Friday, April 13, 2012
If you're reading this, you're a cyclist. Or want to be. And, you're not alone. I'm by no means new to the bicycle movement—I've been riding bicycles for transportation and tourism for 35 years. But it doesn't take a sixth sense to feel the vibe. There are more bike riders on the road. And not strictly for exercise. There are more folks pedaling to jobs, hauling groceries, cycling to school.
I'm unsure how the surge started. Was it Lance Armstrong's popularity? He certainly was responsible for the uptick in road bike sales. Or gas prices? Holy cow, Burlington's is nearly $4.00 a gallon. Who wants to pay $50.00 to fill their tank? Ouch. Or is it the Internet, drawing attention to places like Denmark and Netherlands where they have amazing bike culture? The downturn in the U.S. economy may be largely responsible. No longer is a two car, two income family the norm—or at the very least will not be, in my opinion, in the future. Or is it all of these factors combined? One thing is for sure, the momentum is building.
People are writing about it. Pick your specific bike genre: mountain biking, racing, commuting, advocacy, even bicycle chic. Thousands of bike blogs cater to specific bicycling culture. The beauty of the Internet is that not only can one read about biking in far flung places, you can see videos, see bike paths in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, anywhere. The more you look the more you realize that it doesn't take fancy equipment to ride. Research on You Tube how to maintain your bike. The average person can invigorate that dusty bike that was years ago relegated to the attic.
Check out Craig's List. The proliferation of old three, five, and ten speeds, even older touring bikes that have been restored, are now being ridden once again. It's astounding. There is a market for vintage bikes. It's now acceptable to ride something that's used—it's even fashionable.
It's heartening to see the renaissance of women pedalers. We are still the minority, but our numbers are growing. And those blogging about their experiences is staggering—an affirmation, really that we're on the right track and want to spread the news. A year ago I added anniebikes to a listing of women-only bloggers compiled by Bike Style Spokane. Take a look at MY BLOG ROLL on the right. This is just a smidgen of what's out there. Some ladies are new to cycling, navigating their way through the commuter world. Some have come back to cycling after years away; many are old hats like me. And, yes, I follow the guys too.
Montreal has a popular bike share program called BIXI (an amalgam of "bicycle" and "taxi") aimed at the sub 30 minute ride, designed for commuting and errands. Washington D.C. recently started a similar program. Shortly, New York City and Chicago will continue the trend. The list goes on.
Before I left Portland, Oregon to return home in 1996, for a few months I acted as a steward for Bicycle Transportation Alliance. I volunteered to meet commuter wannabees at a designated spot on the east side to provide encouragement and/or personal escort to their workplace. I never got a customer. Fast forward to 2006. I returned to visit friends. I borrowed a bike to ride around my old haunts and was blown away by the steady stream of commuters. A lot can change in little time.
In Burlington, university students ride to classes. They pedal to the beach. Professors ride in between buildings. It's nothing new to see full bike racks on campus. What is new is the conversation. I overhear students planning ride adventures or displaying their bikes to one another.
When we moved back home in 1996 there still was the one reputable bike store, supporting 40,000 people. Now there are two more. One of those sells used bikes. The bike trails are busy. There are more commuters on my rides to work. The movement is happening, heartening, and healthy. Clearly, we're on a roll.