Archive for December, 2011

Inspiration and thoughts on bike culture

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Here we are in the middle of December and most of us are still out riding. There isn’t a ride lately that I don’t see other riders somewhere on my short commute. What five years ago was a lonely pursuit during December and the other winter months today looks more like spring and summer five years ago. Of course living through the warmest fall on record (or was it 1975–I remember doing a lot of the Long Trail in Vermont that fall) has helped. But so has the ever-growing bike culture which has really taken root in Boston.

That leads to the question of what is Boston’s bike culture?  How does it reflect the rest of our community? Is there a way to influence bike culture? Can bike culture be an influence on the rest of us?

It’s funny when you talk with other riders how similar our outlook and experiences are. It must be what a rider sees while riding a bike that shapes our perception on things. Often we notice stuff that those riding along side us inside their cars are often oblivious too. Our awareness contributes to drivers chip on their shoulders.

While there are the obvious answers about the root of our bike culture, basically the origin of today’s movement goes back to the run up to the financial crisis of 2008 when investment banks were leveraging themselves 30 or more times and ‘hedging’ their bets in all kinds of markets thus sending their value spinning out of control to the point where we had $4.50 gasoline in the United States. Throw in the wave of increased unemployment and suddenly that dusty bike in the basement took on a new look. Out in Dorchester you began to see increasing numbers of folks of all race and age groups setting out on their bikes.

Dorchester also had a generation of bike culture that dates back to the 1970s when the ten speed racing bike was introduced into the market. Up to then it was a clunky heavy bike and being fancy meant having a three speed Raleigh. There is a core of riders in Dot that were part of that movement. Many of us never stopped riding. That’s my generation. We’re so glad to see a new generation take to it in even bigger numbers and with more success than ours.

Thus the core of bike culture and what will move it forward and further into the main stream are the Gen X  & Y types who may have grown up in the suburbs but have chosen city life over suburban life built around a car. It is the strength of that energy that has encourage dotriderblog as much as anything over the past few years. Keep it up folks!

Just remember that your experience isn’t unique! Your choices while possibly being informed and studied aren’t the ones that all riders may make. Keep telling your stories. Keep thinking big picture and that we need a consistent region-wide approach to biking that includes everyone, especially those in our more economically diverse neighborhoods.

Hence the general theme of “I bike to work!” Dorchester’s diversity isn’t just racial. It’s economic as well. We heard a statistic that 02124 has as many millionaires as Fairfield, Connecticut. One suspects Dot has more folks living under the poverty line too. It probably has one of the largest slices of the middle class as well. Housing 17 union halls it was roots to the working class to boot!

We need to help the folks who are out riding to jobs in down town hotels or restaurants at all hours and in all weather that are the under counted and under served segment of bike culture. Of course precisely because this segment of the Dorchester community isn’t seen that the rest of us get less services and support than other parts of the city. Despite our constant presence at city events. Despite the real facts about our neighbohood. So, keep up your great work bike advocates! Just work for all of us!