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Let’s take bicycling back from the sports enthusiasts

by Commute by Bike

At the end of a recent article, North America’s Most Bicycle-Friendly Cities, I wrote the following:

Let’s take bicycling back from the sports enthusiasts!

which then resulted in some negative comments:

Matth: [...] As much as I despise them (Team Poseurs!), I can’t help but say that I see countless commuters in road gear (chammy, jersey and clips)” People like sports cars” they also like sport bikes” I’ll even admit being guilty. I’m a commuter before all, but my commute is my sport. But hey, that’s just my 2 cents.

Shay: I, too, have to object to “taking back the sport” – can’t we all just get along? We’re all cyclists, we just approach it differently, with different gear for different goals. If we can’t get along with each other, how can we be effective advocates for bicycle rights – for ALL of us?

Mauricio Babilonia: Wha? Isn’t there room for both?

Even so, I stand by my statement.

In this country, the bicycle is seen merely as an exercise or recreational device.  Most anytime you see a bicycle in the media it’s portrayed as some sort of hardcore sport.  Either it’s a lycra clad roadie or a hard core mountain biker taking his SUV to the top of the mountain.  Or, if it is portrayed as an actual mode of transportation, it’s being mocked by State Farm.

This is a huge problem!

I in no way mean that we should stop selling mountain bikes and road bikes.  I’m an avid mountain biker myself.  However it makes me sick that the bicycle has been reduced to the lowest common denominator in this country.

Walk into (almost) any “bike shop” and it’s loaded down with the latest mountain bikes and sport road bikes with maybe a cruiser and some fenders tucked over in the corner.  And this is still the case even as the commuter specific bike market explodes.  (I wrote more about this here)

So yes, we need to take back the bicycle from the sports enthusiasts.

And this is coming from a sports enthusiast.

Cycling as a sport should be the minority, not the majority.

The public perception of the bicycle has to change in this country.

 
BOB Trailer Sale

46 Responses to “Let’s take bicycling back from the sports enthusiasts”

  1. Siouxgeonz says:

    Take, take, take. Think about it: that’s a totally competitive – as in sports, dude – framework. So even in trying to “take it back” you’re buying into that model.

    If we’re trying to take the bicycle “back” from the sports element, aren’t we, too, buying into its “rightful” dominance?

    So… how do we change that perception?

    How to make commuter bicycles more visible? Think of 15 visible signs that cycling is part of a culture… let’s see, should I put a bike rack in my front yard, since we still can’t get stores to have ‘em?

    Hmmm…. should we take our “spare” commuters and park them publicly so folks think commuting bikes are even more prevalent than they are?

  2. Shay says:

    I agree with Sioux – I don’t think this needs to be a zero sum game. Instead of taking cycling back from sports enthusiasts, you may as well say, “Let’s take commuting back from the cars!” (which I think many bikers would agree with).

    When cycling on the whole rises, cycle commuting can rise right along with sport cycling.

  3. Shiny Flu says:

    Maybe Obama needs to bring back a few ‘City Rads’ from Berlin today?

    They’ve closed Strae 17. Juni for the speech which made for a smooth, quite 3-lane-wide commute today- so I could perfect my time-trail position for Saturday :)

    But on topic:
    Europe is almost an opposite model of what the US is in terms of bikes. When you walk into most shops, you see commuting bikes first, then toward the back are the road/MTB bikes.
    To put it simply, a business will respond to the market.

    I think your phrase could do with some tweaking , but definitely agree that if as a whole, the industry, governments and consumers can change together then surely there’s a brighter future.

  4. Matt says:

    I think we should “give” practical cycling to our respective communities. We should work to provide an alternative image of cycling to the four prevailing ones out there, which are roadie, mountain biker, kid on the sidewalk, and homeless guy. Think about it, do we think of drivers in such regimented categories?

