Bike Month, Week 1: Building Community
National Bike Month got off to a promising start for me, with two rewarding events in its first week. The events, a Women on Bikes meetup and a Rockville community kick-off ride, reinforced my feeling of being part of a larger biking community, something that’s always encouraging.
Women on Bikes is a Washington Area Bicyclist Association initiative that is somewhat self-explanatory. However, instead of the common “what could these mysterious creatures want from cycling?” attitude, Women on Bikes seeks to connect experienced female cyclists with newbies. I think it’s a great idea, especially because many people who are only used to seeing Men in Spandex / Freds from the Planet Tridork think that to cycle, you have to be super-macho. By bringing real, live female cyclists who aren’t being paid to work for the advocacy organization into the picture, it helps beginners feel more comfortable and confident. Because I’ve never grown out of being good little girl who follows directions, I actually did what the meetup required and brought a new cyclist along to the meetup. My friend e., who occasionally comments, told me that she had just started commuting part-way to work by Capital Bikeshare. Wanting to be both a good friend and advocate, I invited her along, hoping that she could meet some fellow cyclists besides her nutty friend (me).
Overall, the meetup was pretty chill, although probably somewhat less newbie-oriented than it should have been. It was at Local 16, a great bar/restaurant that’s sells a good deal of sustainable food and has hosted the DC Grey Market in the past. Unfortunately, due to serious short notice, there were only four of us there, including the intern from WABA. Besides myself and e, the other woman was a very enthusiastic, experienced cyclist with 4 (!) bicycles. We chatted about a number of topics – bike storage, folding bikes, “Freds,” and bike bags. Much of it probably wasn’t relevant to e’s experience (sorry about that!), but I think we all had a good time.
That Saturday, the Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee, tried to host a National Bike Month kick-off ride with our Mayor and City Council. Despite promises otherwise, we ended up with no mayor and only our one super-reliable city council member. He actually uses his bicycle as a constant campaign tool, equipped with a bicycle and sign that says “Mark Pierzchala, Councilman.” As the ride was meant to show the city leadership how much the citizens of Rockville back the building of bicycle infrastructure, it was a little disappointing. On the other hand, we had great support from our city’s police. They gave the police bicycle liaison the whole morning to ride with us in full uniform. The only problematic car we ran into the whole way turned out to be the police liaison’s sergeant messing with him!
Nonetheless, the citizen turnout was encouraging – we had a good 20 people on the ride. There’s a nifty, albeit long video one of the other members shot on YouTube. Some were bicycle advisory committee regulars, while others were just people who liked biking. A couple of ladies were actually on my Dessert Ride last year and remembered me! They told me they had a great time and hoped I was going to do another one. One of the two even said that she normally doesn’t like riding in the road, but “it feels safe on these rides.” A big step forward. As it’s often difficult to know what kind of an impact you’re having, I really appreciated the comment.
Overall, a great start to National Bike Month. This week, I’ve already participated in our city’s proclamation of Bike Month, am looking forward to WABA’s Bike Fest on Friday, and am leading a community ride of my own on Saturday!