July 18, 2011

My Soapbox is a Bicycle

By Elisa | 6 Comments »

BP had another oil spill. Exxon Mobile spilled into the Yellowstone River. Let us not forget the Gulf oil spill, also BP. People are up in arms, demanding we fine them and boycott BP. Wars are fought for oil, “Drill, baby, drill” is used as a campaign slogan, hybrid cars sales are growing.

Y’all this is out of control. Bike sales are increasing like crazy but cyclists are still seen as an anomaly. Because I ride a bike, people think I am fun or funny. Bike paraphernalia decorates my walls and clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I love that cycling is a bit of a sub-culture and that I feel like part of a club (a club that drinks beers and looks good); but I wonder when people will start taking cycling seriously as a way to stop this environmental and health death spiral?

I simply don’t understand the societal disconnect. If you are worried about our environment, ride a bike. If you are overweight and looking for a cheap way to get into shape, ride a bike. Broke from gas prices? Ride a damn bike. Be more than just talk; do something. I am ok with baby steps: transition to a smaller car for the family, try taking the bus once a week…just do something. Until then, quit complaining about how the big companies are ruining the world; they exist for a reason, because their product is in demand. How can we hope for lowered gas prices AND more careful drilling? Boycotting BP but still driving your SUV is not saying Damn the Man. You know how you damn the man? Stop participating in the problem. Get our of your car and on your bike (or the bus or a nice walk or the subway).

LA was freaking out over “Carmageddon“, but does anyone care when the bike lanes are blocked due to delivery trucks, sidewalk renovations or valet signs? Nearly every city has a parking requirement for business zoning, but rarely is bike parking thought of*. I don’t know the numbers, but would assume that the difference between money spent on roads and money spent on bike infrastructure is vast. Yet I see cars with anti-drilling stickers on them all the time**. I want cycling to be more than a cute hobby with t-shirts and mugs and wall hangings. I want it to be ordinary. I long for the day when this and other cycling blogs are moot because everyone does it and it is nothing special. There is hope: Ray LaHood is a big supporter of cycling and is working hard to make things happen. However, it is going to take more than that to really make a difference. People need to take cycling seriously and see it as a method of changing our world, one pedal at a time.

Until the change is mainstream, let’s keep encouraging others to get on a bike. Let’s work our hardest to make it accessible. Let’s ride like it is an ordinary thing because for most of us, it is. And that is a beautiful thing.

 

* Some cities, such as San Francisco are requiring bike parking and I salute them for it!

**considering I live in the heart of the Gulf oil spill, there may be a disproportionate number here.

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Comments

6
  1. On July 18th, 2011 Deb said:

    There are some cities that are adding bike parking as a requirement with all new development. I don’t remember the details off the top of my head, but local bloggers (DC area) talk about it quite a bit, and my town (arlington, va) has quite a bit of bike parking now. Every time there’s new construction, new bike parking sprouts. It’s really cool! Also cool that it’s getting used. :)

    In terms of numbers, 1.5% of the transportation budget goes to bike and ped infrastructure, even though 12% of trips are on foot or bike.

    And brilliant minds in congress and the house have been trying to cut the entire 1.5% that goes toward bike/ped projects, claiming that anything other than motorized-vehicle-specific projects is frivolous.

    Great post. You put into words so much of what frustrates me!

  2. On July 18th, 2011 Steve A said:

    Re LaHood: I’m not sure if I’d consider a guy that rides 1.5 miles for a photo op and no other known time a “big supporter of cycling.”

    I think of him every morning now – 1.5 miles into my commute.

    Pols are pols. As you say, ride like it is ordinary, which it ought to be. And that IS beautiful…

  3. On July 19th, 2011 Kate said:

    Sing it! It makes so much sense in every way. I feel like just going ahead and living by bike is almost a politcal act, but really, it’s just riding a bike. It could be normal!

  4. On July 19th, 2011 Alison said:

    I love the idea of biking as being just normal, and I would like to see more focus on the greatness of cycling as a method of transportation, and less as a tool for political agendas. A bike is a fantastic way to get around! It’s fast, economical, and it feels really, really good. The pure joy of cycling is it’s strongest selling point and one which appeals to almost everyone.

  5. On July 29th, 2011 Fred Ollinger said:

    I don’t have all the #s on the top of my head, but I do know that in San Diego, the total cost of bicycle spending by the govt is nine cents.

    So if someone whines that they are spending too much of “their money” on bicycles, you can give the person a dime and tell them they can keep the change, but they can not complain anymore about bicycles b/c they have spent nothing, personally. :)

  6. On July 29th, 2011 Karen said:

    Fantastic post and I share your frustration with the complaining without any action crowd. I am so tired of hearing people harp on the price of gas when so many have bikes sitting unused in their garages. It’s not like Flagstaff is a big city. We have bike lanes and bike paths many towns and cities would envy. You can ride most months out of the year and never have to worry about excessive sweat or humidity funking you up so why not just give it a try?

    I am equally tired of being related to like some really brave anomoly. I’m not a saint. I’m just trying to economize in a crappy economy and living in one of the most expensive zip codes in the country.

    I always stress the pocket book reasons why I started bike commuting but point out how much I get out of it in terms of fun, stress reduction, and yes, weight management. It’s easier to order that piece of chocolate layer cake when I biked to the restaurant.

    In terms of selling cycling as an alternative to driving, I think that doing what we’re doing, biking with a smile on our faces, biking in style, demonstrating the life enhancing aspects of it are the best things we can do. I read an interesting blog post yesterday about creating mythology to sell products and ideas and I think that it what it will take with creating culture more embrasing of bikes as transportation.

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