April 6, 2010


By Anna | 12 Comments »

I received the latest Bicycling Magazine last night, and when I saw advertised on the front page their list for the top 50 places to ride I eagerly crack it open, prepared to dream of my next cycling destination.  Little did I know what awaited me in those glossy pages…

Worst Cities – Birmingham, Alabama

“It turns out Alabama’s largerst city has a hip bike community: alley cats, cyclocross races and nice singletrack.  There’s a road scene, too.  The problem is Birmingham has built only 10 miles of bike lanes over the past two decades while allowing multilane highways and shoulderless suburban streets to dominate the sprawl.  Less than 1.3 percent of Greater Birmingham bikes or walks regularly, a lower rate than any other larger metro area in the country, according to 2000 census data (the latest available, but in our experience, not much has changed). ‘We have a lot of motorists who think cyclists belong on the sidewalk,’ says Tom Maxwell, a senior planner there.  The appetite for change exists, but with no strong bike-minded leadership – in City Hall or the advocacy community – progress has been negligible.”

If you’ve been following us for a while then you know how aggrivated we sometimes get riding in the ‘ham.  With Bici, I’ve lately been feeling more and more upset about the apathy among cyclists and the lack of commitment we’re coming up against as rabble-rousers.  Reading about how Birmingham is the lowest of the low in a nationally recognized magazine makes me even more depressed.  It would be so easy just to give up.

At least they gave us a pseudo shout out.  The hip bicycle community that is putting on alleycats and doing cyclocross races?  That would be us.

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  1. On April 6th, 2010 Ghost Rider said:

    Don’t give up, Anna…with your efforts (and Bici, and other friends), you ARE making a difference. These things take time…sometimes more than we can stomach.

    I vented my frustration with the following article:

    We’ve got a busload of bike/ped fatalities to brag about, too. Ugh.

    We all face this kind of terrible news if we live outside of Portland or SF or Minneapolis, but giving up just isn’t in the cards for us. If we’re committed (and a bit lucky, to be sure), the world will know of our cities as bike-friendly destinations someday.

  2. On April 6th, 2010 Matt said:

    At least you know that anywhere you go for your next cycling destination will be better than where you are now.

  3. On April 6th, 2010 Elisa M said:

    I knew that they were doing a write-up on us (they tried to interview me, but I missed the call!), but didn’t realize it was to talk about just how terrible we are.

    I AM glad that they recognized the few things we do (thanks Tom!)

    Change will happen, it MUST

  4. On April 6th, 2010 Rob Sayers said:

    As bad as that may be, I think it’s really cool you guys are doing so much for advocacy there, that’s really the only way anything will change.

  5. On April 6th, 2010 mike said:

    This is how I feel when picking up trash in and around my local waterways. Am I really making a difference? Answer: YES

    Elisa and Anna keep up the good fight!!! You are helping to make a positive change in your city! If you don’t who will?

  6. On April 6th, 2010 Patrick said:

    Bad news (this isn’t really news to anyone though) aside, you could have gotten quoted in a national magazine. Sweet!

  7. On April 6th, 2010 Hayley said:


    People who want to ride where Bicycling Magazine tells them to ride? They’re the have-it-our-way, fair-weather riders.

    People who ride, oblivious to the world around them telling them that they shouldn’t? They’re the cyclists.

    Go on with your bad selves!

  8. On April 7th, 2010 Jenn said:

    Props to Hayley, above. I was getting ready to comment but she said it better than I would have. Ride on witcha bad selves!!

  9. On April 7th, 2010 spiderleggreen said:

    I think it’s Kudo’s for you gals putting up the good fight in a tough bike town. That is a badge of honor. It sucks that Ham is getting some bad press, but at least you’re not sitting on your ass bitchin about how something should be done(not too much, anyways). You’re doing something. You are the lotus in the shit pond! That is something to be proud of.

    As for Hayley’s comments about Bicycling Magazine and “fair weather riders”. If he’d read the magazine, he’d know that Mpls. was rated number 1. “Fair weather” in a Mpls. winter would be “the end times” in some other parts of the country. Anna did a nice peice on her visit, here in January. The One on One bike/coffee/art gallery she visited gets prominant display in the Bicycle article. While she wasn’t too keen on riding in those conditions, many locals were(maybe we weren’t always happy about it).

    I think the value of these articles isn’t about “pecking order” stuff, it’s about seeing what other places are doing and seeing if it might work for you’re town.

  10. On April 7th, 2010 the village scribe said:

    I had a feeling I’d see some rants here and on bikecommuters.com in response to the Bicycling article, and rightly so. For what it’s worth, I take a lot of inspiration from the BikeSkirt and BikeCommuters sites. (Case in point, I’ve wanted to organize a bicycle co-op ever since I first read about your pre-launch plans for Bici. Now, we have a shop space, and we’re within a few chain links of opening the doors on our own co-op.)

    I live in a relatively small town. Most of the time, I’m inclined to think that the size and layout of our city would mean we could be bike-friendly in no time. Other days, though, I realize that we have an awfully long way to go, and that it won’t be easy to get there.

    Nevertheless, we have a small but growing bicycling community here, and momentum is building. We’ll get there. Meanwhile, thanks for all you’re doing in your little corner of the globe.

  11. On April 8th, 2010 Cyclin' Missy said:

    I thought of you ladies when I read the list in Bicycling. Keep up the good work, and I know B-ham will move up in the list in the coming years! You are doing awesome things.

  12. On April 8th, 2010 Elisa said:

    Thanks for the discussion everyone. We are trying our hardest to get more bikes on the road safely and up our rating.
    Scribe-that is wonderful about the co-op, please keep us posted on the progress!
    We were asked why our post didn’t have an action point for cyclists…our action point is to get out and RIDE! Show that there is a need for Birmingham to get its act together.

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