    Some ideas:
    Show up to work and social events on a bike, and when people ask about it, tell them how easy it was. Be seen riding in normal clothes from time to time. Show a friend how to change a tire. Fix up a bike for somebody. Always ask a cyclist stopped on the side of the road with a mechanical if they need a hand. Give the “nod” to fellow cyclists, even if you’re in full roadie kit and they’re riding a Motiv with a mini-cooler bungeed on the back. Ride to and from the trailheads and start/finish points for group rides. Put in some volunteer shop time once in awhile. Go to city Council/selectboard meetings and support bicycle infrastructure. There’s more, I’m sure.

  5. Ringer says:

    I think we’re visible by, well, commuting. I think I look pretty normal on my bike; other than wearing a stay-dry shirt (cheap ones from Target!), I wear what I wear–cargo shorts, flip-flops, my glasses, blocky bike helmet, commuter bag. I think I look like what I am–a grad student on a bike. Most other commuters I see around the Seacoast region of New Hampshire seem to do the same–wear normal clothes, etc. So I hope that people see me everyday and think, “Hey, that guy’s normal. Maybe I should pull my MTB out of the shed and ride to work a few days a week…”

    This is probably an idealist view of the issue, but I think it was Gandhi who said something along the lines of “Be the change you want to see.” So I don’t think “taking back” needs to be aggressive (although the terminology certainly could be construed as so). I think it can amount to doing what we do.

  6. Leaf says:

    I think that the front line for this issue is bike shops. It is well and good to point out that cyclists SHOULDN’T be regimented into categories as many, many of us belong to at least 2.

    The problem is that in the average bike shop on the average day, a novice looking to start commuting is going to spend way too much on the wrong bike or, and this is even worse, walk out because they cannot help from the staff that is, you know, helpful.

    I look at it this way–cycling culture is working to exclude the vast majority of the country that does not cycle. The market is managing to push people in anyway, and there will always be a few hardy souls to shoulder their way in despite us. But until we change the culture, move its center away from racing to transportation, we will continue to work against ourselves.

  7. Adriel says:

    I posted a link to this here:

    http://austincyclingnews.com/?p=167

    My reply was this:

    I agree 100% with what he has to say. He is not saying, let’s stop selling road bikes, or lets all make fun of Sunday riders, what he is SAYING is, let us portray cycling in the media and in bike shops as a form of transportation, and not just a toy or a piece of exercise equipment. I think this could help reduce the toy bicycle syndrome.

    My response? Preach on brother. Preach on.

  8. Scott says:

    When I first read this article I thought Tim was being way too extreme. Then I read of his experience at Frostbike back in February when he sat in on the discussion between dealers and suppliers, and I began to understand why he feels so strongly about this. I have to say that when I thought about starting to commute several months ago I had a similar experience with local bike shops. The first one I went to pretty much wrote me off as soon as I said I was looking for a starter commuter bike. The salesman seemed far more eager to go help someone looking for a costly road bike. So, instead of visiting shops, I started calling and asking if they had commuter bikes. Several were quite up front and said that they really didn’t carry those, they were more about mountain and road bikes. I did find two shops that were very willing to help me. The most helpful of all was a tiny shop, and the owner spent time with me and answered lots of questions, even though all I ended up buying was a rack and mirror. It would seem that the commuter market would not be as profitable up front, but if they commit to that market they will get lots of repeat business that could be far more profitable down the road. But bike shops will have to start thinking long term to change their businesses that way.

  9. Matt says:

    Margins on bikes are all razor-thin, and typically seem to get thinner the more expensive the bike is. The way you make money is by selling bikes yes, but also be selling tubes, tools, service and accessories. Commuters are an excellent customer base for all of those, and they will be loyal just like everybody else if you treat them right.

    Many LBS’s also seem to exist in some sort of a bubble where the retail trends and customer expectations for better service just have not affected them. It is not acceptable, in 2008, for a store employee to scoff at a customer, to ignore a customer, etc. Do that once and I never come back to your shop, ever.

