Searching for Bicycle Culture
What is bicycle culture? This is a question that has been bouncing around my head for the past few weeks. It has also been bouncing around the bike blogosphere for much longer than that. If you surf around and read about this subject you are sure to end up on sites like the BikeSnobNYC, trackosaurus rex, copenhagenize.com and a whole host of others all espousing or mocking another’s idea of what bike culture is. Their views are as different as their personal perspectives are and for me this is the key.
I will fully admit that I am a forty something, white male and my cool quotient is not very high, on Google Maps you can find it somewhere in the heart of Death Valley. My idea of fashion, biking or not, suffered a sudden death shortly after my birth and by the time I was 16 I knew it was hopeless. When I ride my road bike I wear bicycle shorts. I profusely apologize to anyone who has had to suffer the sight of my butt in spandex. When I ride my town/commuter I wear my work cloths or whatever is clean and comfortable. So obviously fashion is not going to be my access point to bike culture. Nor are my bikes, all of them more than a decade old and none of them “high-end” or the least bit stylish.
So where in the world am I going with this and why is this on the DRBC website? The answer can be found in the DRBC mission statement: “At DRBC we are about getting more people on bikes, more often by advocating for bicycling infrastructure and a dynamic bicycling culture.” It is that last little bit about a “dynamic bicycling culture” that has got me to thinking about all this. What do I personally have to contribute to bicycling culture?
Not my sense of fashion, not my stylish bikes, or lack thereof, so what is left? My love of bicycling! What I can contribute is simply my passion for this simple machine that is such a part of my everyday life. So what does that really mean? For me it means two things…
First I try to help others find that same passion by simply being on my bike and hopefully showing the world how much pleasure it gives me (no jokes please!). I do this by actively smiling at, greeting and waving at other cyclists and even pedestrians. As a side effect to my friendliness to these groups I have also tried to limit my occasionally more aggressive hand gestures at thoughtless drivers, not that I am all that successful at it. We ask others to share the road with us so we should try to show a little politeness to them. I am always amazed at the almost hostile stares I get from some bicyclists when I try to greet them on the road. Come on people smile! Who wants to be part of a gloomy or snooty culture, not me!
Secondly I am an active member of the DRBC. What does this do for bike culture? By working to help create more and better bicycling infrastructure (that’s a fancy word for bike lanes and such) we provide more access to more people, getting more people on bicycles. It’s that field of dreams thing. With more people on bikes, bicycles will eventually become part of the greater culture of our communities (what copenhagenize.com tries to promote).
So in the end I guess I didn’t really find an answer other than bike culture is what each of us makes it. We can make it a happy inclusive place or we can make it cliquish. For me I am going to keep on riding my less than stylish bikes, wearing spandex occasionally and do it all with a smile and a wave.
Share your comments below and keep on riding!