There have been a lot of "new" cyclists on the highways and byways this year. Particularly in all the familiar places, like the Greenbelt. (I ride a short stretch of Greenbelt on most afternoons... a couple days ago, I felt like I was in bumper-to-bumper Greenbelt Traffic!)
Surely it is due to $4 gas.
After all, that's really the only thing that has significantly changed in 2008, comparing with previous years.
Danielo has boldly predicted that they'll fade as quickly as they blossomed, and return to their total dependency on motor vehicle transportation. Time will tell - gas prices have dropped a bit, and the days are getting shorter and cooler. (For me, it's hard to imagine surrendering the satisfaction of bicycle transportation for a car, but I'll concede that others have not seen the light.)
Many of the newbies probably haven't ridden a bike AS TRANSPORTATION for years and years, if ever. People forget the joy of childhood bike riding as soon as they get that driver's license, and never look back. But maybe that's changing.
I say WELCOME!! One more bike almost always means one less car!
As a somewhat experienced transportation cyclist, I'd like to share some suggestions that I believe will enhance your bike transportation experience. The more you enjoy riding, the less likely you are to slide back into motor-vehicle dependency.
1. Know the BIKE LAWS AND REGULATIONS, and be willing to follow them.
If you live in this area, Boise's bike laws can be reviewed HERE (PDF), and Idaho's HERE. No matter where you live, it is illegal AND STUPID to ride against traffic! (Sorry - I know I'm the proverbial broken record on that one. Probably because I play "bike chicken" almost every day!)
2. Ride LEGALLY (see #1), PREDICTABLY and VISIBLY, ASSERTIVELY, and DEFENSIVELY.
(There's some "bike philosophy" to ponder as you're riding.)
3. Be prepared to deal with flat tires.
One of the very few disadvantages of bikes, as compared with cars, is the increased instance of flats. You WILL get flat tires - don't be one of those poor, forlorn people who ends up taking his bike on a walk! (Flats can be minimized by taking precautions. But you WILL get flat tires if you ride a bike. This time of year - prime goathead season - is particulary risky.)
4. Oil that chain!
Apparently many people believe that bikes are totally maintenance-free. Not so! Sure, their maintenance needs are a fraction of the typical motor vehicle, particularly expense-wise, but they do need some care, and the occasional inspection.
Sometimes you'll hear a bike approaching from a block away - squeak-squeak-squeak... (Pausing for shivers up and down the spine.) A couple cents' worth of oil - even 30-weight or 3-in-1 - would greatly improve the aesthetic quality of your bike ride. I oil my chain every 2-3 weeks, or after it gets wet. (In many cases, I s'pose the rider probably isn't even aware. I see more and more cyclists with their little white earplugs jammed in. Good luck with that!)
Our communities would uniformly be better places if more people depended less on motor vehicles for all of their transportation needs. Particularly for the short jaunts. I wish safe and satisfying riding to all my sister and brother cyclists, whether they've been riding for 45 minutes or 45 years!
In reading this post today, I'm reminded that several of my daughter's friends have been in no hurry to get their driver's licenses. I seem to be hearing a growing number of teens are not clamoring to get behind the wheel. I don't know if this is a shift in culture away from car-centric, or if it's a gender thing or what. I don't notice that these teens are riding bikes though either; they're getting rides from mom or from friends. Either way, I think it's a good trend.
Josh, you bring up an interesting issue. I've been wondering the same thing - what the car-count is in the high school parking lots this year, as compared with the past.
(Weirdly - or maybe not - none of my three daughters has clamored for a driver's license. My "baby" will turn 17 in November. Evidently they were/are content to have their momma drive them to their places. By contrast, I got my DL when I was 14... and did plenty of covert driving before that. Fond memories...)
My household now is down to 2 cars as I sold my 1977 F250 4x4 the other day. I never used it and figured I would free up the space.
I've ridden my bike off and on for years, but this year I've already logged over 80 days of riding to work. (Plus some others riding around to other places.)
I know that's no record and I don't have 123,456 miles clocked, but that's a personal best. I figured that on the average I spend about a gallon of gas per day to drive to work in my big ol' truck, so 80 days equals 80 gallons of gas saved, and at $3-$4 per gallon that actually starts to add up to real money!
So, keep inspiring me, bikeboy. (Well Dave across the aisle at work is an every day bike commuter and so I know if I don't ride my bike I need to have a pretty good excuse.)
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