by Lang Reynolds
It may come as no surprise that an avid cyclist such as myself believes getting more people on bikes in the US could address many of the most pressing problems facing this country today. It’s even less surprising if you know I first started riding more seriously when I began commuting to middle school and kept it up throughout high school, trying to convince my friends to ride with me, organizing a bike- to- school event at local middle schools, and otherwise spreading the bike gospel.
When I started racing, though, I became… well… rather lazy, and didn’t participate in or contribute much at all to the more utilitarian aspects of cycling. It’s a strange contradiction that while having in common the use of a bike, racing is often far removed from or in direct opposition to the meliorative effects of cycling. After four-plus hours of hard training, the last thing I wanted to do was get back on a bike to ride to work or the grocery store, and driving or flying hundreds of miles many weekends throughout the season burned more gas than I would care to calculate. While many racers do a great job of commuting and otherwise being good “bike citizens,” if you’re like me and would like to get more involved in promoting cycling here in Seattle, I’ve put together below some good organizations, resources and initiatives which could benefit greatly from more voices of support from the racing and recreational cycling communities.
Why should we care? First off, increasing cycling participation and infrastructure greatly improves the safety of cycling, an obvious benefit to anybody that rides a lot. Just this week another professional cyclist was killed by a car in Spain, and closer to home just about everybody has been or knows someone who has been injured in a car/bike accident. Recent data out of Philadelphia confirm other studies which show increases in the number of cyclists on city streets leads to a decrease in traffic accidents involving cyclists. Additionally, there are of course the long-touted benefits of reduced pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and gasoline use. There are also many less-well-publicized yet very significant economic benefits of cycling which can bolster local economies while reducing energy use and congestion. Data from across the US show that people who bike to shops and restaurants spend more than those who drive, building cycling infrastructure creates more jobs per dollars spent than car-oriented projects, and substituting bike trips for car trips saves consumers a lot of money, some of which finds its way back into the local economy.
There are many local organizations working hard on behalf of cycling throughout Washington – you may already be aware of Cascade Bicycle Club and Bicycle Alliance of Washington’s excellent advocacy efforts. Cascade’s Major Taylor Program, run by former Cycle U coach Ed Ewing, is one of the coolest local bike efforts. Every year Major Taylor gets hundreds of kids out on bikes who might otherwise not have that opportunity. Major Taylor is a great place to donate that bike you haven’t used in a while. Another fantastic program for getting kids on bikes is Bike Works.
In addition to local organizations, there are many projects which need your support. Strong support from cyclists who will use the improvements is necessary to overcome gaps in funding and the unfortunately loud volume of small, localized opposition to many of these projects despite their overwhelming benefits for the community. These include projects such as the recently-postponed Ballard Greenway, the proposed (but under threat) 520 Portage Bay Bike/Ped trail, the 65th Street NE cycle track, and Safe Routes to Schools.
Here at Cycle U we’re lucky enough to work with people throughout the cycling experience spectrum, from absolute beginners just starting out to hardened veterans. There is nothing quite like the unadulterated joy when someone first discovers the freedom of riding a bike or a new level of competence in adulthood after a hiatus away from bikes. At the end of the day it is this joy and the transcendental nature of riding a bike which is perhaps the best reason we work to bring cycling to as many people as we can. Over the past few years I let some complacency get in the way of things I could have done to help grow cycling here in Seattle beyond the narrow confines of serious enthusiasts. I’m looking forward to putting in more work on this in the future, and I hope you’ll join me.