Monday, May 18, 2009

Bike-To-Work Day, Week, Year, Lifetime

Congratulations to Scott Render and the city's Bike Louisville team for their successful events for Bike-To-Work Day this past Friday. They got several hundred people, including many first-time bicycle commuters, to ride bicycle to work on Friday. A large crowd assembled at the Bike-to-Work Celebration at Fourth Street Live, and the combination of events garnered quite a bit of media attention including pieces in the Courier-Journal, WAVE-3 TV, WLKY TV, and Louisville Business First. Bicycling for Louisville was among several organizations staffing booths at the Bike-To-Work Celebration.

I appreciate the special events, such as the Mayor's Hike & Bike rides and Bike-To-Work events, that encourage participation by people who don't identify themselves as cyclists. Someone who has enjoyed a 15-mile group ride or who has ridden bicycle to work, even once, will have more sympathy for bicyclists on the road and a more open mind to community investments in better bicycling. To tap the full potential of these promotional events, though, we need to take the next step and help these new or occasional riders develop the skills and attitudes for riding regularly.

Bicycling for Louisville offers two resources toward this end: our How to Bike to Work website and our adult bicycling skills classes. The hands-on Confident Cycling course, in particular, teaches skills and knowledge of value to nearly anyone who rides on streets with automotive traffic. The course really does build confidence as well as competence. Both the course and the website include information gleaned from many years and hundreds of thousands of miles of bicycling experience. If you consider yourself a seasoned bicycle commuter with little need for additional training or information, I encourage you to check out the Benefits of Bicycle Commuting page on the website. It might help you bring new riders into the bike-to-work fold.

If this post sounds like blatant promotion of Bicycling for Louisville and our programs, I won't argue with that description. I hope that you take advantage of these resources. Give us suggestions on how to improve them, and tell us what else you need to support safer and more enjoyable bicycling, and what you think would get more people bicycling. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ridiculous anti-bike rants

Every time the online edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal includes a story about bicycling or bicycle facilities, or even about a bicyclist injured or killed by an incautious or inept motorist, some online readers will post vitriolic anti-bicyclist comments. In addition to malice and ignorance of the law, these comments often make ridiculous assertions that violate all available evidence.

A good (?) example comes from the comments to today's 2-paragraph news bite in the C-J about the mayor's admonition to motorists to watch for bicyclists tomorrow during Bike-To-Work day. One person who frequently posts nasty comments about bicyclists wrote, "If you ride a bike to work then you are a loser. The only exception is a kid under 16 doing a paper route or if your name is Lance Armstrong...any other person is a loser. Put down your huffy and find a real job so that you might be able to actually afford a car."

A typical bicycle commuter in greater Louisville saves about $1000/year in commuting expenses and $1000/year in health care & insurance costs, while improving her or his quality of life. Many bicycle commuters enjoy the ride to & from work, and miss it if circumstances force them to take another mode of transportation for a day. How many motorists can say that? If saving money, feeling better, and having fun while commuting makes me a loser, than I'd rather be a loser than a winner.

Perhaps it makes more sense to ask, what game do I want to lose or win? It sounds as though the comment-writer seeks prestige above all else. If so, at least for a few more years, commuting by car will provide more prestige than commuting by bicycle. I would prefer to win the game of health, happiness, environmental stewardship, and household economics. For that, commuting by bicycle scores a big victory over commuting by car.