Along with many other Seattle folks, I’ve been enjoying the commute challenge through Cascade Bike Club. It is interesting what I am learning through this experience. I also have the unique lens of a bicycle ambassador, where I get to interact with many of the people participating in the commute challenge at various Energizer Stations around the city. Perhaps you chatted with me at Beacon Hill, UW or by the Sculpture Park… I wanted to share with you some of my observations and thoughts.
As a bike ambassador I have had the chance to ask a lot of people about biking to work in celebration of bike month. For awhile I was asking people “Do you bike to work?” This turned out to be not the most productive conversation starter. If you bike to work you might just say “Yes.” But if you don’t bike to work there wasn’t much room to expand the conversation about bike riding. Several people also reminded me that not everyone works. Some people are unemployed, stay at home parents or retired. I have become more aware of is how the focus on commuting, while very important, leaves out a particular populations of bike riders.
Since I am logging specifically work miles, I’ve started to pay attention to when I am riding for work, when I am riding for fun and when I am running an errand. Something about this struck me. Biking errands, sounds kinda like work to me. It is unpaid, but it needs to get done. Someone needs to pick up groceries or drop packages off at the Post office. This kind of work is often called invisible labor. It is often these kind of chores that can easily be done on a bike, but do take time and often require hauling stuff. As Elly Blue explains in this column in this great article:
If you only need to go to work and come home again, with little to carry and no stops along the way, then riding fast on fast roads is fine — maybe even a welcome release from the stresses of the day. But whether you’re male or female, when you add a kid or two and a stop for groceries and the need to arrive at the other end smelling okay, you’d better believe you’re going to take a mellower route if there is one, and the car if there isn’t.
How can we offer more incentives to bike everywhere? As we start to see bikes shift from a niche, recreational market to an everyday means of getting around we need to encourage biking anywhere you go, not just to work. Bike month is not all about commuting, there are ways to get involved and support bike riding in many forms. It also includes biking to school, and just in case you haven’t seen this Bike to School Revolution video check it out. No matter how many miles you ride, where you ride or even why you ride, we have something to celebrate at the Ballard Street Party at the end of the month. See you on the bike path soon!