Archive for November, 2011

November 29, 2011

Winning the Race

No, this isn’t about that guy I chicked—and then chicked again. I’m not usually a competitive rider, after all.

Except I am, I realized, in three ways.

The first is the little races I have with myself. I’m not really tracking closely, mind you, but I look at my cyclometer every morning when I get to work. The cyclometer (think “odometer on a bike”) doesn’t track total elapsed time—it tracks pedaling time plus mileage.

When I look at the numbers, I compare how much time it took me that particular day as compared with what I think of as the average time, which is around nine minutes, maybe nine and a half. On a day with a strong headwind I get slowed down. Yesterday morning, to my surprise, I did the ride in 8:17 without really trying to hurry. (After all, I don’t want to sweat on my way to work.)

The second competition is between biking time and driving time. I don’t often get to go head to head with a driver heading to the same destination. But my boss now jokes, if we’re both leaving for a downtown meeting, that I’ll beat him there.

He’s right. He’ll walk to the parking lot, drive his SUV, park it somewhere, and have to walk to the meeting. I’ll ride point to point and hitch to the rack or a sign outside whatever building we’re heading to. Voilá! I win.

The third way I’m in a race is the similarity I’m guessing at between riding in traffic and riding in the peloton.

Not that I’ve ever been in a peloton, mind you (that long line of guys who sort of keep up with Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador and all the rest, if you’ve ever watched the Tour). I thought I might race for real, trained one winter, got really, really sick in the spring, and never rode in a race.

So I can only go off the descriptions Sweet Hubs shares of what it’s like to ride in the local races organized by Spokane Rocket Velo and Baddlands, and what I’ve seen of the races when I volunteer at the check-in or as a course driver.

When I sprint through traffic—when I look over my shoulder to gauge how close that person behind me is (in a car) to see if I have time to make my move—when I ride in a pack all streaming through a turn (with the rest of them in vehicles, of course)—when I have to slow down on the climb and I know the person behind me has (ahem) more gas in the tank and therefore can go faster and will pass me—I’m racing. Politely, of course.

And I win every time. Because I’m racing for fun.

One of my "racing" outfits: Sugoi HOV bike pants (no longer available--the quest continues!); Smart Wool tops (two for warmth on a cold day), a long sweater (which I tie around my waist when I ride), Ann Taylor short boots (cute and practical for riding and walking). Indoor parking courtesy of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you race when you ride?
  • What constitutes “winning”?
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November 27, 2011

Belles and Baskets: The Beginning

By guest blogger Betsy Lawrence, whose words you’ll see popping up here every so often

Belles and Baskets Spokane women's bike club on a ride in August 2011

A Belles ride, August 2011. Betsy Lawrence front/left, Wilma Flanagan next to her, in matching Ruu-Muus.

I am confident that I am not alone in this admission—I love women’s groups. Coffee groups, dessert groups, yoga groups, study groups—several years ago, when I was searching for the fabulous man who later became my husband, I even created a group with women who were dating on-line. I believe that if something is worth doing, I want my peeps doing it with me!

Therefore, it is no surprise that when I began actively biking, I didn’t want to do it alone. I knew there were cycling groups, but I was never going to become a bike racer or mountain biker. I am a big chicken who high-fives myself every time I get across a busy intersection; what biking group would want me?

I wished there was a group I could join and decided that since there wasn’t one, I would start one. I love alliteration, so I thought the name Belles and Baskets would capture the essence of the cyclists I would bring together.

I really had no idea how to begin, but one Friday morning, I started a Facebook page and registered a Yahoo email address. I sent the page to a few friends, and by that afternoon, it had thirty fans. By the end of the weekend, there were twice that many. I planned a ride a couple weeks later and several women met at The Scoop Ice Cream Shop. A couple were friends of mine, but several others came whom I had never met. We had a nice ride followed by ice cream, and new friendships and a cycling group were formed.

Our "Cranksgiving" ride the day after Thanksgiving 2011. Cold but sunny! Left to right: Michelle, Katherine, Betsy, Barb, Patty, Stephanie. Wilma is behind the camera in this shot.

