Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy National Bike Month!

Cornelia Neal, of the Office of Transportation of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington, D.C., was so determined to give her son the experience of riding his bike to school despite the stream of cars on the capital’s roadways that she came up with a creative solution. She regularly piled her son and his bike into her car, drove him to a park en route, dropped him off to cycle across the park, and then picked him up and drove him the rest of the way to school. Neal grew up in the bike-friendly Netherlands, where, she says, “Every kid goes to school on a bike.” She wanted her son to have the same experience, despite his living in Washington.
Neal told her story as a panelist at the first-ever National Women Cycling Forum in Washington on March 20. The purpose of the forum was to explore ways to encourage more women in the United States to ride bicycles. (A 2009 study by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals showed that only 24 percent of bike trips in this country are taken by women, compared with 55 percent of the bike trips in the Netherlands.) I was honored to be invited to start things off by highlighting the impact of cycling on women during the 1890s bicycle revolution.

Bike MonthI bring this up now because May is National Bike Month, so designated by the League of American Wheelmen (now the League of American Bicyclists) in 1956. This year, specific dates within the month are designated as the first-ever Bike to School Day (May 9), Bike to Work Week (May 14-18), and Bike to Work Day (May 18). Internet resources abound in support of these efforts, making it possible to map the best cycling routes, enter to win contests (with prizes such as bike racks for your school), and register or find events in your community.

On Bike to Work Day, I’ll be in Washington, DC, where the publisher of Wheels of Change, National Geographic, will be one of the “pit stops” for the 11,000 or more area cyclists expected to take part. It will be fun to be involved in this celebration of the bicycle, some 120 years after the two-wheeler first took America by storm. Today, more and more communities are developing the infrastructure to promote safe cycling and more people are turning to the bicycle as an economical, ecological, and healthy means of transportation. I admit that I have a particular affection for this durable, revolutionary invention of the Gilded Age, and I’m glad to see that its place in society continues to grow.

Happy National Bike Month! Now get out and ride!


helena said...
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Gretchen Woelfle said...

Sue: There's been a mayoral election here in London and one entire debate was devoted to the cycling platforms of the half-dozen candidates: