I’ve been watching episodes of American Hipster Presents – a fun video series about different entrepreneurs/artists/etc. around the U.S. (side tangent, how crazy is it that we live in an economy where I can write entrepreneurs/artists/etc. and have that not be weird? Hello Etsy!) – I came across the freak bike builders of Portland. It’s a group of guys and gals around Portland that build their own bikes and then pedal around town in bike gangs, playing games, hanging out with friends, and being overall pretty silly.
To me this is a great showcase of grown-ups making playful spaces and space for play in their lives.
The main interviewee says it best [paraphrasing]: “Kids get to play on bikes, why shouldn’t grown-ups?”
It also makes me kind of want to move to Portland.
I’ve actually seen a couple of unicycle commuters, but never a mini-bike. During the first gas price increase of recent years a couple of high school girls tried riding their horses to school, but the school wasn’t set up to stable the horses during school hours (lame!). What other fun ways have you seen people try to get to work or school?
I am always interested in how organizations promote healthier, more enriching, more environmentally friendly practices, and I think this article makes a good point, that a lot of the bike commuter programs are geared towards the middle to upper class, yet the people who NEED to use bikes, and in many college towns I’ve lived in DO use bikes but need the support and information, are poor young folks:
The way we work has been changing for a long time, and our transportation needs and options along with it. With the recent recession, fewer people are working as much or for as much money, or as regularly — or at all. More of us are, in a word, poor.
We’re the ones who need bicycling the most. Yet the broke and the tenuously employed aren’t always reached by bicycle transportation advocacy, education, and services. When they are, the messages being promoted are not always relevant or welcome.
The mainstays of bike advocacy organizations are the three E’s: engineering, enforcement, and education — with a fourth E, encouragement, becoming increasingly popular.
U.S. bike advocacy is also imbued with a heavy focus on individual responsibility as more important — or perhaps more readily achievable — than social and infrastructure change, as exemplified by the until-recently prominent vehicular cycling movement.
Such initiatives tend to reach out to the people who ride — or don’t — out of choice rather than economic necessity, whose only barrier to getting on a bike is motivation.
When you’re already broke, you don’t need to be encouraged to adopt someone else’s lifestyle. You need solutions that arise from your own circumstances and community.
That means that simply choosing to hop on a bike isn’t actually that straightforward. Even as your car is sucking your savings dry and pummeling your credit, at least it’s the devil you know.
People living in low-income households are less likely to have access to a working bicycle (only 29 percent of households making less than $15,000 do, according to the NHTSA’s most recent survey). Aside from the cost and learning curve of acquiring, outfitting, and maintaining a reliable everyday bicycle, if you’re broke your neighborhood is also less likely to be graced by bike lanes, calmed traffic, and other facilities that are lauded for their ability to raise property values. You’re also less likely to have easy, central access to grocery stores and other amenities.
The Federal government, as well as places like Seattle, WA, right now are pushing for more freeways, bridges, and car-focused infrastructure, but bikes may be a better solution with a faster return on investment:
…In reality, bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects generate more than just peace of mind. They also generate 46% more jobs than car-only road projects, according to a new study.
Streetsblog points us to the University of Massachusetts study, which evaluated job opportunities created by 58 infrastructure projects in 11 U.S. states. The result: Cycling projects create a total of 11.4 local jobs for each $1 million spent. Pedestrian-only projects create a little less employment, with an average of 10 jobs for the same amount of money. Multi-use trails create 9.6 jobs per $1 million–but road-only projects generate just 7.8 jobs per $1 million.
A similar study that examined infrastructure projects in Baltimore, Maryland came up with similar results: Pedestrian and bike infrastructure projects create 11 to 14 jobs per $1 million of spending while road infrastructure initiatives create just seven jobs per $1 million of spending.
This never would have occurred to me, so I’m glad that there is somebody out there looking at some of the economic perks to encouraging bicycling. Bikes are also obviously a great investment for cities because they promote exercise, connection with one’s environment and community, and lower pollution, all lowering cost of living there.