Hello, Bicycle: An Inspired Guide to the Two-Wheeled Life (2016)
Bicycles are not just a mode of transportation or the essential tool for what you do for fun on weekends. The simple machine that is a bicycle is capable of so much more than that. It’s a tool for development, a tool for public health, a tool for gender equality, and a tool for building a more sustainable future. The bicycle is full of potential; we just have to use it.
THE BICYCLE AS A TOOL
In a car-centric culture, most often the impetus that leads to trading in two wheels for four has to do with what can’t be done with a bicycle that can be done with a car. Grocery shopping, moving, taking kids to school. Yet all these activities can and do take place with the use of a bicycle. This is not an argument for ditching your car immediately, but it is an argument for thinking more creatively about how a bicycle can be used.
A bicycle can be a workhorse if you want it to be. Certainly there is the question of infrastructure; unfortunately, most of us live in places that were designed not for bicycles, but for cars, and as such, replacing the car with a bicycle isn’t always easy. But it can be done. We just have to rethink what a bicycle can do—and it can do a lot.
Cargo bikes come in all shapes and sizes and can be used for a variety of purposes. If you want to pedal the kids to school, there’s a bicycle for that. If you want to move heavy equipment, there’s a bicycle for that, too.
One city that embraces bikes as tools to everyday life is Amsterdam. Spend a weekend walking the streets of this bike-centric capital, and you will inevitably see a few toddlers, and maybe even a dog, crammed into the front of a cargo bike—the eco-friendly version of the minivan. But around the world, people are using bikes to haul things around. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon in big cities like New York City to see a person pedaling a delivery bicycle, maybe for a restaurant that uses pedal-powered delivery service; it’s a lower-impact way of doing urban deliveries, keeping trucks off of already-clogged streets. In urban areas, cargo bikes are a smart investment for companies—it’s why companies like DHL and UPS have tested cargo bikes and electric assist delivery bikes in various European cities. They cost less up front, they reduce traffic congestion, and the company doesn’t need big loading docks to load and unload their goods.
Compared to a car, the cargo bike is inherently low tech; it doesn’t need gas, it’s not responsible for emissions, and it won’t get you stuck in a traffic jam. You don’t even need a license to drive it. While it may seem daunting to transport things that you might otherwise use a car for, the important thing to remember with using a bike for cargo is that you are letting the bicycle do all the work; all you have to do is pedal, shift, steer. This is all about utility cycling. The following are some of the main types of cargo bikes.
This traditional Dutch cargo tricycle, called a bakfiets, is what most people think of when they hear the term cargo bike. These have a longer wheelbase in the front to accommodate a box, which is where the word bakfiets comes from in the first place: it means box bike. Into this box, you pop your kids, your groceries, your new chair that you just bought—whatever it is that you need to cart around. Beyond the traditional bakfiets style, there are also cargo tricycles that are built to have a cargo space on the back of the bicycle.
A longtail bicycle is intended for people that want the advantages of hauling a trailer without actually hauling a trailer. You get around the issue of having a trailer by extending the rear of the bicycle. Xtracycle is a brand that has made this style of utility bicycle famous. You’ll see longtail bicycles with everything from groceries to passengers—yes, even multiple children—sitting on the back.
Cycle trucks can’t carry as much gear as a cargo tricycle or longtail, but they are also lighter, which makes them a good midrange cargo bike. This bicycle typically has a rack attached to the front of the frame, as well as a smaller front wheel to deal with the rack’s lower center of gravity. This isn’t a new and modern thing; Schwinn actually put a cycle truck into production back in 1936.
Start looking around, and you’ll see all kinds of utility bicycles. Got an old used bicycle that you want to play around with? If you want to convert your bicycle into something more utilitarian, there are plenty of DIY guides out there. In the market to buy a cargo bike? It’s exactly the same process as for buying any other kind of bike; think about exactly what you want it for, what you’re going to be carrying, how much, and so on. There’s a cargo bike out there for everyone.