    Unfortunately, that “shop attitude” turns people off to practical cycling as well. If I have to shell out for a bike lock, helmet multi-tool, spare tube, pump and patch kit, AND a bike, and when something goes wrong with the bike I have to bring it back into a shop where I get treated like a second class citizen because I’m not one of the “bros,” it’s all just another disincentive to bag the whole thing and drive. And I’m a guy. When I described all these challenges to a CEO in the outdoor products industry, she looked me in the eye and said “Yes, and try being a woman.” So on top of all that I described, 51% of the population has an even harder time getting good service, questions answered, etc. at the stereotypical shop.

    This is all made even sadder because of the potential shops have to pass on the energy, empowerment, and excitement that comes with cycling for more than mere sport. So, I guess to my previous comment, I would add that when you find a truly great shop, pass it on and send all of your friends there, especially your friends who haven’t been on a bike since they were 12. And tell the shop owner that you’re doing this and why. Share the love.

  10. Quinn says:

    Call me a wait weenie, I now ride a 20 lb. fixie and a 26 lb geared 29er, And And one of those 32 lb “commuter” bikes put me in the hospital for 10 days, with pneumonia.
    with 22/36 x 11-34 gearing on the 29er, I can and do take it everywhere and anywhere.

    1 last thing- everyone could be on ATVs or motocross bike, Why not just be happy that people are on a bicycle?

  11. anakcu says:

    I like the idea of giving things back rather than taking them in general–it orients the problem toward surplus rather than scarcity. So a sneaky way for taking the commute back from the car is to give the car back to the enthusiast. Like with the “Drive your Bike to Work Day” spoof, where the suggestion that a bike be used for a utilitarian purpose is repulsive is how people should view their cars. Buy your car nut friend a car cover, help them detail it this Sunday, cover it up, and then make plans to go out next Friday night in that bitchin’ beauty. The entre to bike commuting is when they start to say “Too bad it won’t look so good after the week’s commute…”

  12. Siouxgeonz says:

    The media is already helping us more & more… there are stories of ‘normal’ people hopping on bicycles, Trek’s doing that “challenge” thing… one of our local reporters did a “week on the bike” blog that had her hooked by the end of the week.
    Now, what can we do to keep her hooked?
    And what else can we do to make “normal cycling” out there and visible and cool?
    THis clip that came from the news feed helps:
    http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/startherup/archives/144239.asp?from=blog_last3
    “Time for a little fluff, because my ACHING legs will not allow me to do anything of substance. I am trying my very hardest to be one of those eco commuting biking chicks. For lots of reasons. I’m just fed up with the whole gas thing. Traffic in Seattle makes me homicidal. Parking makes me omnicidal (want to kill everything, not just people.) And, frankly, I’m vain as can be and want the hot bod that all that biking will give me. So, here’s some insight into being a successful cycling executive – specifically a CHICK.”
    Oh, Salon’s helping too : http://www.salon.com/ent/video_dog/elsewhere/2008/07/24/benjamin_extracycle/index.html?source=video&aim=/ent/video_dog/elsewhere
    I love the idea of commuting being too messy for cars :)

  13. Agree with Shay, if anything we should take our roads back from the cars, many of whom still think the roads are there for cars only. Even still, if people drive that’s their choice but as long as they respect the rights of a cyclist to the road then that’s fine.

    Also why can’t road and mountain bikes be used for commuting? All I have is a single speed used Shogun road bike but I use it to pedal everywhere. For myself the speed and simplicity of the road bike outweighs the features of a commuting bike. In fact, a few of my friends now commute to work because they saw how quickly I could get to places, and one of them even rides a mountain bike the 9 miles (each way) to and from work!

    I hear what you’re saying about publicizing the benefits of commuting by bicycle when compared to a car, but there’s no need to force commuter bikes on everyone. Ride what you want to ride, and buy what you want to buy. If your local shop doesn’t have what you want in stock, let them know. I’m sure they’d either order it for you or at least realize they’re losing a customer to the internets because they don’t stock commuter bikes.

