May is national bike month. In Spokane, the people behind the Spokane Bike to Work organization are pursuing a more comprehensive cycling goal. Spokane Bike to Work is now “Spokane Bikes.” This name change recognizes the fact that there are many ways to think about integrating cycling into your life. Many people just live too far away from work to make biking there a reasonable first step to a more bike-centered lifestyle.
And that’s what National Bike Month is all about: getting people who might be on the fence to try riding a bike as part of their daily or weekly routine.
If you are reading this, then you probably do some biking already. For many cyclists, bike-related events in May often feel like they are for folks that don’t really ride bikes much. While it’s true that these events are often organized around creating new cyclists, there is actually a lot of room for existing cyclists. If you are already a cyclist, here are some ways you can be involved with National Bike Month.
BE A COMMUTER. Many cyclists approach bike riding either as a recreational hobby or training exercise. If you are a cyclist that doesn’t do the commute thing, then use National Bike Month as an excuse to replace one car trip a week and try getting around on a bike. This doesn’t necessarily mean biking to work or getting a new commuter bike. Grab a backpack and try taking a spin to the grocery store next time you need just a couple items. Or, if you do live too far away from work and you are into training hard, then figure out a way ride to work sometime in May. The logistics may not be as onerous as you think.
BE AN ENABLER. Most cyclists have a family member or a friend that is probably a latent cyclist. Remember that for many non-cyclists, the bar for getting out there and riding can seem impossibly high: air needs to go into the bike tires. Does the bike even shift right? Riding in traffic is terrifying. I look ridiculous in bike shorts. The hills!
Here’s where you can really help. No one likes the bike-evangelist type, but inviting that person to the Monday morning Spokane Bikes pancake feed could be a great way to work through the barriers for your friend. Offer to help go over the bike and get it ready. Offer to show up at his or her house Monday morning and escort to the pancake feed and to his or her destination afterwards.
BE A HERO. If the sun is shining, we’ll see lots of new cyclists out there. New cyclists who are disabled by a bike mechanical problem will need help. Remember the “high bar” for new cyclists? Well, a malfunctioning bike or flat tire may just be the event to push potential new cyclists back behind the wheel of their car. So, for the month of May, carry an extra tube on your daily commute. You should always stop and make sure cyclists have what they need when you see them on the side of the road, but in May, be extra nice. If you’re lucky, you will be the reason that a new cyclist continues to ride.
BE A HELPER. Did you know there are “energizer stations” on the morning of May 18th in Spokane County? An energizer station is a spot where cyclists (usually on their way to work) can stop and get a cup of coffee or a donut or a piece of fruit and chat with other cyclists. Energizer stations are organized by Spokane Bikes.
Clearly, it’s not about the coffee as much as it is about the community. Most of the cyclists are just starting to try out bike commuting, so by hanging out at an energizer station, you can provide a bit of encouragement for a new cyclist. If you think you have a good spot for an energizer station, you can host your own.
There are also other events for Spokane Bikes in May. And there are many ways for existing cyclists to be a helper. Go to spokanebikes.net (not .com) for more information.
BE AN INSPIRATION. If you’re not into direct human contact with strangers, then just keep riding. Follow the traffic laws. Be smart. Be visible. Be the kind of cyclist we want to see more of. And at least give a slight nod and smile to other cyclists.
John Speare grew up and lives in Spokane. He rides his bike everywhere. Check out his blog at http://cyclingspokane.blogspot.com.