Cape mysteriously fluttering
in the still air of my living room, Mr. Bike sat down across from me to straighten
out his tights and to talk about the revised edition of his show-all, tell-all
book on bike use and maintenance, Urban Bikers Tricks and Tips.
[Mr Bike wrote the following letter to Bicycle Retailer & Industry News (BRAIN) in September 2003. Rather than print the letter, BRAINs editor chose to argue with Mr Bike in a personal response.]
Thanks to [columnist] Patrick OGrady for helping me get some perspective on the bicycling industry.
In his August 15 column, OGrady echoed the dismay of all of us bike advocates about the imminent loss of Enhancements funding. Pat said "the House Appropriations Committee . . . eras[ed] all funding for bike . . . paths."
Id often wondered why, when I went to cycling soirees like Interbike, ProBike/ProWalk, and the Bicycling Education Leaders Conference, I repeatedly heard bike-industry leaders say that we need funding for more off-street paths, but little about on-street bicycling.
OGrady helped me understand this focus. In his column, he characterized streets as places where newbie cyclists would "shed pounds by sweating them off in shear terror, soiling themselves or losing a limb to a Land Rover. " He said we needed the Enhancements funding to build the only real alternative off-road pathsfor "Fred, " the average person loathe to saddle up.
"For a newcomer to cycling, " OGrady said, "sharing the streets with a motor vehicle is like paddling a kayak . . . with . . . great white sharks. "
Last time I checked, a large portion of the U.S. population lives in places whose density allow no room for new off-street pathsplaces you might of heard about, like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco. In these localeswhere a huge potential bike market livesyou cycle on the street or not at all.
Until reading OGradys column, I didnt understand why more industry folks dont get what seems obvious to me: If you want to get more butts on bikes, you must work to accommodate street cycling. This means funding for things like on-street facilities (bike lanes, shared-lane bikeways, and bike-parking racks), street-cycling education for newbies and others, and road-sharing education for motoristsnot just funding for the trails advocated by repeated BRAIN articles and speeches of bike industry leaders.
Why dont more folks in the industry get this? Maybe because they live or bicycle only in places like where OGrady lives, and where most of the urban U.S. population doesntplaces where one can, as OGrady says, "wander off . . . to see where the trail goes. "
Trail funding doesnt help the 10-year-old inner city kid ride her bike to school, nor does it help her learn to use her bike for everyday transportation after she gets old enough for a drivers license. This situation is the kind that we urban advocateswho represent a huge percent of your future customerswork to penetrate every day, but about which my colleagues in the industry part of the U.S. bicycling movement seem, frustratingly to me, oblivious.
The America Bikes coalition won the first battle over Enhancements funding, and I feel damned proud of my cohorts who organized the grass roots to make Congress hear the bike voice. I submit that we bicycling advocates have a much bigger and intractable mindset to challenge, one that predates TEA-3, TEA21, or even ISTEA: the bike industrys perception that "advocacy" means "more trails. "
Now that Ive vented, I want to reach out. I think that we on the street side of the movement havent done the best job of representing our constituencyboth current and potential to our counterparts who champion trails, touring, and racing. I, for one, have sat through more than one presentation gnashing my teeth rather than pushing my perspective, and I pledge to do better.
I appreciate that BRAIN provides a civil yet unrestrained forum for the respective members of the U.S. bicycling movement to learn from each other. In that spirit, I invite e-mail responses.
classcalled "Slush Fun: Winter Cycling Tricks & Tips"came
as one of the many bike events that comprise Bike Winter, the annual celebration
of Chicagolands most redoubtable cycling season. Quenchers Saloon, a North
Side tavern that has long supported cycling among its patrons, hosted the event.
enthusiastic turnout buries under a huge snowdrift the tiresome myth that Chicagolanders
fear winter riding," said Lisa Phillips, co-chair of Bike Winter 2005.
It didnt hurt, Phillips noted, that Crains Chicago Business had
previously named the class one of the ten best things to do that weekend.
most arrived at the class on foot, the days moderate weather prompted
many attendees to bicycle. These folks displayed the resourcefulness that would
no doubt serve them well in the months to come, said Howard Kaplan, Bike Winter
outside Quenchers Saloon ready to help the cycling arrivals as the available
bike-parking racks became filled. But "I was a bit surprised at their autonomy,"
Kaplan said. "They seemed to have an innate awareness of all bike locking
possibilities within half a mile."
the class progressed, attendees learned how to dress warmly and cheaply
for cold and wet; how to handle their bikes in snow, slush, and ice; and
keep their rides running after onslaughts of salt and sleet.
models provided fetching insights into the subtleties of cycling undergarments.