    In either case, we’re all cyclists, instead of taking let’s try to get our local bike shops to expand their selections as it benefits us all!

  14. KNS says:

    Matt said: The way you make money is by selling bikes yes, but also be selling tubes, tools, service and accessories. Commuters are an excellent customer base for all of those, and they will be loyal just like everybody else if you treat them right.

    What. He. Said.

    I bought my commuter bike from a Nameless Large Bike Shop Chain because, unlike the small shops in this town, they had helpful and respectful salespeople. Unlike my experience at the small shops, at the NLBSC I was never ignored so that the cool kids could be helped first, and I was never sniggered at for not fitting the physical mold of a sports cyclist. My asking for a comfort bike was not treated as an appalling perversion, and I was allowed and encouraged to have three separate bikes of the model I settled on built up and/or shipped in from other locations to find the correct fit. I need tubes and tires, tune up this, racks and lights that, and I get them all at the NLBSC because they don’t treat me like a third-class citizen–and I’m sure their corporate culture knows it.

  15. Digital Dame says:

    Matt:

    A bright spot in this woman’s journey to becoming a bike commuter. My LBS where I bought my bike and all my gear was terrific. I spent 3 hours (no exaggeration) with the salesman who was endlessly helpful and informative. They are out there, fortunately.

    I think the bike manufacturers need to lead the way and start targeting advertising toward the commuters. Trek has done a nice one that they’re running during the Tour de France, but it seems to only be seen on that one channel. They need to go more mainstream with it.

  16. Juan says:

    I guess I still don’t like the idea of “taking back”. To me that implies that something was taken from the commuters in the first place. I also don’t understand why there has to be this separation between the two…..You’re either this or that…take your pick. Sounds kind of dumb to me. I understand the points being made about bicycle shops and the misconception of bicycles in the media, but I don’t think the commuter community can blame the enthusiasts for this. Instead of “taking back” the sport, how about “It’s time bicycle commuting joined the popularity, that the sports enthusiasts enjoy”?

  17. Elaine says:

    What Matt said: “that “shop attitude” turns people off to practical cycling as well” and yes, double or triple that problem if you’re a woman.

    It’s weird. The LBS closest to my house has quite a few cruisers and similar on display, and it’s where I bought my first bike. BUT, I don’t go there for service, and I bought my 2nd bike somewhere else…because of the “shop attitude.” Most of the staff have that supercilious bike-guy thing going on, and I don’t put up with that. (Not coincidentally, that’s why I buy electronics & computer stuff online. Same attitude, different stuff.)

    Instead, I’m lucky enough to have another LBS close by; there, I’ve always been treated respectfully. Because I’m treated respectfully, I’m more likely to ask questions even if they’re dumb, to take the time to find a bike I really like and can ride 50+ miles a week, and yes, to buy more stuff.

    “cycling culture is working to exclude the vast majority of the country that does not cycle”

    I have a coworker whose husband is a “bike nut” and when she said she wanted to commute, he got her a road bike with skinny tires, fancy pedals and those road shoes. I seriously think it set back her commuting efforts, because she felt a lot less stable than if she’d been riding her beat-up old MTB. It was only because she was persistent, even though a nasty fall, that she got into commuting a few days a week.

    There are already so many blocks to biking in people’s heads: the bike community shouldn’t add to them!

    It’s not necessarily about “taking it back” as changing the center of gravity. In driving, NASCAR has its place, and it has an emotional appeal (to some), but that’s not what most driving is, or should be. Same thing with biking. It can be a sport, but for most people, most of the time, it should be a tool.

  18. Derek says:

    I think maybe we should just take bicycling back from people who think it belongs to them. Evidently, people like you, unfortunately…

    They’re just bikes for crying out loud.

