Archive for July, 2012

Bike culture slow to grow

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

My partner Maggie and I spend a lot of time on Nantucket. She has a summer job there and I’ve always gone there since I was a kid. This year we got a place out of town for a couple of weeks as we had a flock of visitors who wanted to come see us and hang. Since we didn’t have a car out there we made sure we had a bike for everyone or anyone who came to visit. The results to me show how difficult it is to grow bike culture.

After all Nantucket is home of the first bike path in the country. We were .3 of a mile off the main road with a speed limit of 20 and the main road had a totally separated bike path that ran 5 miles, 1 west to the ocean and 4 east to town. So how hard would riding a bike be?

Our first guests never got on a bike once. They had no problem walking to the road and they did buy a bus pass, but the bikes lanquished. They called a cab to get their gear to the boat when I offered to ride in with my trailer. Perfectly able middle aged women, but I’m wondering if one had never learned how to ride a bike…

The second group appeared talking a big game. 4-twenty somethings my daughter and her friends. We rode 2 miles to the beach the first day and then back. After that the bikes were used to ride to the main road. One more beach trip for 3 out of 4 and then my daughter sucked it up and rode into town. I’d give that effort a C, but in their defense they didn’t go anywhere much and we had a great time highlighted by a midnight dip. The cab to the brewery was cheaper than 6 of us taking the bus so…

Maggie’s step mom was the most game. She rode to town a couple of times but quickly figured out the bus had a bike rack and often would go only one way. Hey! Not bad really. I wasn’t there the whole time. During that time we had another guest who jumped on a bike whenever we said. Nice guest and I wish she was there longer. We missed Maggie’s niece who we know would have been on it.

One day during that time I rode into town on what was not a good beach day. Town was crawling with cars and I met the guy staying in a house near ours who said it took his kid an hour and half to find a parking spot (Hey dummy go back home and take the bus it only takes 20 minutes and it runs twice an hour.). The guy was flabergasted when I told him it took me 25 minutes to ride my bike in there and there was still plenty of parking. I know it may have got him thinking the other way.

But if anywhere in America shows the chasm between auto-centric folks and bike riders it is Nantucket. With 4 out of 5 vehicles being SUV’s or bigger and folks getting permits so they can park their monstrosities on the beach, there isn’t a more entitled and ignorant group of drivers anywhere. Even though there is only a few yards to gain folks chafe when they’re stuck behind a bike rider. If they get a shot to pass they will only most times to be over taken by the bike around the next corner at the Stop sign…

Then there are the hundreds and hundreds of bikes out there. I counted 200 parked in town that day it took my neighbor an hour and a half to park. Just think how long it would have taken him had there been 200 more cars? I pointed that out to him and he got it immediately. It’s too bad more folks don’t.

After all Boston went from 14th to 19th most congested city in America. Between surveys the ridership on the T reached record levels and the number of bicycle riders nearly doubled. Do you thinks there may be a correlation? I’d say so.

Peddle on! Keep spreading the word. It may take a while, but it will be worth it. After all for every six miles you ride instead of drive you save 3.5 pounds of CO2 going into the air and improve all our health.