I’ve been thinking a lot about Biking in America lately, mostly because I’ve been feeling a lot about Biking in America lately. I didn’t have the good fortune to move to a location where biking even occurs to people to build or plan for. So I live at the scale of cars, not bikes. Be that as it may, I’ve recently screwed on my humiliation and gotten on the bike four times as much in the last month as I had over the last five years.
Strength is made of a whole lot of weakness, welcomed uncritically and consumed with abundance. If I want to look like I know what I”m doing, I must look like a fool as often as possible.
The trick to me getting back on the bike is my willingness to be weak and to be hurt. When I biked the most, in my 20s, I was coming off a 15 year career of improving strength and skill at biking in Atlanta. I’d only been hit once, <a href=”http://wp.me/phZoZ-hZ”>in 1992</a>, and I still had years of urban and suburban biking left in me after that happened.
Then I left Atlanta, the city I knew, and lost the knack. Me, the bike, and the city all had to come together for me to feel welcome biking so much. Without those three things, I found other, weaker ways to get around.
The market for bikers is split into four segments, unevenly distributed in numbers but evenly distributed in motivation. To enthusiastic cyclists, the rarest, would bike no matter where or the weather. They love it that much. I was in this class for years, though I was mostly a utilitarian commuting biker, not a century biking juicemonster.
The next class are occasional bikers who go out for causal exercise sporadically. That’s me today, but I still can’t bring myself to ride for the vanity of exercise. I need a goal., like work or writing spot.
The third, largest class of bikers are not bikers at all, but would be if they felt safer doing it. This was me for years, with brief nostalgic wheezes of getting back in the saddle. I’m sure I just didn’t care about the pain the first time, but the second time, I sure did. The pain and the disappointment with faded glory made biking a mental as well as emotional challenge.
The fourth class of people are those who simply would not drive a bike if you paid them. They include the infirm, but also the frightened. It takes a lot of courage and stamina to bike in traffic in most of America, especially 20 years ago. I assume the number would be whittled away if biking were actually a respected transportation mode in America, but they are not as useful a target market as the above groups.
I am writing this from a coffee shop four blocks south of where I was hilt in 1992. It is great, nostalgic, and bittersweet to be in the place where me, Atlanta and my bike once got along, even if I just walked up here. Atlanta is a better city for bikers than it used to be, but it still has much to do to make it a truly bike friendly city.
Friday, I’ll take a half-baked whack at what it would take to make most of Atlanta into a biking city. I’ll try something less ambitious next week, I promise.