  19. Greg says:

    I with where Tim is at, but at the same time, every day I ride to and from work wearing cargo shorts a tshirt. I have my lunch box strapped to the rear rack with panniers on both sides. Almost every day when I get home I change into a jersey and lycra shorts and go back out on a different bike and ride for an hour or two with a friend for recreation/training. I am definitely a bicycle commuter (Ive started my car’s engine 6 times since May 1) but I also belong to the group of avid recreational cyclists for whom bicycles are ‘toys’.

  20. Ringer says:

    Two things seem to keep coming up–the media and public perception. Of course, we all know that media can sway public perception, and that public perception can point the media in a certain direction. But I wonder what kind of movement it would take for Wal-Mart and Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods to sell commuter bikes. Based on fliers, they sell mostly MTBs and some road bikes. And I think they’re generally in the toy/sporting goods sections.

  21. MatthewInDenver says:

    I agree with you, Tim. I don’t know if there should be a “taking back” necessarily, but there should be more of us out there (like Greg) who commute in our regular clothes – or even just shorts and a t-shirt then change into work clothes once you get there. This way people who are thinking about bike commuting won’t be intimidated by the prospect of it. Rather they’ll see that normal people just like them do it too.

    Luckily, there are some GREAT local bike shops here in Denver that cater to the commuter crowd.

  22. Ringer says:

    There are some great bike shops in New Hampshire, too, run by guys like Greg who are both commuters and recreational cyclists. At least, they don’t mind me stopping in all the time to talk about commuting. (I guess it helps that I’ve bought almost ALL my gear from them.)

  23. tim says:

    We need to give cycling BACK to the “sports enthusiast”.

    You know, the kind of “sports enthusiast” who has a big chair in front of the big TV, in which to enthuse about his sport, even though he hasn’t run 10 steps since school.

    For a lot of people, sport is something other people do. If cycling is a sport, then it’s best left to the sporty people. Mr Average will continue to drive his truck until his perception changes.

  24. Ken says:

    I think the key to getting more people on bikes is just that – let’s get more people to try a bike! Some will take it or leave it, some will dislike it, but a lot of people will find they *love* it and will start to get involved.

    I have a 48 year old Schwinn cruiser with a springer fork, and sometimes I’ll let people I meet take it out for a ride. When they return, the smile on their face says it all. They had forgotten how fun it is to ride a bike.

    I ride my road bike to work, equipped with a rack and panniers, because the distance and hills make it a challenge. (sorry, no commuter street clothes for me in hot sweltering summers). Every day I pass by a bike shop that’s not far from my house. They sell nothing but high dollar European road bikes and gear that I can’t afford. I’ll never go in there. What a shame.

  25. redcliffs says:

    We don’t want to TAKE BACK the sport, we want to EXPAND the sport — create awareness that there is more than one way to use a bicycle, live on a bicycle, enjoy a bicycle. I’m sure I’m not the only one who both commutes and rides “sport” — around where I live, in Boulder, racers probably represent the largest single sub-segment of regular commuters.

    This is as lame as all the “die hard” fixie riders in SFO that bemoan the rise of “hipsters.” Who cares what people wear? Who cares what they ride? Isn’t it just important that we try to encourage more people to ride, no matter what, when or where? There are already too many of the “race posers” who are too cool for school — I’m not going to climb on any bandwagon that adds to that list.

  26. Paul says:

    Take back or expand, does not matter. I think everyone agrees with Tim. We want biking to be something everyone can do if they like and not only for exercise.
    Compare bikes to shoes. Some people like to walk to the store in shoes designed for track and field and some people use Hush Puppies. Bikes should be like that, something you use to transport yourself from A to B.

    To get more people onto bikes you need proper bike lanes a supportive local authority.

    American cities could copy whatever authority’s in Copenhagen and Amsterdam are doing. more than 38% bike commuters is world class.

  27. Paul says:

    Check out http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com
    That’s what the typical bike riders should look like. I’m not kidding. There are a lot of people riding racers in spandex and even MTB’s in Copenhagen, but they are in minority.

