Yesterday was our Bike Summit. It was very well attended and there were a lot of good conversations. Yes, we were largely preaching to the choir, as everyone there was already involved in bicycling in some fashion. The gain was that now the members of the choir have gotten to know each other and perhaps are beginning to sing in harmony.
Now, (to belabor a metaphor), can we discuss the conductors of the bicycle advocacy choir?
Please, let's STOP talking about how much better off we would be in this country if we would just adopt the Netherlands or Copenhagen as our standard for cycling.
Folks, it aint.gonna.happen.
We are NOT Denmark or the Netherlands. Our population needs and demographics are different and we should not apologize for that or try to conform our differences into their conformity! We are bold, vivacious and out there. While we can look to them for good ideas, ultimately, American cycling is going to be something different that works for us. Heck, it will be different in New York City than it will be in Savannah, Georgia, or Houston, Texas, or Berkeley, California. We are a big dukin' country with a lot of variety.
Everytime I've gotten together with cycling advocates in the last year there's been a lot of talk about embracing one another. You know, the whole "you don't have to wear spandex," or "mountain biking is good, too" or "we love bike commuting." Kum-by-yah and all that.
In working with local schools to encourage kids biking to school, I've come to understand that each school has its own culture. It starts with the draw of the kids -- the sociological demographics that feed into that school. It is massaged by the parents' level of involvement, and finally, it lives or dies by the attitude of the principal. What works at a school that has 80% bussed kids won't work at a school that 85% walkers and vice versa. But each school, if it is lucky, gets one or two parents who are passionate about kids walking and biking, and with a little magic and a lot of determination, the school culture can evolve.
So why do we beat ourselves up that we're "not like Amsterdam or Copenhagen?" We AREN'T either one of those places with the demographics of their populations. And it's okay for us to develop a culture that works for us, whether it's in Washington, DC, Montgomery County, Arlington or Fairfax. We all bike, we all support biking, and we should all support each other.
I'm finished now. I'll leave you with one of the reasons I bike. I took this today and could get this shot, stopped on top of the dam, because I was on my bike. I couldn't have stopped if I'd been in my car
-- there's no place to do so.