For the past three years, we have had organized rides twice a month from about April to October (weather permitting), and our membership has grown into the hundreds. We have ridden around all areas of Spokane through neighborhoods, trails, and downtown and always meet where we can relax over treats afterwards. We have members of all ages, those who haven’t ridden a bike for decades, and those who are competitive athletes. Some of us are committed bike commuters and racers, while others have rarely ridden on a busy street. We are a no-drop group, meaning no woman is ever left behind. We will happily ride with slower members and enjoy chatting with newcomers.

With such diverse backgrounds and skills, the Belles come together with common goals: improving biking skills, exploring areas to ride, meeting new friends, and enjoying refreshments together. I am proud of what Belles and Baskets has become and hope to be surrounded by these athletic, courageous, kind women for years to come.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you usually ride alone?
  • If you’ve gone on group rides, how does that riding experience differ from solo rides?
Tags: ,
November 25, 2011

Shop Small, Shop Local: Small Business Saturday

When I was younger my shopping values focused with a laser beam on “cheap, cheaper, cheapest.” Some of this I attribute to my dear darling mother, raised during the Great Depression, and her clear message that if it hung on the sales rack it fit better, looked better, and was the right color for you, as compared with all those things that hadn’t yet been marked down. The rest I attribute to a severely constrained wallet and my desire to have more of everything than I could afford.

Things have and haven’t changed. The severely constrained wallet? Still there, really, although at a different level than what it was when I worked as a Kelly temp and walked or bused to work because I had no choice. Now I make more money and have more commitments and my relative purchasing ability may have actually declined.

My shopping values? Well, I read recently that we spend the first half of our lives acquiring things and the second half getting rid of things; I’m more in the getting-rid-of mode than in the acquiring mode. I appreciate the things my mother taught me to look for in order to recognize whether I was buying good quality (on sale). Today, I recognize that, as Benjamin Franklin said, “The bitterness of low quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

You do get what you pay for. You get it where you pay for it, too, meaning that if you ship your dollars away, tempted by the chance to save a buck or two, your money is exported to some other community. That’s where it circulates, buying legal and accounting services, paying taxes for schools and streets, and employing someone else—not you, not your kid, not your neighbor.

Consider that when you head out to shop, and support Small Business Saturday. If you need to buy online because getting out is difficult, are you able to buy from a business in your town, or at least in your state? (For those of us in Washington, Amazon is headquartered in our state’s economy.)

If you’re heading out in Spokane, check out the wonderful shops we explored in this year’s Bikespeditions along with other great local businesses:

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you still shop the same way you did when you were younger?
Tags: ,
November 24, 2011

In Which I Give Thanks for Biking

I started out thinking this was an easy post to write: things about biking and what it has done for me that make me thankful.

Then I realized it feels easy because I’ve already written a bunch of these posts, so I’d better round those up; they’re listed below under Related Reading.

When I describe what biking has done for me to people who don’t ride, I often use the word “transformational.” It’s not a word I use lightly, and it isn’t something that happened overnight.

I have a feeling I resemble people who want to tell you about their religious beliefs. (I hope people with deep religious beliefs won’t be offended by the comparison. It is Thanksgiving and I’m giving thanks.)

Biking pervades my life. It gives me a fresh perspective on myself and the world around me. It has brought me new friends and deepened old friendships. It has given me reasons and inspiration to engage in public policy to make my hometown a better place to live. It was one of the things I found I had in common with someone wonderful I fell in love with and will share the rest of my life with.

For so many reasons, I give thanks for biking.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What are you thankful for that biking has given you?
November 23, 2011

Cranksgiving Ride, Relax, Reward

I’m anti-Black Friday. For days I’ve been posting things on Facebook about buying local or staying home instead of mobbing the big-box retailers at oh-dark-thirty for whatever this year’s “must-have” gift items are. The whole notion of storming the gates of retail to get all the holiday shopping over with in one mad blur leaves me puzzled.

That’s because when I shop, I like to enjoy shopping.

