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Have you read Alex Baca‘s cover story on bike politics yet? No? Go do that first.
Then, if you like, read responses from Washcycle, Extraordinary Observations, and Mike DeBonis, whose thoughts about biking evangelism vs. biking as just the most useful way of getting around are on point.
Now, just because everyone else is doing it, forgive me a few of my own words on the subject. My dad, back in Seattle, is the consummate “sock-tucker,” as DeBonis calls the folks who stuff their pants in their socks to avoid getting chain grease on them (rather than wearing any special cycling gear). He works at a law firm downtown, but unless he has a meeting out in the suburbs somewhere, rarely lets that get in the way of wearing slacks, pressed shirts, and sweater vests on his 30-minute commute. On the way in, he rides at a leisurely pace to avoid sweating too much. When it rains—-which is often, obviously—-he envelops himself in Gore-Tex.
I vividly remember the morning I lived up to my birthright and became a bike commuter. Riding with a flock of cyclists on the Burke-Gilman trail along Lake Union, the realization struck: This is a community. We see the city in a different way. We’re having so much more fun than the people stuck in their cars. Even being able to zone out on public transportation is nothing compared to the calming endorphin rush of sliding through city streets under your own power, detouring when you feel like it.
There’s no purism to it, though: I’d still hop a bus every morning to get up a long hill that I didn’t feel like suffering through in the saddle. You do what you need to do, using every option available to make your life as easy as possible.
Now, I can’t imagine living in a city without a bike. And my dependence on two-wheeled transportation—-as well as the transcendent joy I take in riding around the city on weekends—-is why I believe so much in the kinds of bike infrastructure that make cycling easier for those who didn’t grow up doing it. For a kid going to school, adults getting to work, and grandparents staying fit, there are few more transformational choices than bike-mobility. Plus, parking has an insane amount of sway over discussions around new businesses and new buildings; needing less of it makes things easier for everyone (including the people who, for whatever reason, really do need to drive).
So if I appear evangelical at times, it’s only because I think it’s one of the easiest way to make Washingtonians happier and more free. A bike is just a bike, but that’s sure something in itself.