Want respect for bicycles as transportation? Use them that way.

People who are passionate about bicycling are no strangers to hyperbole and bold, sometimes rash statements.

Errands on Bikes at Target
Image by Seth W. via Flickr

Bike advocates ruined bicycling.

Biking is next to impossible in most of America.

Helmets laws discourage people from cycling.

The first example above was made by a New York bike shop owner who seems to be an advocate himself. He favors getting more women on bicycles and reducing what he sees as the U.S. cycling industry’s emphasis on mountain bikes. (I’ve seen no shortage of women riding road bikes, hybrids, cruisers and other variations on the bicycle lately, but I’m not in New York.)

We should be more like Copenhagen, he says. Here’s hoping he does well selling comfortable bicycles that more people will enjoy riding around town.

Bicycling has not been ruined.

The second example was in a blog post about the lack of respect for cycling as a form of transportation in the U.S. The record does seem pretty dismal in our highly motorized society and only tiny percentage of Americans use bicycles for their primary transportation. We have all sorts of reasons for that; many of them are valid.

I suspect the third statement is true in a way. People quote statistics now and then to prove it. Still, I don’t buy it. If people want to ride bicycles, they will do so – with or without a helmet law and with or without a helmet.

Helmet laws make handy excuses. We’re pretty good at making excuses and finding reasons to justify driving where we don’t really need to drive.

One of the biggest reasons there’s so little respect for bicycles as transportation is that so few Americans actually use them for transportation.

Yes, we should go to meetings and write letters and make sure public officials and transportation planners give bicycling and complete streets due consideration. We also need to live what we believe so people see more bicycles being used as everyday transportation and see that it can be done.

Do you drive everywhere you go when you’re not on a club ride or training ride? Take the car for errands when you could pedal? Drive a few blocks to work so you don’t mess up your hair? Haul your kids everywhere in an SUV when you could send them off on their bicycles?

We may never be much like Copenhagen, but we actually can ride a lot more than we do. We can wear street clothes. We can ride any sort of bicycle we want to ride.

We just have to do it.

Pedal on.

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