I want to linger. I want to talk to someone. I want to get a good look at what I’m buying, for heaven’s sake. And if it’s a gift, I want to spend some time thinking about whether it’s just right for the person who will receive it. None of that happens on Black Friday as it now takes place.

I recently took a survey put together by one of the Washington State University interior design students. Among other questions, she asked for a description of what makes for an ideal shopping event. I wish I had saved what I wrote there because I came up with quite the list. I’ll do what I can to recreate it—

  • I want to feel as if the owner and/or people engaged in the transaction know and love the products they sell.
  • I want to feel welcome whether or not I look as if I will buy anything.
  • I want it to smell nice (which for me means not full of plastic-y off-gassing or mustiness–better yet, a nice smell that makes me think of something delicious or something beautiful).
  • I want to stumble on some little unexpected find I wasn’t looking for that is just right.
  • I want to enjoy time with friends and drink some good coffee as part of the experience.
  • Ideally the shopping is part of a process of discovery on my bike—I’ve never had so much fun shopping as I have on the Bikespeditions I hatched this summer.

And guess what? Along with the lovely ladies of Belles and Baskets, I’ve put together a little event for this Friday that accomplishes quite a few items on the list.

I didn’t manage to get the “funky discovery of some new shop I’ve never heard of that I fall in love with” element that was also on my list. But with a bike ride mid-morning, coffee and conversation at The Shop on South Perry after, then some light shopping at my house with all the Bike Style goodies from this summer on display—plus new fabrics in Po Campo bags and Nuu-Muus/Ruu-Muus—I’ve come as close as I can get without mounting a full Bikespedition.

I’ll put some Green Bluff cider in the Crockpot, make some hot, tasty Roast House Coffee, and set out a goodie or two for snacking. You can try on a Nuu-Muu (two new fabrics just in!), see if the new helmet covers from Hub and Bespoke in Seattle (available in black or cranberry cotton velveteen) look awesome on your helmet, and talk bikes with whoever’s there.

If you do head out into the shopping madness and burn out–or if it’s the family madness at home you need to escape–I hope you’ll come have fun with us!

The forecast for Friday, Nov. 25, 2011, as of Wednesday night.

11 a.m.: Meet at The Shop. The Belles and Baskets ride assumes the weather will cooperate, and at this point it looks as if it will be cold but sunny.

We’ll do a short loop with a long-loop option for those who want more of a hill climb.

Officially 2-6 p.m.: Stop by my house* for a drop-in Bike Style shopping event. I’ll have the usual product assortment I had at the various bike events in Spokane over the summer (on sale) plus some new jewelry, helmet covers, and ear covers. (I say “officially” at 2 p.m. because whoever comes on the Belles and Baskets ride is welcome to head on over to my house whenever we start breaking up.)

If you’re thinking, “Oh, I shouldn’t buy things for myself this time of year—I’m shopping for others,” I’ll offer up a special Shopping Helper service. Come shop, make notes about what you want, and tell me who to email the list to. I’ll take care of it and you’ll know that at least one important gift recipient—you—has been taken care of in the manner you deserve.

*Where’s my house? Call or text 509-869-2949, email bikestylespokane at, become a Bike Style fan on Facebook, or DM @BikeStyleSpok on Twitter.

November 22, 2011

On a Roll with Betsy Lawrence: On Becoming a Late-in-Life Jock

This piece takes a different approach than our usual Q&A for the On a Roll with series. Introducing occasional guest blogger Betsy Lawrence: community college composition instructor, yoga teacher, and the founder of Belles and Baskets. What she doesn’t mention here that you should know: Her round trip to work is nearly 20 miles.

I was the baby of the family: the cute one, the dancing one, the happy one—NOT the athletic one. That was my big sister. I was the not-athletic one to the extent that my mom went to my grade school to warn the PE teacher (one of those old-school, could-have-been-a-character-on-Glee PE teachers) that I was not like my sister, so don’t expect much.

