I overheard some of the riders this past Wednesday night talking about ways we might get more folks riding and the obstacles that frequently stand in the way. One felt that most new riders (or people who don’t ride but who might be inclined to do so if invited) only want to ride bike paths. Is this true? If so, why? Or, to put it differently, what keeps you either off the roads or off your bicycle altogether? More importantly, what can we do about it? How can we alleviate the concern?
Is it only a matter of educating would-be and novice riders? Is it a matter of educating the public, and particularly drivers? Is it a matter of generating a critical mass, of of riding as often as possible in pairs or in larger groups, both for the sake of our fellow riders and to raise awareness among those who do not ride a bicycle? Do we need to advocate for safer streets and “complete streets”? Or do we, in fact, really need to add miles and miles of bike paths, i.e., to build an alternative network solely for bicycle transportation?
Or is it something else? For instance, does the city need more bike racks? Do places like the YMCA, local colleges, and perhaps local bike shops need to be persuaded to offer bike hub services (e.g., anything from free air pumps, to covered bike racks, to personal and/or bicycle lockers, to showers)? Do we need things in place to make bike safety more affordable and more readily available ?Do we need bicycle co-ops that will get old bikes back on the road and help keep them running for next to nothing, while teaching riders basic bike maintenance in the process?
Are would-be and novice riders mystified by what are actually relatively basic issues like, how do I begin? Where do I ride? What route should I take? Do I have the right equipment? What do I do if my bike breaks down? Is there trepidation stemming from the newness of it all and not yet being comfortable and in the groove of riding? Or is there an intimidation factor, either in terms of thinking you haven’t got the right bike or gear to be “legit,” or else from the feeling that you’ll be a poseur if you can’t commute every single day, you ride slower than everyone else, or you can’t ride as far as others?
All of this is being pulled from the slowly-balding top of my noggin. It feels as if this list could go on indefinitely. I am really interested in hearing what others think, especially concerning the “what do we do about it” part of the question. Although traffic on this blog is decent enough, comments are few and far between. If you’re reading this, please consider chiming in, especially if your remarks refer specifically to Adrian and its environs. Of course it occurs to me as I write that pretty much anyone who might be inclined to visit this blog would be numbered among the already convinced, the proverbial choir, as it were, and therefore not necessarily the best candidates to answer the questions I’ve posed.