What to do with a cargo bicycle
Cargo bicycles can serve many purposes. They’re the workhorses of the bicycle world. Think outside the box. Bicycles aren’t just for riding from point A to point B. We see them as limited in what they can do mostly because we think of them for only one purpose. But if ever there was a multipurpose vehicle, the bicycle, particularly a utility bicycle, is definitely it.
If you shop regularly in small quantities, you don’t need a cargo bike to get your groceries home; your average bike will do just fine. If you like to shop less often and stock up when there’s a sale, a cargo bike can definitely make this task easier. In fact, having a longtail bicycle—or even just a bike with a better basket setup, like a cycle truck—just might make you more inclined to take your bicycle to the grocery store.
CARRY SPORTS EQUIPMENT
Cycling around with a surfboard may sound like the most ridiculous of endeavors, but it’s totally doable. Some companies build special setups so that you can carry your surfboard, or even your kayak, on the side of your bike, and there are plenty of people who retrofit their own bicycles to do the same thing.
You can put a child’s seat on any normal bicycle, but with a cargo bike you can carry much more weight, which means that it’s not just toddlers who are going to have all the fun. An adult passenger can easily sit on the back of a longtail bicycle or in the front of a cargo tricycle.
With the right cargo bike setup, you can easily cart around building tools and supplies. Whoever said that a construction site had to be filled with big trucks?
This can seem like a daunting task to a first-time cyclist, but there are people out there who do entire moves by bicycle. Yes, packing up an entire house and moving all their stuff on two wheels. Moving by bicycle is a feasible option when you are moving somewhere within the same town, and particularly if you have a few friends with cargo bikes or bike trailers. It’s always better to make a group effort out of it; just be sure to promise some cold beer and pizza at the end of it to turn it into a bike move party.
Coordinating longer moves is possible as well, as long as you put time into planning the route, getting a devoted group of friends to help you move, and being smart about packing up your stuff. Don’t want to do the work yourself? There are even moving companies out there, from New Orleans to Montreal, that operate 100 percent by bicycle or offer bicycle moving as an option.
THE BICYCLE AS A BUSINESS
If you have fallen madly and passionately in love with bicycles and cycling, an easy outlet for that love is a bike shop. But a bike shop isn’t the only way to combine bikes and business. Nowadays, particularly in urban areas, bikes are playing a central role in anything that requires a business to be mobile.
An obvious one is food; we’re talking food bikes instead of food trucks. From taco trikes to mobile espresso bars, bicycles are empowering food business owners to get around in a more sustainable manner. And also, isn’t it more fun to buy your lunch or coffee from a bicycle?
For some reason, bicycles and coffee are a perfect match. Think of a bicycle ride that ends at a café with a cup of coffee and a treat. Around the world, coffee entrepreneurs are incorporating bicycles into their business, be it with mobile coffee carts or delivering freshly roasted coffee by bicycles to retailers and other coffee shops, like Bicycle Coffee in Oakland, California, Conduit Coffee in Seattle, Washington, and The Coffee Ride in Boulder, Colorado. In Sweden, there is even a budding global franchise of mobile cafés: a company called Wheely’s is allowing aspiring business owners to buy one of their bike café setups, and since they started, they have positioned over thirty cafés in ten different countries.
Vending cart bikes
Forget the ice cream truck. Imagine spending your summer cycling around a neighborhood selling sweet, cold treats. As long as you can outfit your bicycle with a freezer chest, you can start a mobile ice cream business. And that’s just the beginning for mobile vending carts. Cinnamon rolls, hot dogs, tacos; you name it, and someone is probably selling it out of a vending cart bicycle. And if they’re not, maybe you should start one. Nowadays there are also companies producing and selling this style of mobile vending cart, which makes launching a pedal-powered business all the more easy.
While bicycles can operate similar to food trucks, and prepare the food on site, they can also be used to deliver food, from restaurants, grocery stores, or any kind of independent food business. From sandwiches to gluten-free pastries, bicycle delivery can definitely have a sweet side.
