Occupy Your Bike, South Whidbey

Yesterday a group of local cyclists met to put some meat on the bones of our new Occupy Your Bike group here on South Whidbey. We all rode our bikes to Hannah and Phil Jones house for a great brunch and conversation, and we are up and riding!  We'll have a permanent website up soon too at: http://occupyourbike.org. We have lots of fun rides in the planning, plus bike commuter groups, bike classes, and group rides to community events like movies at the Clyde Theatre (Ride To the Clyde), group grocery shopping by bicycle (Mob the Goose), farmers market and a regular Sunday ride to different parts of the island. The point is to have fun, create community, and bring a more visible, viable bike culture into our midst here on South Whidbey. We plan monthly potlucks at Woodland Hall on the last Monday of each month at 7:00, with the next one being Monday, March 26th.

Obviously, our name if a tongue-in-cheek play on the Occupy Wall Street movement, but it is also based on the huge respect we have gained for the efforts of that movement to change the political dialogue in our country away from corporate dominance to thriving local communities. Occupy Your Bike is just another small example of our desire to celebrate local community, to honor local livelihood efforts, and to align our actions with our conviction that highly consumptive lifestyles are undermining the very foundations of life on the only planet we will ever have.

This is also making good on a personal pledge to be more community-minded in my efforts to change my own behaviors and travel choices. It is not only more fun, but more sustainable to anchor these changes in a community-minded effort. A lot of the initial group members are much younger than me, and I'm really appreciating their commitment to put their actions where their mouths are. I live in a community with a growing number of retired people, and it is easy to slide into comfortable habits when we are still perfectly capable of getting on our bikes and experiencing the benefits and pleasures of that lifestyle.

Derek Hoshiko has introduced the idea of the "bike-bus", where cyclists commuting to work, or going to a particular community event, pick up additional cyclists along the way at designated times and places. The person furthest away begins the bike-bus, and others join as the group progresses along the way. By the time you arrive, you have the fun and solidarity of a group that arrives by bike with you. We did this yesterday going to Phil and Hannah's house for our Occupy brunch, and it was really fun. But having a group depending on you being there also helps the motivation to ride whether you feel like it or not on a particular day. It helps hold each rider's feet to the fire. It can be fun and energizing that way regardless of the weather or the season. We are reminded that the problem isn't rain. The problem is our unquestioning mindset that says, 'rain is a problem'. Cycling is fun in any weather if you have the right gear, and are committed to just doing it. It's rarely as hard as I expect, and the benefits always outweigh the costs. It's nice to remind myself again of that fact.

This is not only for experienced and dedicated riders. It is also a motivation for people to pull their bikes out of the garage and join in on rides, even if they haven't ridden in years. The experienced bikers in the group are happy to offer instruction or advice, and to go at the pace of the slowest rider for added support. A Ride To the Clyde, for example, is also an opportunity to overcome fear or resistance to riding in the dark. The group leaders can again offer advice and support for how best to do that, what basic equipment is needed, and how to get that equipment at the most reasonable prices.

Keep an eye on our website for future rides (coming soon), and join us for a ride. Or start you own Occupy Your Bike group where you live! It's easy and fun.