Photo credit A. Streeeter.
This post is part of series written by TreeHugger contributors about trading in your car for a bike for trips that are two miles or less in distance. The series is sponsored by the Clif 2-Mile Challenge.
Sometimes cyclists in their eagerness to spread the gospel of biking forget a few of the basics of human nature. We tell people, even brag about, how fantastic cycling is, forgetting that nobody radically changes their lifestyle or ditches their major mode of transportation (the car) simply because their freaky bike-obsessed neighbor says so. Happily, however, if said freaky neighbor can demonstrate how much fun cycling is, well, that's a different story entirely. In fact, one of the strangest phenomena I've been a part of is that of the happy cyclist group, i.e. a small (less than 20) group of street-attired cyclists tooling slowly through the streets of a city without engendering road rage. Maybe this is only possible in tolerant Portland, but it's very strange that when the small groups I've pedaled around town weith look happy, we make other motorists smile.
I'm not saying this is an iron-clad rule, I'm saying that instead of inspiring the road rage that double-breasted pairs of speeding sports cyclists frequently evoke, happy cyclist groups seems to do the opposite.
Photo: Flickr, CC
Showing motorists how much fun slow-moving cyclists can have is possibly the hidden agenda of Portland Best Restaurants By Bike. Started by the folks at Clever Cycles in Portland, Oregon, Best Restaurants By Bike is an easy and relatively inexpensive way (45 dollars for the three-restaurant tour) to sample some of the city's best eateries with a group of gourmands, in different quadrants of the city, and all by bike.
It's not such a radical idea, but it does pretty radically help to highlight what is left out in much of what you read about the benefits of biking, namely, that being on a bike with a bunch of people you barely know is simply a lot more fun than doing restaurant-hopping (or most any other hopping) by car. And getting a little taste of that camaraderie is really for me what bike commuting should be about.
Cycling has been somewhat of a solitary mode of transportation in the past, at least in U.S. cities, because so few people (especially women) were ready and willing to venture out on their bikes, braving the weather, and much more importantly, braving the traffic. It was the hardy and the determined who formed the first wave of commuter cyclists in the United States - many diehard sports cyclists who felt compelled to bring their sport into their daily life.
Happy Velib cyclists. Photo: Flickr, CC
You can today recognize these sport cyclists by their very toned calves, their bent-headed determination and their pointy helmets, as well as the stray pieces of cycling kit they may still wear as they speed their way to and from their places of employ. We owe these men and women a debt of gratitude for helping to stake out a piece of the street for cycles.
Most of the rest of us cyclists aren't like them, however. We're a hodgepodge of fat people and thin people, slow people and fast people, and more or less career-aged people who have somehow figured out that for most city tasks biking beats all the other forms of transportation available. And usually we only figured this out only because we were introduced to the fun by some friend or neighbor not only telling us how wonderful it was, but actually showing us, taking us through that first slow-paced group ride.
That's how it has been for me anyhow. The true moments of biking joy I first experienced were in the company of others, feeling the safety in numbers effect.
And riding along with the wind in my face, buoyed up by the crowd of similarly-minded cyclists, I got it. I felt safe, I could ask dumb questions, and at least in the case of
Best Restaurants By Bike, my fellow riders and I could also sample some great food as we rode around some unfamiliar parts of the city.
All that was good, but perhaps the best part was that we the cyclists could see that many a motorist, when good-naturedly letting us go past as they waited to make a right-hand turn or simply stopping to watch us meander by, thought so, too.
And that's what the Clif 2 Mile Challenge is all about. Getting more people on their bikes, improving their well being, and that of their planet. Give it a go. And invite a few friends along for the ride.
Find more ways to have fun on a bike at TreeHugger:
Bicycle Converts to Unicycle, Clown Not Included
Bicycle Ballerina Shows Why Bicycling Is Art in Motion
World Naked Bike Ride: Baring It All for the Bike