Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

15 May 2014

They're (We're) Taking Over!

What will I do when I'm no longer a minority?

All right...That sentence wasn't a cheap trick to get published in some right-wing think tank's house organ.  After all, in at least one sense I am not a minority, although I may become one if I live long enough:  I am white.  And, naturally, I don't see this country or any other developing a majority consisting of transgenders or transsexuals, contrary to Janice Raymond's most fear-addled fantasies.

So, to what "minority" am I referring?

The ranks of bicycle commuters are growing, though men are almost three times more likely than women to ride to work.

Bike commuters, who else?

As I've mentioned in other posts, I can recall days, weeks and even months when I saw no one else riding a bicycle to work, or for any other purpose.  Such was the case even along the thoroughfares of Hipster Hook, where there are now, probably, more bicycles per capita than in any other place in the United States. 

Back in those days, the American media all but ignored cyclists and cycling.  Occasionally, some newspaper's sports section would include a line or two about the Tour de France or a race that passed, literally, in front of the doors of the editorial offices. 

I never, ever would have imagined hearing a story like the one aired today on National Public Radio.  It reports on the increase in bike commuting around the US.  Not surprisingly, small- to medium- sized cities with colleges or universities in temperate climates (i.e., Davis CA and Boulder CO) had the highest percentages of their populations riding bikes to work. Also not surprising was the fact that Portland OR has one of the highest rates among larger cities.

What also didn't surprise me--unfortunately--was the socio-economic makeup of bike commuters:  We are mainly people at the bottom of the income or the top of the education ladder.  Real progress in making places more bike-friendly--which is to say, developing a culture of cycling, not merely building bike lanes--will happen only when cycling is embraced by people in the middle.  That, by the way, is how almost anything becomes mainstream:  When middle classes embrace it.

Another facet of the report that confirmed my observations is that fewer people cycle to work in the South than in the rest of the country.  Some have said that it has to do with the long, hot summers.  I think that's one part of the story:  For a variety of other reasons, Dixie has developed more of a love for the internal combustion engine than us Yankees or folks in Seattle, Portland or Minneapolis--or even, for that matter, Detroit--have ever had.  Have you ever noticed that most NASCAR drivers--including the sport's elite--come from somewhere between the Potomac and the Rio Grande?

Cycle-commuters probably won't become mainstream--let alone a majority--any time soon.  But we are becoming more visible and numerous (Yes, cycling increases your sexual vitality!) in my part of the world.  What will we do?

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