What kind of bicycling should Pasadena support?

On Fri, May 29, 2009 at 5:36 PM, Sims, Brian wrote:

Zane and Rich,

During our last BMP meeting we discussed the idea of the City sponsoring more biking related events.  I was over at Pasadena PD today dealing with my stolen and then recovered bikes and saw this flyer. This is exactly the type of events we were discussing.  This also ties in nicely with our BMX track idea.

I certainly don’t see anything wrong with a BMX track as a city recreation facility if there’s demand for it (especially if it means less conflict between BMX riders and those would would prefer that they not practice elsewhere in the city), and it may well be a good Police fundraiser, but I don’t see this kind of event as particularly constructive in the context of getting people to consider bikes as a viable means of transportation within the City, because it focuses on bicycles as a means of sport (over function) and on experts (rather than everyone).  Which isn’t to say that bikes aren’t sport — of course they are — but training and competition amongst the elite is very different than active and inherently non-competitive transportation.  The Tour of California falls into the “elite” category too: it’s spectation, vs. participation.

photo by Incase Designs on Flickr

Per dollar and man-hour invested in running events, I think that continuous City support of basic urban bicycle skills training for adults, and seminars on how to use your bike as a functional means of personal and light cargo transportation (both in the vein of the classes Liz and Shay run) would be more likely to have positive outcomes related to Pasadena’s transportation, congestion, and parking objectives.  There are a lot of people who want to ride, but either don’t feel safe doing it, or don’t “know how” in the sense that they’re unclear as to what you can and can’t do reasonably with a bike.  How far is too far?  How do you avoid traffic if you’re uncomfortable with it?  How many days worth of groceries can I carry?  What are panniers?  How do I fix a flat tire?  How do I lock up a bike securely?  These kinds of things seem obvious to anyone who grew up in a place with bike culture.  So obvious that “teaching” them sometimes seems silly, but it’s not.  And I think a significant part of why people are reluctant and confused, at least based on my conversations with “newbies”, is that here our images of cyclists are of the peloton swirling around the Rose Bowl, or the BMXers doing stunts, or mountain bikers careening down the Brown Mountain fire road, or punked-out fixie ridazz riffing on the bike messenger subculture.  Often when people go into a bike shop to get help with these things, they end up getting steered into one of these boxes, because they’re the boxes that the bicycle industry in the US is best prepared to deal with (okay, maybe not the fixie punks…), which ends up being a feedback loop.

Events like Bike Week Pasadena — I thought especially so this year — are a kind of antidote to this thought process, in part because they get people together who are doing things in different ways.  “You ride wearing skirts?”,  “Your lights don’t run on batteries?”, “You only have one bike for everything?”, “How do you live without a car?”, “You ride to Highland Park?”, “You can take your bike on the Gold Line?”.  I think short of physical infrastructure, connecting people and giving them the skills and confidence to give riding for transportation a try is probably one of the most important things the City could support, because it can help in time to build an inclusive constituency, which in the long run will mean better facilities for all cyclists, regardless of why they ride.

Anyway, that’s my $0.02.  Thanks for listening if you got this far!


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Zane Selvans

A former space explorer, now marooned on a beautiful, dying world.

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