Mom was right. I didn’t learn to walk until I was two and couldn’t ride a bike until I was eleven. I couldn’t make contact with a ball with my hand, foot, or a bat. I spent my junior high years finding ways to be injured to avoid PE. When I ran out of injuries and had to do a 360 on the uneven bars, three spotters had to push me up and over. When we had to jump over hurdles, I refused. The teachers ran masking tape between rows of hurdles so I would jump over the tape without fear of the hurdle falling on me. Title IX was wasted on this girl.

Once I became an adult, while not an athlete, I was pretty active. I adored tap dancing, old-school aerobics, and weight lifting. In my forties, I began practicing yoga and soon became a yoga instructor. All these activities had something in common—they could be done indoors and didn’t feel like “sports.”

Eight years ago when I began dating Steve Faust, the man who later became my husband, he took me on a bike ride. I unearthed a bike that I had used twenty years prior on trips to the playground with my young children. I expected an easy ride, not the fifteen-mile, Riverside State Park loop that he took me on; it nearly killed me. (How is it that loop is uphill the whole way?) However, I enjoyed riding again, so I soon visited a local bike shop and bought a comfort bike.

In the following years, I came to love my heavy, comfortable bike. I added a rack and grocery carrier and became what I called a “lateral cyclist.” No huge hills for me, but living near drug stores, a library, and several grocery stores, with my bike I could easily accomplish tasks, get a little exercise, and (to my shock) feel a little bit less uncoordinated. I biked nearly every day during nice weather and it made running errands feel like play.

Betsy Lawrence in a Ruu-Muu on a summer Bikespedition to Carnegie Square.

Three years ago, as I became more comfortable riding, I heard about Bike to Work Week. I couldn’t imagine ever getting from my home near Comstock Park all the way to my work at Spokane Community College, but just to get involved, I volunteered at the BTW wrap-up party. I marveled at those spandexed folks who seemed to easily commute by bike. Even though I was daunted by thoughts of the trucks, the roads, the distance, the helmet hair, I vowed to ride to work during the next year’s BTW Week.

I began preparing for this task by gathering lots of information. Friends who bike commute explained routes that are commonly used, and I learned that I could avoid streets that frightened me. I found that those in the cycling community are thrilled to educate those who want to give commuting a try.

The next step to becoming a bike jock occurred when I rode in Spokefest the following September; there was a bus with a kind STA driver who demonstrated how to put my bike on a bus rack. Learning that easy, two-step process was the key to opening up the whole town to cycling. On a Friday in May, the last day of Bike to Work Week, I was ready. I rode to work and downtown to the wrap up party, put my very heavy bike on the bus for a two-mile break up the hill, and was proudly able to join the ranks of bike commuter.

No longer only a fair-weather rider, Betsy sets forth on winter roads.

Since that day two years ago, I have biked to work dozens of times. Last summer I decided it was time for an upgrade and bought a lighter bike that makes riding all the way up the South Hill easier. Bike commuting makes my work day a lovely experience. Sure, my hair isn’t quite as fluffy as usual, but after enjoying views of the river, saying “hello” to runners, yielding to geese, and smiling at truck drivers, I enter my work place much calmer than I would after driving. I am very proud to mention that I rode 1,000 miles in 2010—a huge accomplishment for the girl who took years to learn to ride a bike.

This piece first ran in Out There Monthly, Spokane’s fantastic free monthly publication featuring all things outdoors. It’s such a great story that we had to repeat it here to inspire those of you who think you can’t possibly ride a bike for transportation. Our thanks to OTM publisher Jon Snyder for permission to republish here and for being a sponsor from the beginning of Spokane Bikes/Bike to Work Spokane.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Were you athletic as a kid?
  • How has Bike to Work Week affected you?
November 19, 2011

Keep Your Weather Eye Open

weather eye. n. An ability to recognize quickly signs of changes in the weather.

Idiom: keep a/one’s weather eye open. To keep watch; stay alert.

Having a weather eye is apropos for biking no matter which meaning you use. We need to stay alert and we need to pay attention to the weather. My skill at both has improved thanks to riding my bike.

