We’re bicyclists and proud of it!

When most people think of Rockville, where I live, they think of a congested, car-centric highway-like road. Not exactly bike friendly. Despite that image, the Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee, which I’m a part of, wants to link bicycling to a sense of civic pride. After all, our community is making some serious efforts on the sustainability front. We have two Metro stops within city boundaries, a new smart growth development town square, and community gardens. As for biking, we have bike lanes through our downtown area and a bicycle beltway that loops around the town, paralleling high-traffic streets. So we deserve a little more respect than we receive.

One of the most fun ways we’ve been fostering this connection is the Rockville Bike 150 Challenge. The City of Rockville turned 150 years old in 2010, a fact the town highlighted with a series of celebrations. To complement these events, the Bicycle Advisory Committee issued a challenge for people to bicycle 150 miles during the year. Rather pathetically, I barely missed the goal because my bicycle sat in our basement of our new house for much of the summer. While the blazing weather was discouraging, the prospect of dragging my bicycle up the steep stairs was downright frightening. (Our shed has eliminated this issue.) But for those who did make the goal, the Advisory Committee is organizing a recognition ceremony with the Mayor and City Council. Even though some participants bike 150 miles in a week, much less a year, I still think it’s great that we’re acknowledging that this accomplishment is important. It ties being bicycle-friendly to our identity as a community.

Another way we’ve encouraged this civic pride is through adorable magnets.

I don’t think we’ll have the funding this year to produce them again, but my heart warms a little whenever I see one on our fridge. As a committee, we’re also going to walk with our bikes in the annual Memorial Day parade, one of those “small town” events that I enjoy so much. Lastly, Bikes for the World, an international NGO that fixes up bikes and ships them off to developing countries, has its headquarters right in Rockville.

However, Rockville has nothing on our much larger, urban neighbor when it comes to bicyclist pride. Washington, D.C. has undergone an amazing transformation in the last few years. Cyclepaths have sprouted up alongside some of the most significant roads in the city, including Pennsylvania Ave. The cherry-red Capital Bikeshare cycles have become ubiquitous, with plenty of recreational riders now spinning around town for transportation. After less than a year, they’re starting to become a(nother) symbol of the city. And the Tweed Ride, where people dress up in Victorian clothes and do the bicycle equivalent of a stroll, brings a sense of humor to the whole endeavor. Even though I’m not a D.C. resident, their evolution has inspired me. For one, a lot of suburbanites work in D.C., and the more they get used to seeing bicycles used for transportation, the more they might be comfortable with them out in the “boonies.” Civic pride and bicycles for all!

For a few cities that have biking in their blood, this is second nature: Amsterdam, San Francisco, and of course, Portland. Although judging from this clip from a new satirical T.V. show, perhaps they’re a little too proud of their bikes…

Do you associate your town/city’s identity with bicycling at all? Does your town do anything to encourage bicycling and civic pride?

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