Pedal-powered farm to table
With the rise in popularity of community supported agriculture (CSA), it would make sense that bikes would naturally make their way into the equation. Urban farms in particular are the perfect candidates for delivery by bicycle, allowing CSA members to know not only that their food is grown locally, but also that it’s delivered in an eco-friendly manner.
THE BICYCLE AS A CHANGEMAKER
Bicycles can change the world! That may come off as a bold statement, but there was certainly a time when bicycles sparked a revolution. They were instrumental in the late 1800s and early 1900s in improving road quality. A bicycle didn’t need to be fed, like a horse. And you didn’t need to maintain a carriage. Or have any land to keep all of those horses that helped you get around. A bicycle was freeing. It was a new and democratized form of transportation.
Bicycles helped fuel the women’s rights revolution, an essential part of the women’s suffrage movement. “To men, the bicycle in the beginning was merely a new toy, another machine added to the long list of devices they knew in their work and play. To women, it was a steed upon which they rode into a new world,” wrote a journalist in Munsey’s Magazine in 1896.
The bicycle meant that women could get out and about and socialize on their own. It also meant that the definitions of femininity changed. Think of women’s clothing of the Victorian age. Not so bike friendly. And so bloomers came to be, and later, pants. At the time, they were considered an abomination by some, but nowadays we take them very much for granted. “The woman on the wheel is altogether a novelty, and is essentially a product of the last decade of the century,” wrote a journalist in The Columbian in 1895. “She is riding to greater freedom, to a nearer equality with man, to the habit of taking care of herself, and to new views on the subject of clothes philosophy.”
Nowadays a bicycle seems like such a simple thing that we often forget how revolutionary its role has been. The bicycle is in fact a vehicle for independence and change, and that continues to be true around the world. In terms of women’s rights, the bicycle provides freedom of mobility, an essential component of equal rights; when a woman can get from point A to point B by her own means, this can be life changing. In the Middle East, women’s cycling groups from Cairo to Kabul are slowly changing gender perceptions. Bicycles can also be a crucial tool for development, used to increase access to schools and health care. Changing lives isn’t always complicated; it, too, can be as simple as giving the gift of two wheels. In Africa, organizations like World Bicycle Relief work to provide bicycles to health workers so that they can cover more ground in a day. In countries like Cambodia and India, organizations work to provide girls with bicycles so that they can get themselves to school, and in turn get an education, perhaps the most meaningful investment in terms of development.
“One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.” That was the message delivered to the United Nations by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani advocate for education and women’s rights, as well as the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. What if we also added “one bicycle”? Think of what a bicycle does in your community. Now imagine what it can do in a developing community. A bicycle can allow a child to go to school; it can allow access to health care. It can simply serve the purpose of introducing fun and joy to a dismal routine. We may not solve all the world’s problems with bicycles, but we might start better dealing with a significant amount of them.
While the bicycle may not at first glance seem revolutionary, let us not forget its power. And to harness that power, there’s one thing that we can all do: ride. Let’s be a part of the two-wheeled revolution. Maybe it’s a ride to the grocery store, or maybe it’s a month-long two-wheeled adventure. Whatever we make of them, more bicycles are a good thing. Let us embrace the two-wheeled life and ride into the future as happy, independent, and free human beings. The more we pedal, the farther we go.
Does this mean you are an activist now?
Bike activism. Just mention these two words and it sounds like you’re talking about a very specific, devoted group of people. Well, you know what? If you ride a bike, you are a bike activist. Certainly, there are different levels of bike activism, but the truth is that the simple act of choosing to ride your bicycle is an action that speaks louder than words. Getting on your bicycle and leading by example makes you part of the bicycle revolution, whether you know it or not. And as long as you are part of it, you may as well find out more about it.
As you get more and more into the bike movement, you may feel yourself wanting to take part in new and different ways. There are a variety of organizations out there that could use your help (see Resources), be it financial or volunteering, and if you want to be more active in the overall cycling community, these can be a great place to start.
