Today in Colorado it's "Bike to Work Day", part of the greater "Walk and Bike Month" promoted by the state and various organizations. (Nationally, this event happens in April or May, but in Colorado there could be a foot of snow on the roads then, so we do it a little later here.) Now, on the surface of things, this is great. a major promotion of the use of alternative transportation, to open your eyes to the wonders of commuting outside of that steel box you drive the rest of the year. In the spirit of promoting the event and rewarding the riders and walkers, businesses all over Boulder set up stands and hand out free breakfasts and free samples of energy drinks, granola bars, what have you. Mechanic stations are set up to help riders fix problems with their bikes, bands play, and a general circus atmosphere prevails.
And this, of course, brings 'em out in droves.
It should be a great day; bike paths jammed with riders taking advantage of one of the greatest resources Boulder has to offer, empty parking lots all over town, people awakening to the joy of cycling and independent transportation.
But the reality is, it's a Bataan death march, a gauntlet of epic proportions, a slog through a thicket of out-of-shape dopes weaving around on the paths with no regard for anyone but themselves, barely able to keep their bikes--that all sound like a chorus of crickets because they haven't seen a drop of chain lube in ten years--upright while trying to shovel yet another free breakfast burrito into their cakeholes as they disobey traffic signals and make a general mess of things, all the while giving cyclists a bad name.
Look people, I'm thrilled you chose to get on the bike today. But here's a thought: how's about you get on the bike tomorrow too, and the next day and the next? Ride because it's fun, healthy, green and all that good stuff, and not just because you get free shit, ok? Maybe buy a tube of lube and learn how to maintain your bike to the most basic level of safety and mechanical efficiency. Maybe, just maybe, learn the rules of the road (and obey them), get a clue that you are not the only bike on the path, and for god's sake take the fucking earphones outta your head.
Maybe Bike to Work Day needs to be preceded by a "fix your bike and learn to ride week" or something. I'm not being facetious here. It could make for an even more successful day. I used to teach a bicycle maintenance course when I worked at Bike Tech in Philly, and people always emerged with a greater appreciation for their bikes and for what they were doing with them. Basic traffic awareness and riding skill courses would make riders safer and more confident, and might just keep more people riding throughout the year instead of just on these big promotional days. There is a great non-profit bicycle advocacy co-op, if you will, here in Boulder, Community Cycles. They have the right idea; they have been promoting this very idea on their website and through their actions all month:
Walk & Bike Month is about educating and trying to change behavior in a fun and smart way. It really is not about a day, week or month, it's about committing to reduce our dependency on cars and reaping all the benefits that walking or biking can entail – saving money, getting out to see the community, meeting your neighbors and staying fit.
Right on, Community Cycles! I'm thinking maybe next year I'll attach giant speakers to a cart and pull it around Boulder the weeks before Bike to Work Day, informing the villagers of this great establishment and their programs that could make the big day far more pleasant for everyone involved.