March 24, 2009
My cycling friend who lives around the corner brought to my attention that Copenhagenize gave me a shout out of sorts. It makes me feel so special when stuff like that happens. I never really think about who reads this blog and how often... but it makes me so happy that people do read it and care to some degree about what I'm doing.
A few things happened within the past few days which got me thinking. First, a reporter from the Ottawa Citizen called to interview me about bike helmets. It was an interesting conversation because I'm not necessarily a helmet preacher.
I do think it's important to set a good example for kids and stuff. I do think that in North America, it's probably best to err on the side of caution because the cars aren't looking carefully at anything happening on the road. I like how my helmet actually keeps my hair in place so that it's not flying all over the place, resulting in my looking like a hobo after riding.
However, I do forget to put it on sometimes. On super hot days if I have all my hair pulled back in a high ponytail I sort of just run out the door and I'll be 10 minutes away from my house and realize I don't have it on. Also, in the winter I often put on a hat or a toque and subconsciously, if I have something on my head already, I'll just forget. How does one get so absent-minded? I don't know!
So my NOT wearing a helmet isn't a direct 'screw you' to society, I just forget. On the other hand, I feel as though helmet wearing can really limit peoples' views about cycling. While I think safety is good, if you happen to be riding without a helmet... I also don't think it's the end of the world. North American bike culture is very much (in my opinion) centered around fear and the need for all sorts of equipment to overcome the danger of cycling or the elements/outdoors. We have a lot of people who might either bite the bullet and wear a helmet that doesn't look particularly stylish (or else they just don't care, so whatever). Or you get people who don't want to bike without one... so they don't bike at all! The same goes for not being able to find the appropriate bike to suit one's lifestyle.
I keep finding links for more lady bikes. I just feel as though ladies who want to ride a road bike or a mountain bike... would already be doing it. I'm mostly obsessed with trying to encourage the average person to hop on a bike without any super special considerations. I often get asked about style and biking, but in essence I'm mostly about 'normal' biking. In my case it meant cycling in heels and dresses (my regular shoes and clothes). For other people that might not be the case. I just wish people didn't feel the pressure of needing to buy all sorts of stuff to ride a bike. Especially when it means compromising, like if you can't find a helmet that you like but you buy one anyway and then never wear it because you hate it. Then you never ride your bike because your helmet looks bad.
My friend, Leanne, sent me this link about women and cycling. It says all the right things! Except, it still features a picture of a super sport girl sweating it out on her commute. It doesn't have to be that way! Not everybody needs a bike with more than 5, 3, or even 1 gear.
Sometimes I feel as though there's a real all or nothing attitude about bicycle commuting. People will ask me about kinds of bikes that might be good for bike commuting (you know, wearing your normal clothes, going to work without showering afterwards, etc). Then they will interrupt me and say, "well, I already have a bike" or something similar. My response is usually, "why aren't you riding it?" Then I'll hear all about where they live and why they can't bike to work. But, cycling doesn't have to be about biking to everything, all the time, every day. Even if it's just biking for groceries more often or replacing short trips in the car with trips on the bike. Even if a small percentage of the population started doing this, I'm pretty sure we would all benefit!
Same with biking in the winter. It's cool when we take the bikes out in the snow, but I'll admit that I don't do it every day. To me, riding a bike is first and foremost a really fun thing to do. So if it's not fun I won't really do it. I'd rather walk or take the bus or carpool. So you get these people who are like, "but there's so much snow, I can't bike!" Nobody says everybody has to bike ALL year. Sure, if you can, then great! It's a good workout and can be fun depending on the conditions. However, even if some people in Edmonton just rode in the spring/summer/fall... I'm still convinced that would have a cumulative impact on peoples' wallets, health, and the environment!
So helmets or no helmets. Winter riding or seasonal only. Wind breakers or cashmere sweaters. Sidi shoes or strappy sandals. Cyclists can come in all shapes, forms, styles, and sizes. The important thing to remember is that no matter what your style you can ride a bike. I bet you'll love it!