Tag Archive for bike culture

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Selling bike safety, culture and infrastructure to a suspicious public

The single most powerful political manifesto I’ve ever read was written by Dale Carnegie.

I don’t think he intended to write a revolutionary treatise. But over the years, I’ve found the suggestions contained in his 70-year old book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, are more effective in creating political and societal change than any sit-in, march or demonstration.

One in particular has been proven over and over to be a brilliant political tool: “Always talk in terms of the other man’s interest.” That is, look at it from their perspective, and think about they’re interested in, rather than what’s in it for you.

I been thinking about that since I attended a session on advanced bike traffic planning tools, hosted by Ryan Snyder of Ryan Snyder Associates, at the L.A. Bike Summit on Saturday. He talked about a number of innovative bike traffic solutions, from sharrows and bike boxes, to painted bike lanes and improved signage.

But what really caught my attention were two things:

First was the concept of Road Diets. Simply put, it’s the idea that traffic flow and neighborhoods can both be improved by reducing the number of lanes.

For instance, a typical four-lane street that carries 20,000 vehicles or less a day can often be reconfigured into two through lanes, with a center left turn lane so that turning cars don’t block traffic, while leaving room for bike lanes on either side. This reduction can actually improve vehicle flow, while calming traffic speeds and permitting a dramatic increase in bike usage — and improve safety for both drivers and riders, while revitalizing the surrounding neighborhood.

The other one was the idea of Bike Boulevards — something a number of local riders have advocated lately.

At its most basic, a bike boulevard is a street, often parallel to a major thoroughfare, that has been optimized to encourage bike traffic. At the same time, it employs various barriers, roundabouts and signal changes to discourage vehicle through traffic.

You don’t have to sell cyclists on the concept of a bike boulevard. Build it, and we will come.

But as Ryan pointed out, the problem for both of these ideas — especially bike boulevards — comes when it’s time to sell local residents and business owners on the idea. With today’s over-congested traffic, very few people are open to the idea of actually reducing traffic lanes.

And no one wants to live on a bike boulevard.

People who live there tend to envision a thundering horde of two-wheeled thugs invading their street, reducing their property values and making them second-class citizens in their own neighborhoods.

Yet the reality is just the opposite. By eliminating through traffic, a bike boulevard will dramatically reduce vehicle traffic, making their street quieter, more peaceful and significantly safer, while local traffic is still able move in and out with ease.

Streets become more walkable, as well as bike-able, encouraging residents to get out and meet their neighbors. And the enhanced landscaping and beautification projects that often are part of a bike boulevard project — in part to get buy-in from the locals — results in a more attractive streetscape.

All that adds up to a better, more livable neighborhood. And means that property values could actually go up, not down.

The same holds true for a business district. Reduced traffic flow means less through traffic, resulting in quieter streets less congestion and easier access for drivers who do want to stop and shop. Parking can be improved and streets beautified, creating a neighborhood ideal for strolling or sidewalk cafes, while the extra bike traffic could actually bring more customers to the area.

Everyone wins.

So we have to do a much better job of marketing — whatever we’re selling. Because the key to getting bike boulevards and the other biking infrastructure, safety improvements, better educated, less biased and more effective police, and acceptance of bike culture, is not to demand our rights, but to look at it from their perspective.

We have to show local authorities, as well as home and business owners, exactly how and why it works to their benefit.

And let them demand it, instead.


Streetsblog offers some great biking links this morning, as well as a good overview of the keynote speakers at the Bike Summit. Gary, Brayj and Drew also offer reviews, though in the latter case, I fear I have once again failed to make a good impression. Will offers links to photos, as well as photos and video of his close encounter with Lance following the Summit. Los Angeles Rides quotes from a New York Times article about riding in the city, and how we make ourselves look bad — and not just by wearing spandex. Bicycle Fixation demonstrates that once again, cycling offers better stress relief than any prescription drug. The Biking Lawyer relates the history of the Stop As Yield Law. And Los Angeles Cyclist offers parts 3, 4 & 5 in his five part story of the Ridiculous Pink Fixie.

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