For all you bicycle enthusiasts out there, the winter is officially over! Spring means, dusting off your trusty steed (unless you brave the winter months) and hit the pavement.  In celebration of one of the cheapest forms of transportation, May is National Bike Month! National Bike Month actually began as a National Bike-to-Work Day, which turned to National Bike-To-Work Week and has now been extended to include the entire month of May! In 2009, Bike commuting was at an all time high and this year the trend is expected to rise.  With gas prices high, street congestion, worry about the environment, and exercise needs, many people are jumping on the bicycle bandwagon. It is pretty encouraging to see year after year the numbers increase and with the recent announcement about transportation policy changes, the hopes of many bicycle lovers have multiplied.

If you are an avid cyclist, an occasional rider, or even a beginner, next week is a very exciting week. May 17th through May 21st is National Bike-To-Work Week. People all over the country are leaving their cars in the dust for a healthy and less pollutant way to commute to work. This nationwide community event will flood the streets of this country with bikes and send a message that it is possible to find other means of transportation than oil based cars. With the oil leak stunning us all in the Gulf, taking a stand with alternative transportation is imperative.  To learn more about commuting to work, check out this Guide to Bike To Work Week put out by the League of American Bicyclists.

Celebration of National Bike Month has also gone local. Cities and towns across the country are holding their own events in celebration of the month, including some bike shops offering free tune ups and bike parades. Some even host their own webpages such as Bike Month NYC and LA County Bicycle Coalition.    To find a local event in your area the League of American Bicyclists has put together a National Bike Month events page. If you don’t find anything in your area listed, as they don’t cover all areas, try a quick Google search for a local Bicycle Coalition or Club or even a stop into a neighborhood bike shop might do the trick!  If you are still unsure how to spend your Bicycle Month of May, read this handy guide titled, How to Celebrate National Bike Month.

Whether you cycle in to work one, seven, or thirty days this month, any ride is considered a vote with the wind.  If the recent oil accident, rising oil costs, wars, and climate change aren’t reasons enough for you to at least try out a bicycle commute, then think of your health! Biking to work is a great form of exercise and takes the same amount of time or sometimes an even faster route than commuting by car, especially if your area is bumper to bumper. Please participate this year and hopefully a positive cycling experience this month will lead to a continual commute for you. So hop up on that steed, slap on your helmet, and ride into the wind…

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Alright, all my cyclists out there, holler.  I can’t hear you.  Ok, I can hear you now.  The bike question of the day, or perhaps of our current era of Presidential Administration, is: could Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood be, as no politician has been before, an actual hero of United States cycling culture and advocacy?  Is he the Real Deal Holyfield, movin’ and shakin’ his way through red tape and dissenting auto purists to champion bicycles as having an equal share in the way our streets and public spaces are planned? Is he, indeed, THE DOMESTIC REINCARNATION OF MADONNA DEL GHISALLO?!  These things cannot be determined by a single human; they require the analyzation of many.  Begin at LaHood’s own blog, where you can read his thoughts on the recent National Bike Summit and view some videos of him speaking there.

The skinny is that LaHood plans to shake up the way our country approaches transportation planning.  To quote from his blog: “Today, I want to announce a sea change. People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.”  You can read the official language of his new policy here, but a few of his stated principle aims are to:

  • Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
  • Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Go beyond minimum design standards.
  • Collect data on walking and biking trips.
  • Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
  • Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)
  • Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.

As a cyclist, this basically sounds too good to be true.  And, of course, it may be, for the political backlash from LaHood’s goals was immediate and, as we all know, conservative politicians have an uncanny knack for repainting progressive ideas, however rational and necessary, to look half-baked.  Speaking of which, the main vocal opponent of LaHood’s policy, Steven LaTourette (Double “La-s”?  LaBattle of LaBicycle?), went so far as to mockingly suggest that LaHood was on drugs.  I really have no idea, but even if he WERE on drugs, let’s say, hittin’ that chronic, would that make a comprehensive cycling plan that levels the playing field between autos and cyclists, as well as pedestrians for that matter, any less reasonable and fair? If we are, in fact, in the beginning or the middle or the short, bitter end of a green revolution, shouldn’t every form of human transportation factor equally into the success of an integrated community, a space that serves to exclude no one, include everyone?