One clothing perspective came from Bike Winterite Todd Gee. Gee biked,
toastily dressed, into the room amid a flurry of snowflakes that streamed
inexplicably from the upper part of one wall.
As he and
Mr. Bike discussed clothing selections for his bike ridewhich Gee claimed
had begun at the North PoleGee gradually took off almost all of his garments
for the crowds inspection. Later, having literally given the shirt off
his back for the cause of winter biking, Gee surrendered the stage to Bike Winterite
Kelly Sampson, who gave a womans perspective on seasonal cycling attire.
by the number of questions flowing continuously from the audience, those present
seemed eager to get out and ride in the winter weather. Attendees said they
found especially helpful Mr. Bikes list
showing where to buy inexpensive winter accessories.
attendees expressed an interest in continuing their bicycling education:
About half signed up to receive information about bicycling classes offered
in 2005 by the Federations Bike
The end of the class featured a surprise appearance by none other than Santa Clauslooking a bit trim before his traditional pre-holiday weight gain. Because his elves had not yet built enough toys for everyone present, Santa opted to give out the winter-cycling accessories offered as raffle prizes. The prizes came from sponsors Patagonia, Boulevard Bikes, Gin Kilgore, Quenchers Saloon, Bike Winter, and Mr. Bike.
A Visit From St. Nicks
by Santa Glow
Many creatures went biking dressed all in red blouse.
All the people who hung at Twisted Spoke could but stare
At dozens St. Nicholi suddenly were there.
And visions from Bloody Marys soon danced in their heads.
Some mothers in red kerchief, some dudes in red cap,
Some ate burritos and breakfast beers from on tap.
Then out to the street the Santas did scatter.
(Who had stayed in bed? You see, it was Bob Matter.)
In a ho-ho-ho-hold-up, just like in Critical Mass.
(About moons, shaking breasts, you will want to know
Those things happened at mid-day; see pictures below.)
Then, what to the wandering Nicks should appear,
But a miniature brewerybike parking in rear!
With a genial brewmaster, sez "Your bikes here please stick,
Cuz just in a moment well drink beer real quick."
Santas whistled, and shouted, and called themselves names.
Some dashed and some danced and some pranced and got kicks in,
One Santa got stupid: donned a safety cone (Vixen!).
Then they quaffed back their brews, and came down the wall
And took a group photo, Santa hams all.
But one met with an obstacle; tho looked it, dint die.
So down to the beer store those cursers they flew,
Girl Santas and boys, and elves an reindeer too.
And found free Scotch samples86 proof.
As the manager scowled at all the Santas around,
Out the St. Nicholi went with booze by the pound.
They wheeled on east to that Mag Mile street.
The bunches of shoppers were taken aback
When they looked at the pedalers going by in a pack.
At Eriehow they twinkled! Shoppers thought, "How merry!"
Til Nicks sang "Deck My Balls"then it got scary.
Then their beards pointed south: "To the BikestationHo!"
Then, stumped"Its closed!"they gritted their teeth;
Soon their urine encircled its door like a wreath.
And next"About face! To the ice rink turn belly!"
Where folks took lots of pictures, but guards said, "Scram, pally!"
Laughed when he saw them in spite of himself.
They found him up high, bored out of his head,
Soon Santas to Santa on his throne they were wed.
(Weve spoke not a word: They went straight to an alley:
Emptied out all their "stockings" and did other things smelly.)
Then laying down cans, they followed their nose.
And"OK, Santa Todd!"to the Billy Goat they rose.
The patrons, they loved em, and boy did they whistle,
When up on the bar Santas dancedgot down! Did they sizzle!
"Pappy, this mess was a ball. . . Now lets really get tight!"
Mr Bikes presentation at the ProWalk/ProBike 2004 conference
Safe Routes to Suits: Cracking the Liability Lies in Walking and Biking to School
by Dave Glowacz, Director of Education