I carry a little voice recorder with me while cycling. People who see me talking into it probably think I’m crazy, but my best thinking happens on the bike and it would be a shame to lose it. That’s exactly what would happen if I didn’t record it right then and there. Here’s what spilled out of me last night.
I believe that bicycling is the best form of transportation for short trips. I believe it’s faster, easier, less expensive, more liberating and fun to hop on a bicycle to ride a few miles than it is to drive, wait in line, hunt for a parking spot a mile from the door and then trudge across the parking lot with all the other people of Walmart (caution advised).
I believe that when you use a bicycle for transportation that you spend less time at Walmart and other big boxes and more time at local shops run by friends and neighbors because, really, who wants to deal with those multiacre parking lots at all?
I believe that most people will choose bicycles for short trips once they know what I know, and so the challenge from my perspective is to evangelize and spread the word and get people to try it and think of it as viable. When they do, some will stick with it.
I believe that there’s a genuine recognition growing across the land that this is a better way to do things, especially for short trips. I know DOT officials in mulitiple states who have said both on and off the record that there isn’t enough concrete in the world (nor enough world in the world) to keep taking ever more land to build new roads for a system that is ultimately unsustainable.
I believe that if large numbers of people are going to cycle that we need to INTEGRATE cycling into the transportation landscape. Too many bicycle infrastructure projects do the exact opposite. They MARGINALIZE cycling by creating recreational trails that lead NOWHERE. This reinforces the belief held by many that bicycles are toys. We need to insist that cycling infrastructure be MAINSTREAMED and go EVERYWHERE that roads go. No exceptions! That’s what the Dutch and Danes do. That’s why it works so well in Holland and Denmark. Absent that, we need full and equal access to the roads, not just the right edge.
With that in mind, I’ve come up with a three step plan. This is so easy to do that anyone can do it.
Step 1: Ride your Bike
Just do it. It will inspire others to do it. You will be a catalyst…a change agent in your community. Take your neighbors with you. When enough of you ride, approach your city about holding an Open Streets event. The more people we get on bicycles, the more we will raise awareness and encourage the next generation to ride.
Step 2: Support Common Sense Safety Initiatives in Your City or Town
Safe Routes to School is essential, so demand it. This is not hard. Imagine if you didn’t have a safe route to work. What would you do? Exactly.
Safe Routes to School is step two because children emulate their parents. If adults don’t get out and ride bicycles, SRTS is a waste. First, you have to ride. Once you do, your kids will want to as well.
Speaking of safety, it’s time to recognize that automobile crashes are a public health problem. 40,000 Americans will be killed in automobile crashes this year…far more than will be killed with firearms. These deaths are completely avoidable. It’s time for every community in America to adopt and work towards Vision Zero, the Swedish initiative to eliminate this carnage.
Step 3: Spread the Word
As a nation, we built the Interstate highway system. It made us who we are and it served us well for a long time but we have changed. We need a new system, a new model, if we are to grow and prosper in the decades to come. We did it once. We can do it again.
Bicycles are part of the solution to the problem of how we move around. In an ever crowded world, we have to move around differently. We can’t stick our heads in the sand and wait for someone else to fix this, especially when we have already everything we need to fix it ourselves. The sooner we start fixing it, the sooner it will be fixed. So tell your friends and neighbors about what you’re doing. Get them on board. The payoff is better communities, better quality of life and a a better America.