I’ve been thinking a lot about the Forum for Women & Biking, and the conversations surrounding how women don’t feel as safe or comfortable as men do, when it comes to biking, one of the reasons why fewer women bike. So I’ve decided to start a series called “Comfort Biking.”
By “Comfort Biking,” I mostly mean places and spaces that don’t seem to be comfortable enough for that 60% “interested but concerned” group to bike in. I run across them myself, or rather, I don’t – because I chose to go a different route. I think that we can start identifying what people might be insecure about, or unsure of, or nervous or maybe just downright scared. It might be physical but it could end up being about people, groups, dogs, or anything else. Anything that I run across that makes me think, “Oh, I don’t feel comfortable with this, I’ll do something else.”
I had a few experiences today that made me think of this. The first experience was this morning, when I was biking to a client location. While I was happily in the bike lane, headed north, I noticed a boy on his bike riding on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. At first I was annoyed that he was doing something clearly incorrect and potentially dangerous, but when I got closer and realized he was a student, I thought, “Well, we need to do a better job at education to make sure kids know to bike in bike lanes!” However… when we got to the intersection, I realized why he was biking where he was – the bike lane I was in ended, and not only that, there was no crosswalk on my side of the very busy and large intersection! If I wasn’t confident enough to bike through the intersection with the vehicular traffic, I would have had to cross in the crosswalk to the left hand corner, then cross on the left side. I didn’t see the boy cross, but I bet that’s what he did. I saw in that moment a true story about how we encourage kids to bike to school, but can’t provide the safe infrastructure to let them do so.
On my way home from a different meeting, I opted to bike down a further street towards our apartment, rather than the closer street, because the closer street requires a left-hand turn in the middle of the road with no light, and sometimes I just prefer to not have to do that. Sometimes, like today, I opt to keep going, and turn onto the street with the traffic light. It depends on my mood. Today, I didn’t feel like dealing with the oncoming traffic confused by a bike in the lane, trying to make a turn (it sucks for cars, too, but obviously I’m smaller and more vulnerable).
I think this series will only be once a month, but I think it is important. Surely those nine blog posts won’t change the world, but it will be a step in the right direct of talking about different needs.