Stop the Child Murder

Here is a great piece on how Dutch citizens were able to force their government to promote cycling: Stop the Child Murder.

In case you didn't know, the Netherlands has the highest cycling rate in the world. Around 30% of Dutch adults always ride their bike to work, and around 40% sometimes do. In fact, there are more bicycles in the Netherlands than there are people. And, in Amsterdam, more trips are made by bike than car.  Bicycle is a preferred method of travel.

But this wasn't always the case.  While cycling was popular before World War II, apparently the government--like governments worldwide--began to favor cars in infrastructure planning. As a consequence, but not a surprise, the number of deaths increased, including among children. Out of protest, the "Stop the Child Murder" group formed and advocated for policy and infrastructure changes that made bicycling safer, particularly for children.

This is another way of looking at advocacy for new and safer infrastructure, as the article points out. Instead of cyclists advocating for cyclists, maybe the solution is to advocate for safer travel for children.  American ideas of safety always go back to personal and individual choices--like wearing helmets--that are unproven or that make little difference.  We tend to react distastefully to ideas of government promotion of anything.  The fact remains, however, that the Netherlands and other European countries have much better health outcomes, lower rates of obesity, and higher levels of happiness than we do in the United States. 

Wearing a helmet will not make a child safer, at least not as safe as providing a segregated lane or bike path will.  And until we begin to provide the infrastructure, parents will not feel safe sending their kids out on the roads to ride.  Perhaps it's time to reframe our arguments.

The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Bike Ride

This past Saturday, my family participated in the second (?) annual, Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Bike Ride, which the City of Bloomington hosted to encourage bicycle riding in all kinds of weather.  I need this encouragement because, even though I spend my free time trying to find inspiration through hardier souls, once the cold hits, I readily admit that I require an additional push to pull the bike out of the garage.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), the weather was beautiful, and nearly perfect for a January day. The good weather produced a good turn-out. I know that I, for one, would have been hesitant to go out in colder or snowier conditions with my toddler. I can (and do!) work up a sweat, but the sedentary kid doesn't generate the heat. Nevertheless, the weather was great, and we had fun.

The ride brought forth a wide variety of riders--the sporty, gear-loving sort, young people, old people, hipsters, parrots, parents and children (including a couple of young kids on their own bikes).  In my snarky moments (which admittedly are many), I wonder if the lycra-clad "got" that their participation in lycra was a bit beside the point.  People who are sport-cyclists aren't the kind of riders the City needs to encourage. They are already out there (on evenings and weekends, but are they riding to work?).  We need more people who use the bicycle as a mode of transportation--and who ride in the same clothes they work in. But maybe they work in lycra?

All snark aside, I really do appreciate that so many lovers of the bike came out to ride. 

So, yeah, lots of riders. And lots of helmets, which means that I can't become a member of the cyclechic group of bike blogs.  But, to each his own, right? Who am I to comment on personal style, or the lack thereof?

The route was around seven miles, and took us East past the mall, then back through the Bryan Park neighborhood.  This is to say that we went up some nice hills. And I once again questioned my decision to ride a 3-speed, Dutch-style bike with a toddler on it (ehem, an extra 40 pounds).

Does a bike meant to ride on the flats of Northern Europe have any place in hilly South-Central Indiana? I ask myself this whenever I ride to the East side of town, but I inevitably come back to the answer yes for these reasons: 1) a Dutch/Danish-style bike is much nicer looking than a racing, touring, mountain, or hybrid bike (and if you don't have talent, you ought to have style); 2) Dutch-style bikes have nice fenders, chain guards, and, often, coat or skirt guards, which let you use a bicycle as a mode of transport; and 3) this style of bike allows you to sit upright, which is not good if you want to go fast, but is likely safer because it provides me more visibility to cars and more stability since the upright position has a center of gravity that is akin to walking. Quick movements are less likely to result in crashes, which is important when riding in my work clothes (or with my son on the bike). Plus, it's more comfortable.

In the end, I was huffing and puffing more than most, and sweating up a storm, in which case the breathable cycling gear would have come in handy.

I may have complained a bit about the hills, but the easterly-ride took me through an area I had yet to see: the bicycle underpass on Seventh Street! (see right; more about that later).

 After returning to City Hall, some of us rode on to Lennie's for brunch. Lennie's, a seriously bike-friendly business, offered 50% off for riders. Chicken and waffles and a persimmon ale hit the spot.

And on the way home, I was able to ride in the new bike lane on Third Street, and use the new bike box (Oh, I am so excited about this bike box, but more on this later, as well).

It was a great day, and I am already looking forward to next year.  Thanks to climate change, I expect the weather will be just as nice.