Here are some other ways to advocate for cycling:
The more cyclists out there, the better. A revolution is all about helping that revolution move forward, and by simply getting on a bicycle, you are doing just that. We can all do more, no matter what cycling level we are at. Maybe it’s bike commuting to work one more day a week, or maybe it’s committing to cycling even when the weather is nasty. Or maybe it’s challenging yourself to take part in a cyclocross race. Whatever it may be, the more you ride, the more power you add to the overall bike revolution.
You don’t need to be an official bike tour organizer to plan a ride. Put together a fun route and invite a few friends who are new to cycling. Plan a picnic and bring a bottle of bubbles and some cookies along as some good enticement to pedal all those miles. Or get up early and end the ride at a coffee shop. The more people we get on bikes, the better, and if you have to bribe your friends a little bit to do just that, it’s totally fine.
As crazy as it may sound, there’s an antibike lobby out there. There are people who argue against better bike policy, against more bike lanes, and against general pedestrian and cyclist safety. The best way to go up against that? Arm yourself with knowledge. Organizations out there like People for Bikes work hard to compile statistics on bicycling (peopleforbikes.org/statistics), and if you start to get to know the literature, then you’ll be better equipped to get into the more bikes versus fewer bikes arguments.
STARTING A TWO-WHEELED PROJECT
Bicycles are capable of a lot, and they have plenty of uses outside of the familiar ones. Come up with a creative way to use a bicycle. Maybe you partner with a local business to help them do bike deliveries; maybe you retrofit your bicycle to be able to make pedal-powered smoothies; or maybe you do like the Feminist Library on Wheels in Los Angeles, and cart around books via bicycle.
How to Organize a Bike Ride
It’s fun to ride with other people, and you don’t need to wait until the right organized ride comes along. You can plan your own. Be it a cross-town ride that ends at the local microbrewery or a Saturday jaunt out into the countryside, you’re free to organize any type of ride you want. Remember that if you are organizing a ride, the riders are going to hold you responsible—for their safety, and for their entertainment. Good planning will lead to a good ride, and ideally leave your riders inspired to bike more in the future.
CHOOSE A ROUTE
Route planning is essential when planning a ride. Know the roads and the route, how much traffic to expect, and what safety precautions you may need to take. Also take into consideration the day and time you are planning to ride. Ride the route yourself before you go so that you know it well.
CHOOSE A THEME
A good way to think about planning a ride is to think about a theme. Maybe you want to explore local food spots—a weekend ride to check out artisan cheese makers and vineyards, perhaps—or maybe you want to share all the secrets about your city—an urban street art tour, let’s say. Whatever your theme is, be sure you’re knowledgeable about it. Your riders are looking to you for all of their information.
This doesn’t work for all rides, but who doesn’t love a good excuse to dress up? Costume themes can make an average bike ride an awesome bike ride. Superhero Bike Gang, anyone?
TELL RIDERS WHAT THEY NEED TO BRING
Is this a long ride where people might want to bring along snacks? Will you be riding after dark, so riders will need their lights? Should they bring cash for buying produce at the farm you’re visiting? Don’t assume your participants know what to bring; provide them with an easy checklist.
CITIES AND BICYCLES
It’s not just individuals who are pushing for more bikes; cities around the world are catching on to the fact that investing in cycling infrastructure is a good thing. It helps with citizens’ health, promotes small businesses, and makes cities cleaner and less congested.
Many cities around the world have begun to institute car-free days—designated days when certain streets are free from motorized traffic. In other words: a cyclist’s dream world. Bogota, Colombia, is credited with pioneering the concept, shutting off certain main roads every single Sunday. Referred to as ciclovía, which in Spanish means “cycleway,” this type of initiative has taken off in many other places. There is an entire network called Ciclovías Recreativas de las Américas (cicloviasrecreativas.org). The organization advocates to get more cities implementing similar programs, to promote not only cycling, but healthier communities as well, and they maintain a map to show all of the ciclovías in both North and South America.