  28. idbob says:

    I COMMUTE, IT KEEPS ME IN SHAPE TO RIDE. I RIDE IT KEEPS ME IN SHAPE TO COMMUTE. I’M ALWAYS HAPPY TO SEE PEOPLE ON BIKES EITHER HAMMERING OUT THE MILES OR JUST PLUGGING ALONG.

  29. Nick says:

    It doesn’t seem to follow. Sounds like you need to take back cycling from US marketing execs, but I could take pracitcally any other item in this world and make the same claim.

    I agree with the sentiment about getting people onto bikes, though. My city is pretty good for that.

  30. MikeOnBike says:

    Paul Says: “To get more people onto bikes you need proper bike lanes [and] a supportive local authority.”

    It’s a lot more than that, and not necessarily that.

    For one thing, some people have as much interest in cycling as I have in tennis or knitting (zero). Nothing will attract them to cycling. This is likely a pretty big percentage of the population.

    The fundamental thing we ought to do is stop the fear-mongering. If we say “people won’t bike until we build X” then we’ve provided the perfect excuse for people not to bike.

    Then we build some X and they don’t bike anyway because there’s still a spot without X, and we’ve told them it’s too scary/dangerous to bike without X.

    Meanwhile, we have a lot of development that’s unpleasant for cycling, or too spread out for transportation cycling to be practical. That’s a structural problem which took us a long time to create and will take a long time to fix.

    And yet, everybody on this blog rides a bike in today’s world. Because we think cycling is fun, and it’s better than NOT cycling.

  31. tim says:

    Everybody is focussing on the challenges of turning regular people into “cyclists”.

    That’s just the point – cycling shouldn’t be an activity that is only done by people who fit the description of a “cyclist”. It should be just something that people do.

    Some people can be described as “walkers”. They walk for recreation, for sport, and they identify with a culture of “walkers”. They have their Vibram soled boots, their Leki poles, seven different models of day-pack, each with a different purpose. That’s fine, that’s their thing.

    I’m not interested in walking as an activity, in or of itself. I’m not a “walker”. But if I want to go to the corner store, I’ll walk. I don’t find it interesting, it’s not a recreation, it’s not an identity or subculture thing, it’s not a political statement – it’s just the simplest way to get there.

    Likewise, for slightly longer trips, it would be great if people – normal people, not “cyclists” – would just ride there on a bike. Not because they particularly enjoy it, but because driving a couple of miles in a 2-ton car is absurd.

    It may be that we who choose cycling as a recreation are a bit weird – just like how I think people who walk for recreation are a bit weird. So be it. I get pleasure out of something that others might find mundane.

    tim

  32. I just wanted to comment about the bike shop that I use. They have road bikes, mountain bikes, cruiser bikes and every bike in between. The best part of this bike shop is that when I went in to look at bikes, even though I readily said what I needed a bike for, I wasn’t shoved in any direction. The owner took the time to explain individual bikes to me and let me test ride anyone I wanted. This bike shop is call The Bike Shop and is located in Stuart Florida. BTW I’m not affiliated with this shop in any way. I’m just happy with my bike shop.

  33. As has been pointed out numerous times above, the whole “take… back” construct is sort of silly. I challenge you, Tim, to name a time in American history when the dominant role of the bicycle was that of anything but a toy. There’s nothing for transportational cyclists like us to “take back” because we’ve never had whatever it is to begin with.

    I do however agree with the sentiment. My only problem is with the language. The road building and automobile manufacturing interests would like nothing better than for (what Americans refer to as) transportation alternatives to languish for want of an organized constituency. Nothing better in their minds than for us to cloister up and snipe at each other.

  34. Oh, and if suggesting that bike riders (not just cyclists) should unite in common interest to improve our lot is negative, then I guess I’m just gonna have to be negative.

  35. Also, the media are not totally against us (though I doubt transportation cycling sells many ads). Check out this story about cycling as a way to address gas prices that appeared on the NBC Nightly News.

