Wheely, wheely thankful
Photo: iamosIn last Sunday’s New York Times, columnist Mark Bittman compiled a list of people and things in the food movement he’s thankful for. The bicycle movement deserves its own list. Here’s a start:
1. I’m thankful for the power of bikes to enable people-powered protest movements. Bicycles have been playing a supporting role in the Occupy movement, and seem to be bringing out the best in everyone, whether used by protesters or police.
2. Free bicycles are on the rise, thanks to an international network of bike collectives. Chances are there’s one near you — find out on this list — where you can build yourself a bike and learn to do your own repairs. Or, to see an economic multiplier at work, donate money, parts, or time to a bike collective that provides free bicycles to teens or adults with low incomes.
3. Hooray for fenders! Riding through a light drizzle is a secret pleasure of mine, and if I had to choose between a raincoat and fenders, I’d choose fenders every time. After all, the rain is far cleaner coming down than it is when it’s tossed back up by your tires.
4. I love the energy of small cities with big visions. As the giants like New York and Seattle wrangle over relatively small amounts of bike infrastructure, people in smaller cities around the country, from Oklahoma City to Newton, Mass., are seeing the appeal of bicycle transportation — and can have a much quicker road to revising their infrastructure and habits.
5. There is a 325-mile continuous paved trail on which you can bike, hike, or ski between Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh. It’s called the Great Allegheny Passage. How cool is that?
6. Let’s hear it for sharrows and bike lanes. Cycling advocates argue fiercely about what kind of bike infrastructure is most effective, but the truth is that every time any kind of bike markings go down it’s a giant, sometimes bright green billboard reminding all of us that bicycles belong on the road.
7. Sure, we need paint on the roads and slower speed limits, but art is what makes life worth living. That’s why I appreciate Artcrank, a Minneapolis-based group that travels from city to city commissioning bike-themed posters from local artists and selling them at fun, beery parties that build community and micro-boost the local economy.
8. I still get a little swoony every time I see someone ride past on a cargo bike, chatting with their kids or balancing a lopsided load of lumber. And I love that the cargo bike options in North America are expanding fast. You can buy an expensive imported box bike or an artisanal, U.S.-made variant for less than the price of a cheap car. You can go budget and convert your bike into an Xtracycle longtail. Or you can hunker down in your garage and build the franken-cargo bike of your dreams out of cast-off parts.
9. The bicycle industry has been slow to turn its gaze from sports to transportation, and even slower to take up advocating for safer streets. But here are exceptions, and many are local bike shop owners like Matt Feiner of The Devil’s Gear in New Haven, Conn. On the big business end, industry titans Trek and SRAM lead the charge, throwing their considerable weight behind the advocacy, research, and infrastructure-building efforts of powerhouse nonprofit Bikes Belong.
10. What’s not to love about food carts? They’re the ideal bike fuel stop. No need to lock up your bike, wrestle with your raingear, bags, and blinky lights — just roll up to the window and order your burrito, pho, or hot chai. They’re more convenient than a fast food drive-thru, but owned by someone who probably lives down the street from you and is buying food from local sources.
11. I’m thankful that Critical Mass and similar rides are still regularly bringing people together to occupy some of the worlds’ most hostile and exclusive public spaces by bike — like this 5,000 person-strong ride in Guadalajara.
12. There’s an uptick in the number of people out there bicycling long distances in search of adventure or to promote a cause. I’m extra inspired by two enthusiastic gals named Sarah and Toni recently completed their Sustainable Cycles Bike Tour down the West Coast, giving out a whole bunch of reusable menstrual cups (the existence of which are also worth a healthy dose of thankfulness) along the way.
13. To the guy sweeping glass out of the bike lane in front of his house as I rode past the other day: Thank you!