It’s been a fun time, riding my bike all summer, though it’s also been filled with frustration from time to time. We’re a region and a world that is geared toward the automobile and the consumption of fossil fuels.
I have to confess that I’m addicted to ease of travel too. There were times when I could have taken the bike, but the car was right there, and no one else was using it. It’s hard not to hop in, turn the key, and go. No need to grab the back pack, make sure I have the lock, choose the destination carefully to make sure I have a place to secure the bike, and take more time to get there and back. Sometimes I went with the bike, sometimes the car. But I learned some things this summer.
People look at bikes as toys, not transportation. If you ride a bike for transportation, you’re either poor, a health nut, or some other kind of weirdo trying to recapture your youth. Riding bikes is something kids do, or something adults do for exercise, usually stationary in a gym with an iPod or headphones for listening to the TV news. It’s not seen as a vehicle, and if you use it like one, no one takes you seriously. If we lived in a different area, I’d enlist my entire family in this adventure, and we’d sell the car and just rent one when we needed it just to show people we were serious. As my wife commutes 20 miles to work each way though? I’m pretty sure she’s not going for it.
Bike Lanes are designed around the toy principle. The bike lanes in my town are designed for only a few things. Primarily they are geared at children: either children that ride their bikes to school, or children who ride their bikes to parks to recreate. The bike lanes end there. True, adults should know how to ride, and share the road, but so should drivers. They don’t. For the most part, if a bike joins the flow of traffic, obeying all applicable traffic laws just like a car, the rider is taking his life into his hands, especially in this area. In bigger urban areas, and in some ways the downtown Boise area, things are better. Not much. You still read about cyclists hit on a regular basis.
Businesses don’t cater to cyclists because there aren’t enough of us. The businesses with no bike racks a couple of weeks ago (click here)? When I called they seemed surprised that anyone cared. I mean, if you have a car, why would you ride a bike to their business? Some seemed astonished anyone even noticed they had no bike rack. Apparently I was the first one to point it out. You’d think they’d want people to be in shape, care about the environment, and improve local air quality, but they don’t. A coffee or restaurant is more likely to have a drive through than a bike rack, and those are often off limits to cyclists for “security reasons.” (More on this another time)
So what’s next? Fall is a great time to ride your bike, if you ignore the thunderstorms, fall allergies, and the smoke from the tail end of wildfire season. Temperatures are great, and the kids are back in school.
So at least during the day, you have those bike lanes to yourself. I’ll be riding. See you out there.