I have been a bicycle commuter for more than 25 years. This was not a planned thing, at least on my part. It all began when my husband bought me a bicycle for my birthday. I was not at all pleased with his gift. I could think of a lot of other things that I would have preferred $200.00 to be used for. His thought was that since he and our and two young kids all had bikes, if I had a bike then we could go on rides to the park as a family. The day that the bike arrived, I went for a bike ride with my seven year old. We rode to a park, which was a very flat mile from where we lived. He dusted me. I picked up my pride, and decided that I needed to get back into shape. Within a short time my husband injured his back in an unrelated accident, and his future as an ICU nurse looked uncertain. I had a lot of stress to deal with.
At the time, I was teaching at a community college about four miles from where we lived. There was a gym there, so if I brought my work clothes along, I could shower and be ready to teach. I was so out of shape that it took me a month before I could ride those four miles to work without stopping to rest. Then I started to notice that if I rode to work, I arrived at work having left behind me the stress of getting my two kids out the door to school. By the time I rode home, the stress of my workday was gone as well. I was hooked. While I have long since forgiven my husband, but he’s never forgiven himself. This heavy, ugly bike was the entrance to a world of adventures in the years to come, as well as a lot more bikes!
Bicycling as a part of our transportation system is not a new idea. The very first paved roads in America were made because cyclists lobbied their local towns and states for paved roads so that their bikes didn’t sink into the mud. This was well prior to motor vehicles becoming the norm.
Cities which invest in cycling see traffic fatalities of all kinds decrease between 73% and 83% over ten years, depending on which period you pick. Thus, cities and towns that are safer for bicyclists are safer for drivers as well. That’s something that everyone can get behind.
In the same way that our streets would be incomplete without sidewalks, we need to think that our streets would be incomplete without appropriate bicycle infrastructure. In the 1950s and 1960s, Americans were so in love with cars that we planned our transportation system around individual cars. Buses, subways and light rail were not built. Now we’re re-thinking our whole transportation system.
Now that we are facing the consequences of climate change, we need to be more inclusive in the way we plan how people get around our cities, towns and rural areas.
A recent Diane Rehm show addressed the debate of cars and bicycles sharing the roads. One quote that I particularly connected with is:
“The driver behavior changes when you get a critical mass of people biking on the streets.”
If you’d like to listen to the whole podcast, click here: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-10-30/sharing_the_road_adapting_to_a_new_culture_of_cycling
Bicycle to do list Photo credit: The Story of Stuff Project.