“Henry!  Henry!  I can’t find Dorothy!  She’s somewhere out in the storm!  Dorothy!” –Aunt Em

This post was prompted by a recent exchange on Facebook and also by the conversation I’ve had so many times I’ve lost track, as follows:

Someone who doesn’t ride bikes: “You rode in this weather?”

Me: “Yes.”

SWDRB: “Wow, you must be really [choose one] hardcore/committed/determined/crazy/cold.”

Comments on about weather.

“This weather” can be anything from an overcast day to a drizzle to frost to wind. Whatever it is, it falls short of the views of SWDRB about “bike weather.”

I’ve come to appreciate weather a great deal more thanks to riding. I pay attention to it in a way I never did when its effect was only going to touch me directly between front door and car door.

I check the forecast but I don’t solely rely on it. I use my “weather eye” to gauge the skies, the wind, and the road. This past week when meteorologists were forecasting a snow dump Wednesday night—and again Thursday when it didn’t happen Wednesday because, surprise! they’re sometimes wrong—I looked at the conditions and chose to ride. It just didn’t look bad enough to duck and cover.

I was right on. I rode in cold but definitely manageable conditions, and the snow didn’t really dump until Friday night.

We got a little snowfall Thursday night. Friday morning the snow was reduced to slush and bare, mostly wet roads where the vehicle tires had worn the snow away. I rode cautiously because of the touch of frost on side streets and used my “weather eye” to stay alert for drivers who were blithely ignoring said frost, but I didn’t let the conditions push me off the bike.

That’s the second weather effect of riding regularly that I particularly appreciate. Not only am I better able to assess what’s really happening around me, but I’m also less bothered by it. I don’t mind being a little damp or cold. As I mentioned in a post on barriers to biking as perceived by those who don’t bike, many are willing to put up with far worse conditions in the name of recreation.

I’ve always said I loved having four seasons. What I really meant was that I loved the perfect exemplar days of each season: mild, budding spring; clear, warm (but not too hot!) summer; crisp, glorious, sunny fall days; beautiful winter wonderlands with sparkles glinting off the drifts. Note that my description pretty much counts on sunshine.

I didn’t really appreciate the seasons. I didn’t fully recognize the shift that makes 50 degrees in spring a different, warmer 50 than the 50 degrees I rode through last week as we shifted from fall toward winter.

I would look out the window at a gray, dry day and think it looked “yucky” instead of what I think now: “Yay! Still rideable!”

Similar to the shift in my attitude toward time, I both accept more and celebrate more about something that others might view as a hassle. (Here’s my definition of hassle.)

In my era BB (Before Biking), I thought about seasonal clothing changes more in terms of closet organization and what I wore inside the office—Is it time for bare legs yet? When do I put away the sweaters?—than in terms of what the clothing did in a practical sense to provide the appropriate amount of heating, cooling, ventilation, and water protection. Now that I’ve shifted my clothes-shopping decision-making filters, I suppose I appreciate my clothes more, too.

“Better get under cover, Sylvesterthere’s a storm blowing upa whopper, to speak in the vernacular of the peasantry. Poor little kidI hope she gets home all right.” –Professor

I’m not saying I’m crazy and I’ll ride through tornados like Miss Almira Gulch (although, come to think of it, she did make it….). But I’ll accept—and even enjoy—a far wider range of weather conditions because they’re riding conditions.

A day I can ride my bike is always a day with good weather.


Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What attitude or attention shifts have you noticed as a result of riding?
  • How cold is too cold?
November 17, 2011

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

#1 most common phrase I’ve heard in the past few days as the temperatures dropped and the skies darkened: “You’re still riding?!”

The answer so far: Yes, and I’m not the only bike I see on the streets.

Weather statistics for Nov. 1-16, 2011, Spokane, WA, from

A slight downward trend in temperature seems to be developing, dear readers.

One of the ways I track the change of seasons is my layering: on for winter, off for spring. Kind of like a dog’s undercoat, if you have one of those shedders, although at least my extra layers don’t end up all over the furniture and your dark pants and clogging the vacuum.