  36. Paul says:

    @MikeOnBike: Bike lanes are actually very important if you want people to feel safe on a bike. Just as sidewalks is required if you want people to walk.
    We don’t want to make people cyclists we just want to make cycling an easy, safe, cheap and practical way to get yourself between A and B.
    Of all the commuters in Stockholm that I meet everyday only a small percentage think riding a bike to work is fun. they do it because it’s the most convenient way to get to work.

    @tim: You are right on. Comparing to walking is brilliant!

  37. Ghost Rider says:

    Yeah, what Sconnyboy said…

    Mr. Grahl — great sentiment, but not the best choice of words in which to frame it.

    I agree with the commenters who state that the best way to make transportational cycling “visible” is to be out there in regular clothes, riding at less-than-breakneck speeds, obeying the rules of the road and appearing like we’re having the times of our lives.

    The U.S. has a long way to go before we become a cycling Utopia like Amsterdam (if we EVER get there), but there’s a culture shift a-happenin’. Check out J. Harry Wray’s Pedal Power: The Quiet Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life for the skinny on that.

  38. Shek says:

    The most resistance I get from motorists is when they think that I should not be on the road. It is the image of cycling in people’s minds.
    I agree with saying that we should take cycling back from the sports enthusiasts. I think it is really aimed at the general public than the enthusiasts.
    I drive a car to, that does not mean that I am takeing driving away from F1 racing, dragsters, WRCs and drifters.

    It is the general motorsits that need to realize that cycling is a means of transportation too, a very effective one at that. Fortunately, the gas prices help advocating the sentiment these days.

  39. Tim Grahl says:

    Thanks for all the comments everyone. For those that don’t like the word “take” as I use it, I respect your opinion, but I believe in many cases that’s the mentality that’s needed.

    In speaking with the guys from places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, a huge part of how they got to their current state of bike utopia is politicians taking a stand and taking the roads back from the cars. There’s been been amazing legislation passed to make the roads bikeable (including shutting down a main thoroughfare to anything but bikes) and that’s been a huge part of getting more people on bikes.

    Yes, the word “take” applies.

    Currently the bike’s perception has been placed solely on a sport/recreation mindset. And that needs to be taken back. You can say changed, shifted, rotated, lifted… you say tomato, I say tomato (that doesn’t really translate to print).

    I think tim said it best above in comment #31… he articulated better than I could what I was trying to say. Bikes should be normal. And I want to take the steps needed to get there.

  40. MikeOnBike says:

    Paul Says: “Bike lanes are actually very important if you want people to feel safe on a bike.”

    That’s exactly the sort of fear-mongering I mean. If there’s no bike lane, people are supposed to feel unsafe, and therefore shouldn’t ride.

    And we’re not even talking about actual safety or danger, just feelings. We, the cycling advocates, have created the perception that cycling is dangerous, and there’s nothing people can do about the danger, short of waiting for infrastructure to be built.

    Instead of informing potential cyclists of valid, avoidable risks like doorings and right hooks, we fill their heads with trumped-up dangers that scare them off cycling entirely The ones that do get past the fear end up getting doored and hooked because they “felt” safe.

  41. MikeOnBike says:

    tim Says: “for slightly longer trips, it would be great if people – normal people, not “cyclists” – would just ride there on a bike. Not because they particularly enjoy it, but because driving a couple of miles in a 2-ton car is absurd.”

    The places that have lots of short cycling trips tend to be places where driving a car is more absurd than usual: Compact college towns where parking is scarce and students can’t afford a car anyway. Countries where getting a driver’s license is very difficult or the fees to own a car are very high.

    In other words, it’s the most practical choice, compared to the alternatives. Because the alternative of driving a car is less practical than usual.

    Cycling is already about as practical as it’s going to get. The balance shifts as motoring becomes less practical.