Bike to Work Day
To support bike commuting, as a part of National Bike Month in the United States, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists each May, there is also a National Bike to Work Week. Many cities and local bike organizations participate, and they often organize their own Bike to Work days to promote more people commuting to work on two wheels. But remember this: Bike to Work Day is kind of like Earth Day; it’s great to devote a whole day to being excited about bike commuting, but it’s something that more of us should be doing the other 364 days of the year as well.
If you have a hard time parking a bike safely and securely, chances are you won’t be as willing to ride. Investing in bike parking is a smart move on the part of city planners; think of how many bikes you can fit into an average car parking space. There are innovative bike parking systems around the world, like the underground bike parking in Japan where bicycles are fed into a parking station and then taken into an underground well and parked, keeping the bicycles off the street and leaving more space as well as keeping them protected. To encourage more people to ride bikes, and in turn help ease the pains of car parking, in some cities you’ll find bike valets at events, from farmer’s markets to baseball games. Unlike using a car valet, however, bike valet service is often free. Planning your own event? Why not offer a bike valet?
Incorporating bicycles into public transportation systems
In Europe, there’s currently a project called Bike-Train-Bike; taking inspiration from the Dutch system, it is implementing projects across Europe that focus on promoting the combination of bikes and trains as transportation as opposed to cars and trains. You may not be willing to bike fifty miles to work, but imagine if you had a three-mile ride to a train station where you could easily park your bike and then take the train the rest of the way? While the train infrastructure isn’t as developed in the United States as in Europe, imagine if every park-and-ride was a bike-park-and-ride, with better infrastructure in place to encourage people to bike to the bus station. This intermodal transportation is definitely a way of creating a more sustainable future.
Building better bike lanes
When it comes to bike lanes, if you build it, the cyclists will come. We cyclists want to feel safe; we want to ride and not fear for our lives. A 2012 study by researchers at Rutgers that looked at various data sets from ninety different U.S. cities concluded that “cities with a greater supply of bike paths and lanes have significantly higher bike commute rates.” The Green Lane Project is one initiative to help cities build better bike lanes, and there are organizations around the world that work hard to make this a priority for urban planners.
Of course, in the United States, advocating for bicycles often causes an uproar. Why? Because it challenges the status quo of cars in our car-centric culture.
ARE PEOPLE REALLY AGAINST BICYCLES?
Once you’ve discovered the love of two wheels, it seems downright crazy that anyone would be against bicycles. But they are out there. Whether it be campaigning against a new bike lane or challenging bicycle safety laws implemented by cities or even threatening (or dealing out) physical abuse of bicyclists while riding, there are a fair number of people who aren’t so bike friendly. Some of this isn’t vicious; it simply reflects a stigmatizing attitude toward cycling that we have to work hard to change. In a car culture, cycling is often seen as the silly option that you choose only if you can’t afford that rite of passage to adulthood, your own car. In some communities, if a person is on a bicycle, they are assumed to be poor, with not enough money to own a car, or worse yet, a drunkard who has lost their license and is now forced to use two wheels to get around. There are plenty of stories of cyclists having things thrown at them or simply being verbally abused while on the road. Some people even joke about hitting cyclists, as if it were a fun pastime.
How do we change this? We continue to be advocates for change. Cyclists have a right to the road. If you choose to ride a bicycle rather than drive a car, you should feel empowered to do so. The most fundamental thing that we can do to change the cultural prejudice against cycling is to continue riding and continue having conversations. Cyclists are normal people, functioning members of society. We do not deserve to be treated like second-class citizens. And if we want to take the car lane once in a while because it makes us safer, then we will do it. Unfortunately, that may be seen by the car culture as an extreme, annoying act, which escalates this ongoing battle between cyclists and drivers.
I say this not to further fuel the conflict, but to remind us all that we shouldn’t allow this unfortunate situation to silence us. History has shown us that changing the status quo isn’t easy. It’s often downright difficult. It takes revolutionaries. But fortunately, for the most part being on a bicycle doesn’t feel like being a revolutionary. Ask most people why they ride, and they will probably launch into a long explanation of how great it makes them feel, physically and emotionally. I don’t ride because I want to make a statement. I ride simply because I want to ride.
