I loved this reading perspective from the Urban Phoenix on how cycling is seen so often as just a recreational activity or a last resort means of transportation. Most of what the author says has also been my own experience.
For example, the four main responses he summarizes:
#1 is typically from other people who currently or previously commuted.
Living in South Carolina, I probably get #2 the most (a combination of that and “how do you get groceries/how far are you from work”/other logistical and often incredulously intoned questions)
I rarely hear #3, and when I do it’s typically from the teenage boys in my mentoring group. Once I turned 16 I felt the same way, driving was new and exciting and way cooler than riding a bike. But I also lived in suburbia and that feeling wore off after a few years.
And #4 is often phrased after I myself mention that I don’t have a car, and get the response “… Like, by choice?”.
This attitude of “if she doesn’t have a car, something must be terribly wrong” is why I named this blog “Rebel Without a Car” instead of something like “Maniac Behind Bars”. Sadly, in the current cityscape you do have to be a little crazy to bike for practical purposes, since most of our roads where I live are built only for cars. I certainly wish I wasn’t some pedaling pioneer or workplace anomaly, but that my interactions could be more run-of-the-mill “oh cool, you ride too”.
This isn’t just a problem with getting local council members on board with the vision for complete streets (although you should definitely go talk to your city and county council members); living in car culture is something we all participate in, one way or another.
Which for me is what makes it so fun to ride around in non-cycling clothes, hauling my groceries or going to a meeting with some mild helmet hair (which is hard to suss out from what my hair would look like otherwise, #curlyhairperks). Because when we have visible, diverse bike commuting in our communities, we fight stereotypes and challenge the ‘my way is the highway’ mindset. Every single bike ride you take is a part of that.
The only asterisk I want to stick in this article is where the author refers to bikes as “like cars, only slower”. In urban locations, bikes are actually the most efficient means of getting around; when I studied abroad, I would always beat public transit (even the really nice European kind) and cars within the city thanks to the cycle paths, bike lanes and ease of parking. This phenomenon was also wonderfully demonstrated locally in Greenville last month for an Earth Day event:
Yep, that guy with the helmet beat out the driver (on the left) and the public transit user (on the right).
And when the results were announced on social media, the snarky comments weren’t far behind. “Did the cyclist obey all traffic laws?”* “I don’t see his bike.” ** “The city doesn’t provide enough parking for cars.”***
* Yes, or he would have been disqualified. And no one asked, but the driver did too
** It’s parked and locked at the rack that can be seen in the left side of the photo above, per rules of the contest
*** Just… no.
So in summation, I would argue that not only do we need to communicate that bikes are a viable means of transportation, but we need to realize that they also just make sense.
And that starts with a bike ride. So I’m off to log Day #148 for the year! (yep, still going strong).