The temperature drop from last week’s riding to yesterday morning is quite a swing, so it’s time to grow a winter coat.

Wednesday Nov. 9: Sunny, a touch of frost in the air in the morning with a high for the day of 51 degrees and zero precipitation.

Clothing choices last week looked a lot like those of the weeks before: skirt, wool tights, dressy walking shoes or boots, sweater, jacket or blazer. I had started wearing lobster-claw gloves some mornings but could wear full-finger regular gloves riding home. (I don’t wear the lobster-claws when temps are above freezing because they make my hands sweat.) On my head: Helmet with helmet cover and knitted ear warmers, and a face cover just for the morning ride.

Wednesday Nov. 16: The mercury stood at 18 degrees when I left the house at 7:45 a.m. I rode through sunshine first thing in the morning through midday, then later under lowering gray skies foretelling the sleet that would start falling around 6 p.m. or so.

Clothing choices: Not quite enough on my legs! I wore thick wool socks and a pair of light Helle Hansen long johns under a long gray wool skirt and boots. On top I wore a Thermasilk base layer and an incredibly thick gray wool sweater I bought years ago, along with a scarf. I wore the lobster-claw gloves—no messing around with full-finger gloves that would have left my fingertips hurting—and added a skullcap under the helmet/ear warmers/helmet cover, along with the face cover, which I wore on every ride throughout the day.

This felt like enough inside the house. When you dress for cold-weather riding–similar to cross-country skiing or running–you don’t really want to be completely warm when you leave the house because you’ll overheat as you start moving. You do need to plan for wind effects, though, since you’ll be making your own.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that the long skirt had to ride up a bit for the pedaling action so my knees were exposed in nothing more than those thin long johns—no wind resistance whatsoever and it was cold enough to sting before I was halfway to work. The thick sweater with underlayer seemed to be enough on top; I might have added a high-visibility windbreaker vest but I was fine.

As cycling friend and founder of Belles and Baskets Betsy Lawrence has said, it’s not as if they’re going to find my body a cold, frozen lump when they defrost the streets next spring.

I live 2.5 miles from work—in a house I chose in part based on ease of commuting via bike and bus. Even with the wind-chill factor the odds of me dying or getting frostbite in a 9-minute ride to work? Pretty slim.

Total bike time for the day, by the way, is worth noting for those people who assume (or insist) that biking for transportation only happens on the nicest of midsummer days. The bike time is actual pedaling time per my cyclometer; it doesn’t include time waiting at traffic lights, but I wait the same amount of time drivers do so I don’t think of it as a factor in travel time comparisons.

  • Morning commute: 9 minutes
  • Midday run to a meeting on the other end of downtown: 8 minutes
  • Return from meeting: 9 minutes
  • Travel to meeting end of day: 5 minutes
  • Total mileage for the day: 6.73

But wait! You clever, logical people, you—you will notice that this list doesn’t mention riding home at the end of day.

Nope. Dearest Sweet Hubs picked me up after my final meeting of the day in his pick-up.

My taillight battery was dead, it was dark, the forecast was for snow, he had driven to work instead of biking because he’s still fighting off a heavy cold, and my meeting location was conveniently located on his route homeward.

I list all those facts because of course I need an excuse for not riding home, right? If you’re inclined to pounce with an “Aha!” because I didn’t ride home I will look at you blankly.

  • I suppose I could have ridden home with no taillight, but ninjas are dangerous.
  • I could easily have thrown my bike on an STA bus (they all have racks) and made it home.
  • No one should feel obliged to apologize for carpooling.
  • But most importantly, I write this blog in part to help people realize that riding a bike for transportation has to work for you—and it can. If it will make it work for you to ride your bike for part of your transportation needs, and to use a vehicle for the rest of your needs, then do it. No need to apologize.

Forecast for today: Low of 29, high of 36, possible snow. Stay warm out there.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What are some of your favorite bits of gear that help you keep riding into the colder weather?
  • Will you keep riding when there’s snow on the ground?
November 16, 2011

Wednesday Words: Bicycling Quotations on Metaphors for Life


Noun. 1) A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. 2) A thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract.

