bike for a week, even to office gatherings off-site. Immediately, he was wobbly, not having ridden for 6 years, but his motive for not taking to the bike at the get-go was intimidation. As he puts it, "It's so deeply ingrained in the fiber of this city that entering as a novice is a frightening prospect." By week's end he was unconvinced to remain a bike commuter. Whoa.

Yesterday, I found an abandoned bike—or so I thought. It was left on a pathway that I frequent with a cable lock looped around the handle bar, but not wound through the frame, wheel, or attached to a nearby railing. It was odd, but I was busy and thought nothing of it until this morning when it was still there, looking lonely, leaning against a rock wall. I went about my errands, finally deciding to take the bicycle home—should it still be there—and call the police. The clincher is that the bike was a folder—a Citizen, in fact—a bike I could've easily justified keeping or given away to someone in need. Fortunately, for me, it was gone when I arrived.

Which leads me to wonder, if it was a department store bike, would I have had the same reaction? Would I have cared as much? Probably not. And if you take that thought a bit further, are we spoke addicts intimidating as the article suggests? I had to think on that for a while. I confess to spending lots of time blogging under the pretense of getting our world trip journals in digital form—which is not a bad thing—and has the added benefit of keeping my writing skills fresh. But, because of this I've been lax at volunteering with our local bike and pedestrian advocacy group.

But that's about to change. I'm signed up to lead novice women riders. Not everyone wants to live and breathe bikes. And they shouldn't have to. They just want to ride.

7 comments:

  1. I hope the owner is the one who took the bike.
    It can be overwhelming to people who are new to cycling to learn all the rules. Just because you love all things bike doesn't make you a bad person, it means you have a passion. Now you are going to share that passion more and that can only be a good thing. I think it's great that you're going to help others learn.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, it's good to have a passion, but we must remember to put it in perspective and not turn off potential riders, as is the perception by some folks in Portland.

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  2. Interesting post Annie. It is an unusual idea that a new bikes would be put off by all the other people bike riding, I thought it would have the opposite effect! Vicki

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    1. The idea took me completely by surprise too. The author had been yelled at by bike riders numerous times while driving his car. I don't know how he was driving, but he was easily intimidated before he even climbed onto a bicycle. Sad.

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  3. That is biker not bikes.

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  4. I think you're right that we (bike nuts) have lots of preconceived notions of how cycling is "done". You are on the right track in leading some novices by exmaple... I'm too lazy and hermit-like to volunteer like that. Good on ya.

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