Last weekend was sunny and warm, and I've never seen so many bicyclists plying the back roads of Whidbey Island. Of course, recreational bikers do come out of hiding with the first waves of warm, sunny weather. And I have no data to pull from. But on our "Tour de Caffeine" ride to Langley last Sunday, sponsored by OccupYourBike South Whidbey, there was a steady flow of cyclists coming through. It was quite a show of pedal power.
The latest issue of the Whidbey Examiner ran this great cover piece on our OYB movement. I don't know how much credit we can take for this upswing in the number of cyclists showing up on our roads lately, but our goal of building a more robust bike culture on Whidbey seems to be gaining some traction. And it's definitely bringing people together in the celebratory spirit that bicycles seem to engender.
Mind you, South Whidbey is still as car-dependent a place as any you're likely to find. The typically large distances between home, work, shops and recreation have kept cycling mostly in the domain of entertainment during the warm summer months. But we're challenging this sacred notion that cars are the only reasonable way to go. And we aren't alone. Andrew Zaleski's May 14 piece in Grist is entitled Here Comes Everybody: Number of Bicycle-Friends Cities Soars. He writes, "Once was that American cities competed to look more like Detroit, with gleaming lanes of highway stretching as far as the eye could see. Any more, it’s a race to imitate Copenhagen, the Danish capital where 36 percent of residents commute to work via bicycle." Granted, the average American city has fewer than 1% of residents who commute by bicycle. And granted too that this movement toward bike-friendly cities has become that much more fodder in the culture wars, with plenty of push-back from those who consider high carbon lifestyles a core part of the American Dream. But bicycles are making a fresh statement of intent. I feel a lot less lonely these days when I'm using my bike as working transportation. And partly because of the companionship factor, I find myself riding that much more often, and enjoying it that much more.