Consider a man riding a bicycle.  Whoever he is, we can say three things about him.  We know he got on the bicycle and started to move.  We know that at some point he will stop and get off.  Most important of all, we know that if at any point between the beginning and the end of his journey he stops moving and does not get off the bicycle he will fall off it.  That is a metaphor for the journey through life of any living thing, and I think of any society of living things.  —William Golding

The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles.  A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom.  The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.  —Sloan Wilson

Life is like riding a bicycle — in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. —Albert Einstein

I suppose that was what attracted me to the bicycle right from the start. It is not so much a way of getting somewhere as it is a setting for randomness; it makes every journey an unorganized tour. —Daniel Behrman, The Man Who Loved Bicycles

A bicycle ride is a flight from sadness. —James E. Starrs, The Literary Cyclist

Why reinvent the wheel when you can tighten the spokes? —Unknown

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring. —Desmond Tutu

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Not that I’ll keep doing quotes every Wednesday, but do you have a theme to suggest and a great quotation to get the ball rolling?





November 15, 2011

Evolution, Not Revolution: All Biking Motives Welcome, Part II

The first part of this mini-rant appears in Evolution, not Revolution: All Biking Motives Welcome, Part I. It was inspired by a post entitled Practical Cycling and “Lifestyle” Choices on the BikesideLA blog.

I didn’t start riding a bike as a diehard year-round commuter. I didn’t start as a “practical cyclist” who was making a political statement through my choice of transportation.

I started riding because I generally like being active, the city put a bike lane in front of my house, and when I tried it out I found my bike was—warning, unpolitical statement coming—fun to ride.

When I subsequently spent a Saturday afternoon riding from my house on the South Hill to the Rocket Bakery in the Garland District (which, as Spokane folks know, means I climbed a real heart-attack hill going north up Post) for a caramel latte and a giant snickerdoodle that were equally available at a Rocket Bakery two blocks from my house I wasn’t making a political statement. It was 100% a lifestyle choice. 

Did the enjoyable and successful experiences I had as a “lifestyle” bike rider help me mature into a “practical” bike rider, and beyond that into a bike advocate and activist? You bet your multi-tool and bike pump they did.

I would agree that riding a bike creates a genuine attitude shift; I wrote about my bike-inspired perspective on time a while ago, for example. But the dismissive tone that devalues specific reasons for bike use? Not my thing at all. This, for example, in the post that set me off:

“But when someone uses a bicycle to do something more important than shop for discretionary-income funded items, this use can become more than a consumer choice…The glory of this practical bicycling, then, is that one can actually be an effective and fully human agent using one, assuming that you use it for some substantive purpose, rather than as a lifestyle accessory.”

I get—I really do get—the many problems created in our society by the idea that we can have what we want, whenever we want it, at zero long-term cost. In fact, one of my posts on my personal blog asks questions about the need to own things and whether we might create new models and I lecture you about buying local food in this post.

I shop at thrift stores because it minimizes resource consumption and drive a 15-year-old car (when I drive) for the same reason. I pay more for locally grown food (a “consumer lifestyle choice,” I might note) because of the difference my dollars make. I am fully conscious of my consumerism and make mindful choices.

What I can’t go along with is the idea that people who choose to ride their bikes—only sometimes, only for fun (gasp)—are  not the real deal, let alone “an effective and fully human agent.”

In fact, if we design our transportation infrastructure to support those occasional riders who aren’t the fast and the fearless, we will have a better and more complete bike transportation network than if we only meet the needs of the hardcore riders.

A system that signals safety and encouragement to the occasional “lifestyle” rider is a system that works for everyone from 8 to 88–no matter where, or how much, they shop.

And I’d argue that we’re all humans, regardless of transportation choices. If more of us recognized that–really recognized it, face to face, eyeball to eyeball–I believe we’d have less “us vs. them” language in discussions about transportation and less “this is my lane, not your lane” behavior in real-world interactions on the street.

That is what would make us all effective and fully human agents.

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