Monday, January 28, 2013

Revolution via Revolights

A revolution in the way that folks can bike in the dark? Aid to bike safety? Just plain cool? I'm interested in this new item, funded by supporters through Kickstarter. Would you bike with these babies? An interesting way to address the need for bike lights. Maybe I'll be sporting them sometime soon...

Voice your comments below!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Attemp #1

My husband:  "You should really go. I know it's one of your goals for 2013."

Me:  "I know, but I'm a little nervous. I don't have all the gear (and I know that I talk about that not mattering). And I'm not really in shape. And I've never done one before."

My husband:  "You should do it. I'm take care of things around here if that means you'll get to ride. I support you doing it."

Me (with nerves, interpretation and great reluctance):  "...Alright, I will."

This was the conversation we had on Saturday morning about my going on my first group ride. So, I pumped up my tires, slipped my riding shorts and shirt on and headed out. Only to find I was about 5 minutes late. So, there was no group ride. I was a little relieved - and disappointed. Trying something new takes courage and humility.

Getting into a grove of a regular group ride is something that's on my list of things I'd like to do this year. Never having done one, and not being in shape for long rides, I'm a little nervous. But challenging yourself and expanding horizons is good for the soul. So, despite missing out on the group ride, I still decided to go and do a little solo riding. And a hour and a half and 20 miles of rolling roads later, I decided it was for the best. I felt refreshed, satisfied and a little sore, the good kind of sore.

During the ride my mind wandered to the idea that advocates should make sure they get out to ride a bike every so often, and that the hard-core cyclists should make sure they take time to be a part of the advocacy scene. It's about the idea that the love of biking - for whatever reason - should bring us closer together.

My daily commute is the way I typically use my two wheels, but I'd like to shake things up a bit this year. How will you get into a new groove in 2013?

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Ever notice what happens when you ask someone about riding their bike? A smile starts to creep over their face, and it's like they are suddenly back on the bike, mid conversation.

When bike riding comes up in conversation, I like to sit back and listen. Hearing the way people describe their experiences riding a bike has become one way that I have begun to quietly, secretly elevate the role of the bike in daily life. Riding a bike to get around is not very common in this part of the country - the rural South. People may roll out their two wheels on the weekend on local trails or to get a good workout in, but their are far fewer who bike to get around. And I'm hoping to change that by changing the conversation.

When folks find out that I get around by bike, they look at me, and one of three things usually happens:
  1. They look at me like I'm crazy. It usually gets all quiet, and they mumble something about me being crazy. My response:  A little smile and shrug of the shoulders. They'll come around eventually.

  2. A smile comes over their face. They talk about how that's pretty cool. And then there's the explanation of why they can't or don't. My response:  I tell them that not everyone has to ride a bike every day or for the same reason. I encourage them to ride when they can.    Or...

  3. They delve into a story about riding in a past part of their life, and they're off into a reminiscent story-telling mode. I love this story-telling mode. My response:  I just sit back and let them go.
They talk about how it started, the way it made them feel, typically with words like "freedom" and "fun." They also talk about the good of shape that they were in. The type of bike they rode. Then there's the the reason why they stopped:  they moved, got a job, got a car, had a family. All good reasons why life changes change life. However, after some adjustment period of weeks, months or years, I encourage everyone to get back on, no matter when they rode last. (Or if it's their first time!)

Next time a conversation about bike riding comes up, stay quiet and listen. There's a lot to learn about the local bike culture. It could help you figure out important points to talk to or rally around. And, you'll make some great friends.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Vacuumist

There’s an interesting way that individuals suddenly become the “other” when they choose to ride a bike. Here’s an interesting way to think about this idea:
I don’t think people think of themselves as bikers or cyclists. The bicycle is just a tool. It’s something that everyone has. I’ve heard one person refer to it as a like a vacuum. Everybody has a vacuum but nobody talks about it, nobody calls themselves a vacuumist. 
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this argument. When someone chooses to ride a bike more often than not or when there’s talk about improving bicycle facilities, we’re suddenly talking about “them,” “the other,” or “bicyclists” like they are some intangible entity.

Sure, I ride my bike. But I also drive my car. I also take public transportation from time to time. Is there a label for folks who drive? Calling them “motorists” makes it sound like we’re in the UK or somewhere British. When talking about public transportation, the people are just people who take the subway, metro or bus. They aren’t “metro-ists,” “subwayarians,” “bussers,” or any other weird version of these names.

Trying to change or reframe the conversation around the needs of bicycle infrastructure rather than the needs of bicyclists will take time. I say take the focus off of bicyclists and put it on the need for infrastructure and education. Once there are safe places for people to ride and the community accepts the role of bicycles as a way to get around, the option of getting around on two wheels won’t seem so foreign or something “someone else” would do. Changing or expanding the community of people who choose to ride their bike from time to time would come to include your neighbor, your child’s teacher or a co-worker. 

As I have continued to ride back and forth to work, there has become a growing number of community members who lightly honking their horns as they pass me as a gesture of recognition. And I love waving back to the growing number of familiar cars. It puts a smile on my face. I’m not a bicyclist. I’m their co-worker, their neighbor.

I’m not a vacuumist. I’m not a bicyclist. I’m not a motorist. I ride my bike, drive my car and take the bus. I’m a person making a choice in the way I get around, run my errands and move within my community.