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Proselytizing

by Warren T
Saint Tim

I am fortunate to live 0.7 miles away from a bike/hike path that runs right past the building I work in. That was one of the reasons I decided to commute by bicycle. July 4th 2005 changed that a bit when construction on and around a portion of the path forced me to find an alternate route that was half path and half traffic. They’ve just finished a temporary route to open the path back up and now that I’m back on the bike path and out of traffic for my commute, I’ve charged up and loaded the MP3 player with some podcasts for the ride. On the most recent episode of The Spokesmen, I heard our ilustrious leader, Tim Grahl (seen above), referred to as an “ambassador for cycling.” I liked the ring of that and got to thinking about how I could become more of an ambassador. The other day I got my chance.

It was such a beautiful afternoon I took my lunch hour late so I could make my commute home early and meet up with my youngest after school to ride home with him. It wasn’t too difficult picking out my son’s bike because there were only two bikes in the rack.

Our elementary school was built in a time where 80% of the students walked or rode bikes to school. Now, it’s more like 80% of the kids are driven to and from school. A few of the parents who had struggled to claim a parking spot close to the sidewalk and bike rack were having a conversation with some of the other parents who had to park across the street and down the block a bit and walk over to meet their children; there was a lot of talk about what a nightmare it is to drop off and pick kids up. When they looked over at me I just smiled.

I got my chance to be an ambassador when two of the dads came over to ask me if I’d still been riding in the frigid temperatures and all the ice and snow. I told them that the snow had knocked me out of the last week and a half but the temperatures really aren’t an issue. Then came the phrase that many of us hear often:

I wish I could get out on my bike more.

“It’s pretty easy, we’re a half mile away and it takes us about 3 minutes to get here.” And then, the comment that hopefully hooked them: “It’s nice not having to try to find a parking spot and it’s a breeze getting out of here.” One of the dads commented that he was going to give it a try when the weather gets a little nicer. At that point the other dad was blocked in, my son came out, unlocked his bike and off we went. Now, I just need to remind myself to follow up with the guy who seemed to be serious about trying it.

In the podcast, Tim made a comment about how he will offer those who are a bit hesitant the use of one of his bikes and will ride with them the first time or two. Great idea! What are some other things that we, as bicycle commute evangelists, can do to get more people riding?

 
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10 Responses to “Proselytizing”

  1. Byron Friday says:

    Great post, I like the way you think :) I almost didnt read you post becuase i didnt recognize the word “Proselytizing.”

    If u have a second please check out a my effort to get more people riding- http://biketeacher.com/about

    Keep doing what ur doing,

    Byronious

  2. Mike in Florida says:

    I think the best thing we can do is simply what we already do—-use bicycles in a practical manner. I bicycle commute 5 days/week, and I tell people how great I feel because of it. There will always be a certain percentage of the population who view us as weird. There will always be a certain percentage of the population who have personal issues which will not allow them to do what we do. Moms with kids and lots of running around to do won’t get on the bandwagon.

    Now, using bikes to run errands on the weekend—-that’s a place we can start. Not everybody can ride to work, but lots of people can ride to the store on Saturday.

  3. I think another thing that we need to do is to convince people that they don’t need specialized or expensive gear to do this. You can ride in a windbreaker and regular shoes. You don’t need a bike messenger bag, you can use a regular backpack. This thought might be what is preventing some people from getting involved.
    Sure, there are lots of times where special gear helps out and makes the experience more comfortable and enjoyable but you don’t HAVE to have it.
    A nice blog entry here might be how to deal with various weather conditions wearing clothes that most people already have in their closets.

  4. Rizal Sohaimi says:

    Glad to hear others are getting interested to ride by looking at other cyclo commuters. Weather seems to play a big part in excuses for people not to ride. Hopefully they start when its fairer weather. If you got some extra time please feel free to brows my blog [url]http://gerekwheels.blogspot.com/[/url]. Its my rant of commuting in the heart Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

  5. Noah says:

    I agree with a lot of what’s been said already. I ride in rain, snow, heat waves, and nice spring/fall weather almost daily in normal clothes on cheap but well-built used bikes. I don’t act pompous about it, either. I ride an average of ten miles per day during the week and I really believe in my heart of hearts that most people could do what I’m doing on a properly sized and adjusted bike. I assure people that once you’ve spent a few days getting your butt used to the saddle, it’s really not that difficult.

    I’m far from an ambassador to cycling, but I’ve found that having an answer ready for all the silly questions you will eventually get asked is a good idea. What if… what about… you know, those questions.

  6. Mike in Florida says:

    I suppose the “gear” question really depends on the distance of the commute. If someone’s only going a couple of miles, street clothes are fine. If someone’s going 15 miles, jeans will get tiresome really quickly. Same goes for backpacks—-fine for short hops, but sweaty on the back after a while.

    The people I see bicycle commuting in my area(granted, not a hip urban center) are either people on race bikes training, DUI cyclists with milk crates, and one woman on a Giant hybrid. She’s been interesting to watch. When I first encountered her, she was wearing sweats and a backpack. Now she’s transitioned to MTB shorts and a rack with panniers. I attribute that to seeing me every day. She commented on my panniers and I told her where I got them. I also dropped the hint about MTB shorts. I ride my fendered road bike simply because my bike is my transportation and I have a long commute, and she’s made a few comments about how nice my bike is.

    The “Coasting” group from Shimano may encourage more people to ride. The fully equipped commuter bikes from Breezer, Trek, Specialized, and others may encourage people to commute short distances. But the most important thing is for people to see us doing it, and not looking like unapproachable people while doing it.I used to carry a couple of cheap headlights in my bag to hand out to unlighted cyclists.

    I don’t wear flashy gear. In the summer I will wear lycra shorts and a Coolmax jersey but simply because it’s miserably hot here. Spring, fall, and winter I wear wool jerseys and MTB shorts. My helmet is a subdued Bell Metro, and my sunglasses are understated, too.

  7. Paul of N.W. GA says:

    The other day as I was getting off work there were girl scouts selling cookies. I was walking my bike past them and as I stopped to buy a box. One of the girls said she rides a bike too. I asked if she know how to signal a turn, she said no, so I held my right arm out and said hold out your arm in the direction you want to turn for ten seconds. Then told her to learn what the hardest part of cycling is, looking back while continuing straight. The woman with them seemed interested, so I handed her a copy of Georgia Bike Sense a guide for cyclist and motorist. She was still looking through it when I looked back as I was leaving.

    I need to ask GA DOT for more copies of that booklet. I have handed out at lest 25 copies so far, mostly to teenagers.

    I can’t remember much about the man when I was very little, but he told me about safe cycling that is still with me today.

  8. angry says:

    live and let live. you dnt know for sure that god is coming. leave people who do not have the same faith as you alone. we dnt bother you. so dnt bother us. we can all live in a peaceful annoyance-free society.

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