How to counter the top myths about cycling
There are all kinds of arguments against cycling out there. Elly Blue has written on this topic for a long time; she is the author of Everyday Bicycling: How to Ride a Bike for Transportation and Bikeonomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy. She speaks regularly at bike conferences around the world about bike policy and more. She is well versed in the arguments that cyclists often face, and she is happy to help you counter them.
MYTH: BIKES DON’T PAY FOR THE ROADS
In the United States, the road system was originally intended to be funded only by taxes on gas and various car parts like tires. But the cost of building and maintaining enough pavement for everyone who wants to drive (and park) their car is so astronomically high that gas tax covers only about half of it. So if you ride a bicycle instead of driving a car or taking public transportation, you’re still paying for the roads through your general taxes—actually, you’re subsidizing the car drivers’ driving habit.
MYTH: BIKES SLOW DOWN TRAFFIC AND CAUSE POLLUTION
When you’re driving a car capable of going 120 mph, on a road with a 25 or 30 or 35mph speed limit, and you’re stuck behind a bicyclist traveling at 15 mph or less, it can feel unbelievably frustrating. But what is actually causing you to burn excess fuel isn’t needing to go at pedaling speed for three blocks during your commute—it’s hitting the gas to try to get ahead, only to come to a screeching halt at the next light, rinse, repeat. If everyone drove at a slower, steadier rate—in downtown areas, about as fast as a bicyclist can go is optimal—everyone would get where they’re going much more quickly and generate less pollution.
MYTH: THERE ISN’T ENOUGH SPACE ON THE ROAD FOR BIKE LANES
Someone driving a two-ton car with the footprint of an efficiency apartment is always going to feel like there isn’t enough space on the road. This problem, however, is caused not by bike lanes, sidewalks, buildings, or the person you saw yesterday biking up the street the wrong way. Researcher Peter Jacobsen has a great analogy to describe this sense of scarcity. We tend to think of traffic like a river, one that will flow more freely the wider its channel—that is, the more car lanes you add to the highway. But actually, says Jacobsen, traffic behaves like a gas, expanding to fill whatever space is available. So when you reduce the number of lanes dedicated to cars only, people drive less. And when you add to the amount of space designated for bicycles, bike traffic will grow to fill that space. Of course, if all traffic went at a more reasonable speed, we wouldn’t need nearly as many bike lanes.
MYTH: BICYCLING ISN’T SAFE
The first assumption in this myth is that other ways of getting around—like walking, taking the bus, and especially driving—are totally safe. The reality is that none of these are completely safe because roads are built to encourage fast driving, not safe driving. Statistics change daily, but every year tens of thousand of people die in car crashes in the United States, and millions are injured. Bicycling has another great safety advantage over driving—you are safer from the numerous medical problems caused and exacerbated by prolonged stationary sitting, combined with the extreme stress of driving in traffic. Both stationary sitting and stress are shown to shorten your life span well beyond the risk of being injured in a crash. While you’re sure to encounter stressful situations on your bicycle, you’ll work them off immediately. In a car, you can only continue to sit and stew over whatever is bothering you.
MYTH: BICYCLISTS ARE SCOFFLAWS
All bicyclists run red lights! So goes the myth. They don’t care about safety! They think they’re above the law! There’s more than a small element of confirmation bias in this mindset. There is some partial support for one accusation: Many people on bikes in cities around the world can be seen rolling through a stop sign, dashing through a red light, or cruising the wrong way down a one-way street. This isn’t because we’re a lawless breed, though—it’s typically because road design and driver behavior create a hazardous situation that makes it often seem safer not to stop in front of a hurtling taxi as the light turns red, or to take a shorter, wrong-way route rather than risking three left turns on busy arterials to go with traffic. The real clincher: When Chicago put separated bicycle lanes all over their downtown core, a study found that while previously only 31 percent of cyclists had waited for red lights, with the new bike infrastructure 81 percent waited. In bike-friendly Portland, Oregon, a study found that 94 percent of cyclists wait at red lights. Meanwhile, a U.S. government survey found that 56 percent of drivers admit to running red lights, and two people a day die in the United States because of this.