  42. Tim G., It seems like we’re talking past each other a little. I completely agree that the prevailing bicycle-as-toy attitude needs to change if bicycles are to become an accepted part of the American transportation system. I agree that it’s an attitude that needs to change in government, with the general public, and yes, even with sport cyclists and the shops that cater to them. In that sense, taking ownership of what bike riding should encompass is entirely legit.

    The problem I have with the phrase Let’s take bicycling back from the sports enthusiasts! is that it implies one bike-riding group (the us in let’s) taking something away from another bike-riding group (sports enthusiasts.) So you stand by what you’ve written, but do you understand that it implies a divisiveness that you may not intend?

    When advocates try to influence public policy, it is always better to find common ground and build coalitions than it is for each group to have its own narrow adgenda. Why not come up with something that says the more of us there are, the safer we’ll be or the bicycle-not just for liesure anymore or more bicycles=more life? Trek’s 1 World, 2 Wheels isn’t a bad start, really…

  43. Bill Fox says:

    Unless you have the power to “take” something back all it’s all just talk. Bicycling is a healthy pursuit no matter how you pursue it. All of us who ride are setting examples of doing something good for yourself. Mostly we do it for ourselves and not to be an example, but people do notice.

    I commute because it is the best time for me to get a daily ride in and it allows us to live with just one vehicle. I, and my family, get numerous benefits from it. The topic of bicycling frequently comes up around me and some people think about getting involved in whatever way they want to. I don’t think it takes a crusade to make this happen. I think it happens one person at a time just sharing what they love to do.

    What I would like to see is government more committed to making more roads rideable. That is something we can lobby for with our representatives. Too many roads in my city are too dangerous to ride on. That, to me, is a better choice for us to focus on for any change.

  44. Paul says:

    @MikeOnBike: There is no way I can convince my grandmother to ride her bike thru the city if it involves riding in the streets.
    Without proper bike lanes and bike paths we will maybe reach 15% of the commuters. If people feel safe riding a bike they will and bike path is the best way to do that,much better than helmets.
    I’m not saying that we need to build x miles of bike paths before people can start pedaling, but the process must start. It will take many years.
    And Mike, believe me I’m not fear mongering. Don’t get me started on the helmet discussion. I actually believe that because more and more people are wearing helmets non bike commuters think that biking is dangerous.

  45. MikeOnBike says:

    @Paul: I’m not saying we shouldn’t have lanes, paths, bike boulevards, etc. if they’re carefully designed.

    I’m saying that when we promote them as a place to “feel safe”, we’re saying that the default for cycling is to “feel in danger”.

    We could promote infrastructure on convenience (look at this handy shortcut) or pleasantness (what a nice tree-lined residential street) or awareness (this is a popular route for cycling). Instead, we create a perception of danger that needs to be solved.

    Meanwhile, lots of people who we’ve convinced to be scared of cycling on ordinary roads have no fear about motoring on those same roads.

  46. Timmy V. says:

    I’m in agreement with the rest of the people here who don’t see the need for the distinction. I understand that there is a ‘culture’ that seems to discourage bicycling as a form of transportation rather than a sport, however, I don’t think that can be combated by fitting a certain image or riding certain kinds of bikes or not.

    I ride a 25 year old road bike… but it’s a *road bike. You know why? Because I find it to be comfortable and fast. I wear Pearl Izumi shorts. Why? Because they keep my dryer and help my fanny not hurt. I’m thinking about getting a Jersey for the same reasons. If I commute to work or elsewhere and ‘look’ like a Sports Cyclist, that doesn’t change the fact that my circle knows that I commute. If not dressing that way (as I did for the first few months of commuting) makes it more difficult to commute by bike, then why should I feel bad for not ‘taking cycling back’ in my appearance and attitude? The whole point is person to person contact that makes biking normal, not some sort of statement to the world as they watch you triumphantly commuting to bike even though they’ve never met you.

    So, while I want the industry to be more aware of commuting and to be producing bikes that are designed for people who want to get from A to B, I really think this attitude is destructive. Let’s just celebrate biking, both as a vehicle and as a sport.

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