You say you want a revolution? (pardon me, Beatles)

“For the city bike to catch on we need a revolution in our society’s infrastructure. Right now a city rider needs to be a road warrior, and the bike needs to be cheap and ugly so it won’t get stolen. That’s not a bike-friendly culture.”

Gary Fisher, mountain bike pioneer

Three sentences. That’s all. Just three sentences. But oh, so much is in those three sentences. Let’s take it apart and talk briefly about each part. By the way, there are way more than three topics in those sentences.

“For the city bike to catch on…”
It has caught on, in a big way. It’s true that it has caught on more in some places than in others, but people enjoy being able to ride bikes to go places. Many in younger generations are even opting out of getting drivers’ licenses! People are moving back to cities, fed up with the culture that says driving everywhere is the only way to go. That was certainly one of the factors my wife and I considered in our recent move.

“…we need a revolution in our society’s infrastructure.”
And the change we see in the young requires a change in our infrastructure. With cycling “catching on,” we need to catch up. It’s not only physical infrastructure that needs to be changed, but also our “mental infrastructure.” Roads can be redesigned and cycling-specific accommodations can be included in new projects…but these require those who contract, approve, design, and implement those changes to think differently. Motorists need to think about ALL road users, not just themselves. Politicians need to consider solutions that include everyone, and not just the select few.

“Right now a city rider needs to be a road warrior…”
Yep. While most motorists are perfectly willing to share the road, most if not all bicycle riders can recount stories of blaring horns, being yelled at, maybe even having things thrown at them, or drivers intentionally intimidating them with their motor vehicles.
I’m one of what are called the “strong and fearless” riders. I’ll ride just about anywhere. But many don’t feel comfortable riding on streets with wide lanes and fast-moving cars. In my home city, bike lanes were just installed on a major road. The parking lane was narrowed so much that in some spots, even a small sedan parked RIGHT up against the curb sticks out into the bike lane. And then there’s the bike lane: It is in the no-man’s land between the parked cars and the right lane…the perfect spot for someone to open a car door and slam right into a bike rider.
The city touts the cycling infrastructure. Meanwhile, many bicyclists are uncomfortable using the (inadequate) bike lane and motorists get angry when a bicyclist rides in the right lane instead of the bike lane.

“…the bike needs to be cheap and ugly so it won’t get stolen.”
Bicycle theft is real in my city. There is a group hard at work that regularly reunites bikes with lawful owners. But it’s crazy. Most days I open up facebook and see a picture of another stolen bike. Sometimes it’s the story of the theft, and sometimes it’s the finding of the thief, or at least the bike. If you intend to rely on your bicycle as a vehicle, this is a huge concern. Many people move to a city so that they can be close to the things they need and want to do. The ability to use a bike on a routine basis enhances that choice. The fear of theft discourages some from even trying.

“That’s not a bike-friendly culture.”
What he said. Let’s change that.


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