I am a bicycle rider and a lover of Provo city. My favorite way to start off a conversation with someone who asks why bicycles are important or, how bicycling benefits Provo is to say, “Bicycles are a figurative and literal vehicle for change.” I then go on to explain the economic (first part has the good stuff),clean air (click “why is it important”), and health (do you really need a link for this) benefits of riding bicycles . The hardest advantage to quantify is that of building communities. It is really hard to explain to someone who has not ridden since they were a kid how the simple act of riding a bicycle can encourage people to get involved, or to clean up their neighborhood. Thanks to our good friend Tod Robbins that discussion just got a lot easier.
Tod introduced us to a great article, which is aptly named, ‘The real reason why bicycles are the key to better cities.’ In the article Kasey Klimes outlines the ‘X’ factor of bicycling. While the article may get a little pie in the sky at times it does have a lot of great things to say about bicycle riding and community building. One of my favorite passages from the article is,
“Suddenly livability isn’t an abstract concept, it’s an experience. Human scale, connectivity, land use efficiency, urban fabric, complete streets… all the codewords, catchphrases, and academic jargon can be tossed out the window because now they are one synthesized moment of appreciation. Bicycles matter because they are a catalyst of understanding – become hooked on the thrill of cycling, and everything else follows.”
The article goes on to show that until someone physically gets out in their community they are not going to notice what it may need or, what it may have to offer. I have personally experienced this realization myself multiple times here in our wonderful little city (not to mention all the times I have seen it with non-bicycling friends who have come with me for a ride). I have discovered parks, buildings, events, and friends that had just been blurs while I was driving in a car. From the saddle of your bicycle the world really can be a a more inviting place.
I also really liked Klimes’ comments about the idea of ‘selling the idea of bicycling’,
‘The bicycle doesn’t need to be sold. It’s economical, it’s fun, it’s sexy, and just about everyone already has one hiding somewhere in their garage.
Invite a motorist for a bike ride through your city and you’ll be cycling with an urbanist by the end of the day. Even the most eloquent of lectures about livable cities and sustainable design can’t compete with the experience from atop a bicycle saddle.’
This is not to invoke that idea of motorist vs bicyclist. While there can be misunderstandings between different road users I do not subscribe to the idea that all motorists are out to hit bicyclists or, that all bicyclists are out to enrage motorists. The reason I love this comment is really two fold; first, Klimes is calling the bicycle ‘sexy’ (something I often do), second, and more importantly, he is outlining how to help people understand the place they live. It really is as simple as getting on your bicycle and riding.
Next time you are out on your bicycle be sure to look around, enjoy the ride, and really get to know your neighborhood. Finding a new secret or discovering a new perspective is always a great excuse to get other people riding and, if Klimes is right, that is one more step in making Provo even more awesome. Have fun, ride safe, and make sure to smile and wave every once in awhile.