Bike to Work Day 5.16.13
Today was “bike to work day” in L.A. and, while I’ve been biking to work all year this year, I have been working in the Pasadena area this month, which allowed me to pay a visit to the Bike to Work Day “Pit Stop” at Pasadena City Hall this morning. It was a great opportunity to meet other bike commuters, talk to some city staff about making the city more bike-friendly, and have some muffins and coffee before getting on your way.
As a veteran bike commuter, I don’t need the prod of a “Bike to Work Day” to get me on my bicycle, but still I think events like Bike to Work Day are a wonderful way to get people to try it and realize they can get to work without a car. This morning, for example, I was talking to two women who were riding to work for the first time. One hadn’t been on her bike since, “like forever,” as she told me, but it was great to see their sense of accomplishment at having done it successfully. The first step away from total auto-dependency has to begin somewhere, so the more events like this, the better.
I also think such events are a wonderful way to nurture a sense of camaraderie among bike commuters, since we’re still in the very low single digits in terms of percentage of transportation mode share in Southern California. In other words, it reminds us that we’re not alone and we’re part of something that seeks to make our cities and our streets healthier, safer, and more livable for everyone. Best of all, unlike many organized bike rides, Bike to Work Day consciously gets people to substitute their bike for their car, if even for a day. It gets at the heart of what a transformative potential the bicycle has as a legitimate mode of transportation.
This week is also “Bike Week Pasadena,” an annual event organized by a local bicycle transportation advocacy group CICLE.org, as part of the local Bike Month festivities. This is a great group of grassroots volunteers who host family-friendly fun rides and what they call “urban expeditions,” which are casually-paced rides that explore parts of the city by bike. Sometimes the rides have fun themes, but the idea is to get people of all levels of fitness out on bikes and experience the city in a more fun, healthy, and open way than can be done in a car. When I’ve attended these rides, it not only gave me a wonderful new perspective on my city, it gave me a sense of belonging within the bicycle advocacy community. This year’s events included a food-themed ride, a ladies’ night ride, and a kids’ costume ride. The LA County Bicycle Coalition and Metro also play a major role promoting these bike week events.
Sure, Bike Week Pasadena and Bike to Work Day might be seen by cynics as a bit gimmicky, but these events are excellent ways for the”bike curious” to experience bicycling in a safe, fun environment and a welcome reminder for the more experienced that we’re part of a growing movement.