Or is that an inaccurate, neo-hippy perspective, and does this increase in the planning status of the bicycle actually threaten our economic survival, as the National Association of Manufacturers claims?  Will the trucking and freight industries be jeopardized by more bike paths and fewer commercial-only roads through town centers? Will large, multi-ton semi-trucks, traveling at breakneck speeds, be forced to screech to suicidal halts when young tricyclists suddenly decide to merge onto freeway on-ramps to shave a few minutes off their preschool commutes?  Am I repeatedly asking questions as a means to avoid answering them?  Perhaps; I’m no Ray “Ghisallo” LaHood, after all.  “Madonna Ray,” I think he’s called.

-Jeremy Pearson

People Use Bicycles Photo By earcosThe Month of May is upon us and with May brings National Bike Month. The month is meant to promote bicycle ridership throughout the country. Yesterday, May 15th marked Bike to Work Day, where thousands chucked their cars and avoided the packed trains for a bit of freedom. Yesterday was actually a record breaking National Bike to Work Day!! More people than any year ever glided their way to work. In fact the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition reported that more than 200,000 people in San Francisco alone, chose to ride their bikes as transportation yesterday!!! This figure is insanely impressive!

Bike to Work Day Photo By Commodore Gandalf CunninghamAnd even though yesterday marked the official Bike to Work Day, we are happy to spread the word that Bike Commuting is actually on the rise! Last summer’s gas crisis and growing Global Warming concerns may be fueling, no pun intended, the current rise in biking. Cities all over the country are starting to report an increase in bike ridership. San Francisco reported a 43% increase in ridership from 2006 and New York City reported an increase of 35% from 2007 to 2008. Even here in Boston, biking is all the rage, undeterred by the fact the city won “Worst City to Bike In” a few times and has landed on the Top 10 Bike Theft Cities (I can attest to this statistic, as my Bike was stolen this winter). Despite these labels, Boston has seen a bit of a biking Renaissance with Mayor Menino becoming a bicyclist himself, the hiring of a “Bike Czar” to revamp the cities bicycling laws, and an overall growing increase in commuting to work via Bicycle. It is clear bike commuting is on the rise in America, even in the “The Worst City to Bike In.”

On top of people choosing to commute on two wheels, companies are now starting to give incentives to their employees who ride in to work. Including companies such as Yahoo who provides employees bikes to loan, showers, lockers, and free tune ups. Or how about Clif Bars who offer employees $500 to repair an old bike or buy a new one if they pledge to use the bike a mere two times a month!  If that wasn’t enough, the first bailout passed last October included a monthly tax break of $20 per month per cycling employee for businesses. And recently The League of American Bicyclists has honored businesses who promote bicycle use through their Bicycle Friendly Business program. Check out the full list of bike loving businesses!

Bike Bike Bike Photo frankhSo why the sudden rise in bicycling? Well as we mentioned before, rising gas prices and environmental concerns seem to be the largest motivation. And these are valid worries as it has increasingly become clear that riding a bike for transportation services is probably the most eco friendly transportation around, well besides hoofing it! But when you take a hard look at exactly how bicycling benefits the environment, the facts are sobering to say the least. Bicycling is a healthy way to commute without the use of carbon emitting fuels such as gasoline and oil refining, cuts down water pollution emitted by cars, not to mention air and ozone pollution, and of course they emit no noise pollution! In fact you can calculate exactly how much money saved, CO2 reduction, and calories burned per mile on REI’s Bike Your Drive Calculator. With Americans and the world concerned about the state of Earth, as we should be: she is only home after all, bike commuting is an easy and simple way to go green! And why not, it also keeps you healthy, fit, and happy!!

Although, Bike to Work Day is over, National Bike Month continues for the rest of May. So check out the events in your area and jump on that two wheeled, zero emissions, exercise transport and get your Green on! And to all the avid bicyclists of the world, we thank you and keep up the encouragement. Times they will be a changing! 

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