Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Accepting the Ride

Photo from a 1970 Schwinn catalog,
but could just as easily be 2012.
Transitioning to the bicycle as a form of transportation is easy for some folks and difficult for others. The young are pedaling old Schwinns and Peugeots. Ladies, especially, ride in sundresses with glasses perched on top of their heads, ready to flick them down upon need. They are flouncy. All puffed for display. They are the carefree demographic that could just as easily get by on foot in Burlington. They live close to downtown; within a miles radius they can be at the beach, on a bus, or walk to a grocery store. I wonder, though, whether this new found love of the bike is a fad for the college age set.

On the other hand, northern Burlington is a mix of working class families, elderly housing, and low income apartments with very few post high school students. I like this region though, quite a bit. There are parks and unpretentious neighborhoods. And then there is its appealing proximity to the waterfront path. I often pedal to their well-stocked shopping center for groceries, bagels, creemees, or to the hardware store; it's a short ride from a family camp. I could see myself, someday, living in the North End.

I was shocked, though pleased, to discover full bike racks in this particular shopping district. Searching for an open spot, I casually mentioned to a cycler whose bike was locked sideways in the rack taking up three spaces (she was apologizing and unlocking her bike) how it was nice to see so many out riding. She smiled and said that she didn't drive. I didn't ask why—it wasn't my business. Instead, I made small talk, how the weather's been so nice this year, good for commuting. And she replied, "I don't mind either."

A few minutes later I moved my bike to another rack. Again, it was brimming with bikes. I locked up beside another cyclist who'd arrived at the same moment. Later, I came out with a basket of groceries just as she was likewise packing to leave. It seemed propitious for conversation. This grey-haired woman couldn't afford to fix her car and now rides her bike everywhere. And she looked genuinely happy. I passed her later on and wished her a nice day.

I thought about how this economic crisis has led many to chose a bicycle as transportation because there are no easy alternatives—the bus is infrequent, the distances longer between work, home, and everyday necessities. These two women figured out what worked for their situation. Maybe there was a bike sitting unused in their household and all they had to do was inflate tires.

I filled up our van's gas tank the other day and spent 50.00. Ouch. I could buy a garage sale bike for the same price. But would others with less bike know-how feel comfortable with this? Probably not. Or it wouldn't cross their minds that a bike is viable transportation, a perfectly acceptable way to get from point A to B. Whether this rise in bike usage continues or not, it's at least heartwarming to know that some locals—and ladies at that—choose two wheels as a solution for living without a car.


  1. It's lovely to see isn't it? There are all the non-financial rewards too. I'll be able to list those . . . as soon as the sun comes out and I can take my waterproofs off :)

    Oh yeh, stress-busting, improved health, pleasant pace of life and a chance to chat with folks at bike racks.

  2. We get nowhere near that number of bikes anywhere around here, if it took the economic crisis to do that then it is a good thing. I think it's great that young people want to ride bikes now, it gives bike riding a much better chance of becoming popular if it is trendy too.
    BB, I hope it's stopped raining over there.

  3. You're right, more and more people are feeling the pinch. But also, if you know someone who cycles a lot, perhaps you give it a go.. and the next one... Sort of a positive peer pressure!

  4. There's nothing nicer than seeing cyclists take their bikes out to do chores like shopping! It transcends the idea that a bicycle is merely for bicycle rides and proves to people that so many errands/chores can be done on two-wheels. It's nice to see people in northern Burlington realising that! :-)

    1. I know, that's why I was taken aback at the lovely sight of full bike racks. I was all smiles.


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