Happy Bike to Work Day!
I hope you all got a chance to get out and ride somewhere! Here in the DC Metro area, the weather is somehow miraculously absolutely perfect. After weeks of rain and gloom, we have blue skies and warm temperatures. After spending the morning greeting people on their bikes to one of the Arlington Bike to Work Day pit stops, I took advantage of the fact that I not only had the day off, that I was awake, dressed, and desperate to get a bike ride in during the lovely weather. So off I went – a short loop on local trails where I enjoyed the large green trees, clear blue skies, and the occasional wild rabbit on the side of the road. One tiny baby bunny was so focused on its breakfast that it barely blinked when I pulled over to take it’s picture. I was tempted to scoop it up and bring it home, but I know better.
On my way home, I took a selfie – and then Tweeted it to the US Department of Transportation. I don’t actually know anyone there. The purpose of this Tweet was in response to reading an email from Transportation 4 America, which asked people to Tweet photos of themselves biking today, urging US DOT to count people, not cars, in their new proposal for evaluating traffic congestion. Absolutely I want them to #MakeMeCount – I am traffic, and I want safe streets to get around, regardless of what mode of transportation I use (which is mostly walking and biking). At the same time, the Department of Transportation blog, Fast Lane, supports bike lanes and connections to help people safely and easily get to where they are going on continuous bikeways. Here here!
Safety is the current buzz word in biking and in transportation, it seems. While our Metrorail system takes steps to avoid a complete meltdown, and thousands of commuters will need to find alternatives to their daily Metro ride, biking could be a good option for many. But safety and comfort are top of the list of reasons why they won’t try it. If people don’t feel safe and comfortable biking, because their routes don’t connect, because they are on roads that are not remotely bike-friendly, because their work sites don’t have showers, because they don’t have safe places to leave their bikes once they get there – they simply won’t do it.
Safety and comfort were key points all of the presenters made at the National Museum of Women in the Arts “Women on Wheels: Can a Bicycle Be an Agent of Change?” Fresh Talk last weekend. Author Sue Macy, author of Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (with a few flat tires along the way), talked about the challenges women faced in the late 1800s, as they discovered the freedom of bicycles. Lyne Sniege, director of the arts and culture program at the Middle East Institute, echoed many of the same challenges that women in the Middle East face when it comes to bicycling – but their challenges are so much more complex. Not just cultural challenges, but physical challenges of living in areas where *everything* is built for cars. Then the other panels brought the topic to our area: Renee Moore, founder of Bicycling and the City; Lia Seremetis, founder of DC Bike Party; Nelle Pierson, deputy director of WABA and the founder of WABA’s Women & Bicycles; and Najeema Davis Washington, co-founder of Black Women Bike. All of them talked about the need to have safe, comfortable spaces, both physically and emotionally, that will encourage and support women while they become comfortable (or learn to) riding bikes.
I know I’m preaching to the choir here, so I don’t feel that I really need to go on and on about bicycling, safety and comfort. I feel like today is a good day to sit back and look at some of the things that are going on to make us feel safer on our bikes. We have government officials supporting community designs that support bicycling, we have advocacy groups working with local governments to create safer spaces for us (Yes to protected bike lanes on N. Quincy Street!); and we have national advocacy groups working for us at the federal government level. It’s not us versus them anymore (well, depending on which street you are on…) – it’s a movement that is gaining some traction.
You know me, I’m a reluctant advocate, but seeing some steps in the right direction is empowering. I hope that you, like me, will find some time to speak up for bicycling. Even if you don’t bike yourself, I bet you know someone who does. And really, would you want to put anyone in a dangerous situation? Because that’s what happens to many when they hop on their bike.