Published Aug 19 2008 by One Green Generation Archived Aug 20 2008. Will Americans ever bicycle like the rest of the world? by Melinda Briana Epler. After reading a post at Earth First, I thought I'd seek out and share some bicycle inspiration. The following photos were taken at train stations around the world:
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Too Cold? Scandinavia
So... What are we waiting for?!
A couple of weeks ago I wrote Is Your Neighbourhood Bikeable? To see if we couldn't get ourselves out of this biker's block. There are some resources there to peruse. And there were also some amazing comments. I'm going to reproduce one from LHT Rider here, because I think it's very useful.
If You Have Biker's Block by LHT Rider
It is a sad commentary on the culture we live in that so many of us are afraid to exercise our right to use the public roads in a non-polluting manner. Believe me, I know how you feel. I went from not riding my bicycle for many, many years and have since become a 4-season rider in the northern Midwest. Here are some things that have helped me make the transition.
1. Set small, achievable, progressive challenges for yourself. Baby steps are important. See for yourself what you're truly capable of and question your assumptions. If you are willing to test your preconceived notions, you might be surprised at the results.
2. Allow yourself to do what you need to in order to feel more comfortable. For example if the road immediately adjacent to your house is too scary, allow yourself to ride on the sidewalk for a short distance until you can get somewhere safer. This is legal in many communities. Just remember to: be nice - yield to pedestrians, be careful crossing driveways especially if you do not have a clear line of sight, and do not under any circumstances shoot out into intersections from the sidewalk as car drivers do not expect you to be there.
3. Get a mirror & learn how to use it. It's much less scary if you know what's coming up behind you. While some people have no problem just turning around to see what's behind them while still maintaining a razor sharp straight line, a mirror allows you to check things out more quickly and without the risk of weaving (into traffic, the curb, a pothole etc.)
4. Plan your route. On a bicycle you would almost never take the exact same route as you would in a car (because that's where all the cars are!). Your city may have a map of official bicycle routes (maybe even online!). This can be extremely helpful and make for a much more pleasant ride.
5. Educate yourself. Read up on how to ride in traffic or refresh your memory on the rules of the road. Learn how to use your gears. A bicycle should give you a mechanical advantage over walking. It doesn't have to be hard (or racing fast). In addition, as Heather @ SGF says, think about what you're afraid of happening & figure out what you would do if it actually happened. There's lots of good advice out there on everything from gear to how to change a tire. (By the way, riding a bicycle really does not require spandex or Lycra).
6. Be sure your bicycle fits you. (This is getting easier, but can be difficult for many women.) Also make sure it works properly. There may be adjustments or changes in equipment that can make your ride much more comfortable and enjoyable. I have only recently come to appreciate what an amazing difference tires can make in the of your ride. Think about getting a basket or pannier so that your bicycle can haul more than just you!
7. Demand cycling (and pedestrian) improvements and safety in your community. The only way it will get easier/better for cyclists is if we stand up and say that this is something we care about and should be a priority for where we live.
Maybe Your Neighbourhood Isn't Bikeable Yet.
For many of us, I think it all has to begin with #6 above. Some of our neighbourhoods just aren't bikeable. Some aren't even walkable. So while you are growing your own food and greening your indoors, please think about how we can make our communities more bikeable and walkable.
And when you come up with an idea, act on it. When you see an opportunity to do something about it, act on it. That opportunity could be big or small - a community meeting, someone who might listen via email or phone, a local election, even just a chat with a neighbour to start. And if someone else organizes a great, safe bicycling event, make sure you turn out in droves with friends and family.
Make these free and green transportation options possible in your neighbourhood!
Need More Inspiration?
Ciclovia in Bogotais inspiring - 2 million people ride 70 miles of car-free streets, take exercise and dance classes, walk and join together every week. New Yorkjust shut down Park Avenue for bicycles. Portland closed streets for its "Sunday Parkways", and has a website to help you get around the city car-free. It's happening around the world.
In Seattle, Bicycle Sunday has been going on for as long as I can remember: all day traffic is closed to cars and trucks along the Lake Washington Waterfront. Now it has turned into Saturdays as well, and more are in the works! There's even a Pro Walk Pro Bike Conferencehere in September. It's not all we need, but it's a start - it raises awareness, it allows people to exercise for free, and it gives us hope for more. The Liveable Streets Networkhas more inspiring stories and ideas.
Let's work on it!!