National Bike Month began yesterday. It's an annual push by the League of American Bicyclists to celebrate and promote all things bicycling, and it's probably best known for Bike to Work Week, which culminates this year on Bike to Work Day (May 14). I love this event because for a few short days there's an appreciable spike in bike traffic on the roads and motorists are generally more courteous to cyclists. There are festivals and seminars and Critical Mass Rides all over the country, and for a brief moment the world seems like it's moving in the right direction. I mean honestly, does anyone really enjoy sitting in a car in traffic?
The event got me thinking about bike culture in this country, and though bikes are as popular as ever, we have a long way to go. Only around 13 percent of Americans said they rode a bike more than six times in 2010, and though bike sales that year rebounded from the recession levels of 2009, they still trailed the record high sales in 2000. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, while the number of people who use their bikes as a primary means of commuting grew by almost 40 percent between 2000 and 2010, the volume is still extremely low. Only one half of one percent of American commuters ride a bike as their primary means of transport. And worst of all, I see stories all too frequently (including the devastating news out of Korea today) about car-bike altercations that leave cyclists injured or worse.
As cyclists, there are things we can do to help push the tide in our direction. Advocacy organizations like the League of American Bicyclists and the International Mountain Bicycling Association work hard for funding for bike lanes, paths, trails and parks, and joining such groups helps build awareness and solidarity. Riding smart is another way to propogate bike culture. Motorists who don't ride bikes are likely to be more accepting of cyclists who signal for turns, don't cruise through stop signs, and generally try to peacefully coexist. Simplest of all, we can ride. More bikes on the road means greater visibility, more mutual support, and, in the end, more demand for infrastructure to benefit us.
I'm as guilty as anyone. Though I ride almost daily for exercise and do my best to take a bike on errands around town, sometimes a busy schedule, bulky cargo or bad planning leads me to the car instead. And sometimes it's sheer laziness. So in observation of National Bike Month, I'm giving up the car. For any trips within Santa Fe City limits (approximately 37.4 square miles), I'll be relying on the Trek Transport+ that we reviewed in the May edition. I realize that it's not such a big deal to forgo a car—people do it every day, and I already rely pretty heavily on my bike. Then again, I'm betting that I drive more than I think I do, so I'll be tracking every trip I make with my Garmin. Look for a full report, both about the bike and the challenges and rewards of committing to it, in early June.
In the meantime, celebrate National Bike Month. After all, how sweet is a public event that empowers you to get out and ride more?