Maybe the best sign of bike culture is the lack of it

Following yesterday’s open invitation for guest writers while I’m otherwise distracted by moving, I received a response from Ross Del Duca, author of the always insightful JustAnotherCyclist.

Ross offers an intriguing look at the growth of bike culture, and whether the truest sign of a real bike culture is the lack of one. My heartfelt thanks to him for pitching in and getting us off to such a great start; if you have any thoughts you want to share on any bike-related subject, just drop me a line a bikinginla at hotmail dot com.

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There are many of us so-called avid cyclists that are big on participating in, but also promoting cycling.  I’m one of those folks.  For me, this is partially self-serving.  The more folks that we have out on the road riding their bikes, the more accustomed to bikes on the road motorists will be.  Makes it safer for all of us overall.  Socially I think it is a win.  The oft-cited benefits to health and the environment seem like obviously beneficial gains to me as well. That, and the natural human compulsion to want other folks to enjoy what I enjoy.

For some, it is about fostering a “bike culture.”  A culture where going to the grocery store, or tootling down to the local cafe, or getting the kids to soccer practice, are all things that are perfectly reasonable to do on a bike.  A culture where riding a bike in the rain to get to work doesn’t make you extreme, eccentric or even on the fringe.  A culture where riding a bike is normal.  As normal as driving a car.

And now we have a conundrum.

You see, the ultimate success in striving towards a bike culture, is that you get no bike culture.

There are many of us that live outside of Copenhagen or Amsterdam and idealize what it must be like there.  We lament our horrible cycling situation, and lust after their cycling culture.  We drool over percentages of daily travels done by bike.

But ask them about their bike culture and you may be surprised by the response:  “What?  We don’t have a bike culture, silly!”

That is because they have achieved the goal, and cycling is an average part of every day life.  They don’t go to the store on their bike, they simply go to the store.  There are no velocommutes, there’s just a bunch of folks going to work.

Us crazy Americans often hear tale that we live in a “car culture.”  But in a lot of ways that is not true either.  Sure, we’ve had a fascination with cars for some time.  But just like the guy on the bike in Copenhagen pedaling to work isn’t being part of a bike culture, the mom driving the kids to soccer practice in an ordinary sedan isn’t a part of car culture.

So perhaps a better way to look at this is: the goal of achieving “bike culture” isn’t to make it a cultural movement, or even to make it so common it is overlooked.  Rather, we should strive to make it special in a different way.  We want the woman pedaling in the rain on Monday morning to be a non-noteworthy item, as we look forward to celebrating our bike culture on Saturday with a local bike race and vintage bike show.

If we do that, my fellow bikey folks…  well, then we will have something.

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Meanwhile, a writer for HuffPo says bikes are the future of transportation. That is, if the Whisperers don’t stop it. And speaking of Ross, he offers his take on the Great Helmet Debate and the “They Can’t Hurt” theory.

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It’s back.

Exactly 6 months to the day after L.A. discovered it is in fact possible to survive without a car for a single Sunday, CicLAvia will be back on April 10th, 2011, following the same route as the first, with possible additions. So mark your calendar now — seriously, go out and buy one if you haven’t already — and block out the full day. Because the first CicLAvia was more fun than most riders have ever had on the streets of L.A.

And the next one promises to be even bigger and better.

.………

Zeke notes that we’re less than three weeks from the days getting longer again — and offers to wear a little black dress in the snow if Salsa will just send him that Fargo TI he’s been longer for; I hope he gets his bike, but I’m not sure that’s something I really want to see.

On the other hand, if Pashley want to send me that Guv’nor I’ve been craving, I’ll gladly wear Dior on the shore. And speaking of Pashley, Flying Pigeon has the Roadster Sovereign 26 in stock for shorter limbed but eminently tasteful riders.

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After failing to implement the previous bike plan — now where have I heard that before? — Santa Monica looks forward to creating a new Bike Master Plan. Gary looks at a surprisingly supportive meeting with the Santa Monica Planning Commission. The Times looks at Santa Monica’s recent decision to make sidewalk riding an infraction, and correctly notes that it’s legal in Los Angeles and banned in some other places in the county. Cyclists are encouraged to fight for a Wilshire Blvd bus (and bike) only lane. Does L.A.’s road design encourage wrong-way cycling? KNBC picks up the L.A. bike polo story. Turns out the lead suspect in the murder of Beverly Hills publicist Ronni Chasen “loved his bicycle;” neighbors doubt he was involved. Eagle Rock residents fight for their road diet. A look at the Long Beach bike roundup. An L.A. writer gets a DUI, costing her over $5000 and use of her license for six months, yet fails to express a single word of remorse; thanks to Todd Munson for the link.

The League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking are working to double federal spending on bike and pedestrian projects; that could be a rough battle with the new Congress and the Tea Party dominated GOP. A letter to an angry driver who tried to run a cyclist off the road. Springfield Cyclist offers a tongue-in-cheek cautionary tale. A distracted driver kills a Detroit cyclist; a police spokesman suggests the rider should have been on the sidewalk — even though he was riding on the road’s gravel shoulder. As if NYC cyclists didn’t have a bad enough reputation, now a Brooklyn rider is using his bike in a one-man crime wave. A New York legislator introduces a bill requiring bike safety instruction for drivers.

Former world champion Igor Astarloa calls his two-year doping ban ridiculous; he’s got a point, since he already retired. The best and worst of the new bike team kits. Clearly, appropriate winter cycling attire is relative. Dealing with knee pain on the bike. A cyclist spends eight hours in a ditch impaled on a branch, with no clear memory of how she got there. Fire fighters free a toddler with his hand stuck in a bike chain; a reminder that bikes can pose a danger to small children and pets. And welcome online to Be Seen, an Aussie firm — and frequent tweeter — offering an innovative line of inexpensive reflective and glow-in-the-dark products to help increase cyclists visibility after dark.

Finally, one of America’s leading bike blogs teams up with Yehuda Moon, everyone’s favorite online bicycling comic strip, for the 2010 Kickstand Cyclery Virtual Alleycat Race Powered by Cyclelicious starting on Monday.

And speaking of Yehuda Moon, I still think this may be the single best bike comic ever.

10 comments

  1. “American’s leading bike blog” *blush*

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  4. […] can have a good ride in Sacramento, even without Lycra. Ross Del Duca continues his thoughts — started here — on divisions, divides and cultures that divide cyclists, or not. California releases the new […]

  5. […] can have a good ride in Sacramento, even without Lycra. Ross Del Duca continues his thoughts — started here — on divisions, divides and cultures that divide cyclists, or not. California releases the new […]

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  7. […] on the site must show bicycles being used as transportation – i.e. average, everyday folks doing average, everyday things on bicycles.  As stated on their submission […]

  8. […] ultimate goal of bike culture June 16, 2011 Note: I originally wrote this as a guest piece for the awesome BikingInLA blog.  Seeing a video posted over on Cyclelicious reminded me a lot of […]

  9. […] I originally wrote this as a guest piece for the awesome BikingInLA blog.  Seeing a video posted over on Cyclelicious reminded me a lot of […]

  10. […] on the site must show bicycles being used as transportation – i.e. average, everyday folks doing average, everyday things on bicycles.  As stated on their submission […]

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