Getting Together with Other Cyclists: Critical Mass
Ever heard of Critical Mass? Chances are if you live in an urban area, you may have already come across this term. It refers to a mass bicycle ride, most often taking place on the last Friday of each month in cities around the world. It’s not much more complicated than that; just people gathering together with their bikes and riding around, free of charge and open to everyone.
The event originated in San Francisco in 1992 and since then has spread to cities around the world, encouraging mass citizen mobilization. Of course, because of this, many have taken to seeing Critical Mass as a political statement, and more of a protest than a ride. Many organizers and participants, however, insist on the celebratory and spontaneous nature of these gatherings; it’s actually just people who love bicycles coming together to ride, and for a short moment, feeling like they outnumber cars. Ultimately, the participants take part in Critical Mass for different reasons, but there’s no denying that they have played a major role in galvanizing urban cycling culture.
WHEN CAN YOU CALL YOURSELF A CYCLIST?
What is it that truly defines a cyclist? Do you have to ride a certain number of miles a week? Do you have to own a certain number of bicycles? Do you have to have special shorts? Do you have to go on organized rides?
Being a cyclist doesn’t have to include any of these. Simply put, a cyclist is someone who loves to ride a bicycle. You do not need to be a professional racer; you do not have to go on hundred-mile rides on weekends. You do not have to drink protein shakes before 5 a.m. rides; you do not have to know what every single part on your bicycle is called. If you have committed to riding your bicycle, and you have fallen in love with it in the process, then you are one who cycles, and hence you may call yourself a cyclist.
I say this because so often people are intimidated by the bike world. I myself have been there. I once sat in a room full of women, all involved in the bike industry in some way—be it racing, owning a bike business, or just advocating for bicycles. “Well, I’m not really a cyclist,” I said, trying to think about the last time I had gone on a long weekend ride and feeling sort of guilty for not challenging myself to sign up for cyclocross season. “But I do like to ride, and I bike every day,” I added, in an attempt to justify myself, moderately intimidated by the group of bike-savvy people around me.
“Well, then, of course you are a cyclist,” said one of them.
This has stuck with me through the years, and I say it as a reminder that there is no one activity that all of a sudden makes you a cyclist. Some may race and never bike commute. Some bike commuters may never choose to get on a road bike.
But there is no need to discredit ourselves and make excuses based on what we do or don’t do. We shouldn’t feel that we are not skilled enough, haven’t ridden enough miles, don’t have the right kind of bicycle. On the contrary, we should feel empowered. Empowered to learn more, explore more. A love of cycling is enough. A desire to get on a bicycle every day (well, most every day). A need to feel the wind on your face as you ride down a hill. This is all you need to call yourself a cyclist.
A cyclist is a person who loves to ride a bicycle. End of story. You never know where that love will lead. Maybe one day you will take off on a month-long bike tour; maybe you will commit to commuting every day; maybe you will petition your local town to install bike lanes. But for now, that love and passion for being on a bicycle is the most important thing. You are a cyclist, and you should feel great about it.
WHAT CHOICE WILL YOU MAKE?
Choosing to ride a bicycle over driving a car isn’t always the easiest choice, yet as more and more people do it, we show that we want and need cities and communities that are built for two wheels. The more we pedal, the easier it becomes, both for ourselves and our communities. While it would be nice to live in a world with protected bike lanes where we would never have to dodge through traffic, we can’t wait for all of the right bike infrastructure to be in place; we have to ride, and we have to ride now. We have to be a part of the change that we wish to see.
Choose two wheels and enjoy the process. After all, cycling is about having fun. And who doesn’t want a little more fun in their everyday lives?
Let’s smile more.
Let’s be happier.
Let’s be healthier.
Let’s ride bikes.