How did you get to work today? If you rode a bike, you can consider yourself celebrating National Bike to Work day. In fact, the entire month of May has been proclaimed National Bike Month by the League of American Bicyclists.
A Washington Post article about National Bike to Work Day emphasizes safety (though the accompanying photo to the article shows a helmet-less cyclist). Though bicycles have become more popular as a mode of transportation for many in the US, the car, and the person driving it, remain the king of the road. Pedestrians in the US also aren’t used to sharing the road:
Peter Murphy of Falls Church writes that he’s never seen a bicyclist stop for a red light or get ticketed by police for breaking the law.
Sharon G. Hadary of Bethesda says that she’s an avid walker and that there is no place where pedestrians are safe from bicycles — on the streets, sidewalks or even off-road paths.
From out in Gaithersburg, James Rush writes that upcounty cyclists ride two abreast, forcing him to cross the yellow line in the face of traffic to get around them.
More than 7000 people bike to work in DC and thousands more are expected to join them for National Bike to Work Day so the streets must be extra crowded today.
The benefits of biking for the environment and for one’s health don’t need to be repeated. Creating bike lanes can certainly help — trying to make a left turn on a street with two lanes of traffic can be quite challenging — and drivers need to be aware that parts of their cars, like rear-view mirrors, can pose real hazards to cyclists.
My husband Jim Fisher and I have thought a lot about the problems of biking in traffic (we live in New Jersey) as bikes are a big part of my family’s life: Jim and my son Charlie ride daily. (I confess, I don’t myself bike to work due to time constraints and the fact I’d have to bike through some extremely urban and industrial areas and would never make it home in time to meet Charlie’s school bus).
Lately, Jim and Charlie have been doing 17 miles rides through several towns. Charlie is 14 and on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum and he’s been riding since he was 6 years old. Jim took off the training wheels and taught Charlie (it took several months) to use the hand brakes. Charlie will not be able to drive due to his disability; he will have to rely on public transportation. So riding a bike gives him independence — the ability to self-motor, to get himself from one place to the next all on his own effort.
Maybe, instead of taking Access Link, Charlie might even bike himself to work one day.
Photo of bike commuters in San Jose by richardmasoner