Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bike to Work Day?

I can guess that this post is going to cause a hubbub amongst all three of my readers, but I'll pose the question anyway. First, a little context.

In my life as an academic, I work mostly on the history of race in the nineteenth century. I read a lot of what used to be called "Black History," and more recently, "African American History." I don't find these categories particularly useful, since I think they unrealistically separate (or segregate, you might say) historical human experience based on race. Some scholars of like mind have made the argument that Black History Month (February) has outlived its usefulness because it encourages the view that the history of black people is somehow separate or distinct from "regular" history. I have similar opinions about Women's History Month (March).

So, here's the question: does designating a Bike Month (May) and Bike to Work Day similarly segregate bicycling as transportation from our idea of "regular" transportation? Shouldn't every day potentially be Bike to Work Day? In other words, does the profile-raising potential of a Bike Month/Day outweigh the implicit marginalization of bicycling into just one specific timeframe? Or is the concept of bicycling as transportation still "new" enough that we need a month specifically to highlight it? Watcha think?


  1. Good question. Two months ago there was a column in Bicycling Magazine (stupid publication, but don't judge me) which argued that we (cyclists) should not accept "bike month" because it exists only to placate us. So when we go to congress, or the city council, or whatever "THEY" you take your complaints/requests to, THEY can say "but you have 'bike month', why do you need bike racks?"
    I would like to know if anyone actually started commuting because of bike to work day. Or if the existence of the day has made a lasting impression on any motorist such that they maybe don't try and kill me tomorrow. Very difficult to quantify.

  2. popping over here from your OBB blog...

    I work in San Francisco and, as I’m sure you know, it is a huge biking city. But it's also really intimidating to bike here. I bike to work nearly every day, and bike to work day is huge here. My office is very bike friendly, and I’ve banded together with coworkers to really promote bike to work MONTH not just week or day. The big goal for us is to get new bikers out there. I know we’ve succeeded in getting a few new riders on board to take part in our inner office bike to work month. And those that were too nervous about committing to a whole month have agreed to at least bike to work today. And a few of them liked it. So maybe we succeeded in getting a few more folks to ride more frequently, or even, *gasp* daily?

    But I will admit that most of these people were walking or taking other modes of public transit. I can’t say we actually succeeded in getting any cars off the road (here at least), due to the difficulty to park.

  3. I will say this: My bike shop is serving free breakfast tomorrow from 6:00 until 9:00, and civic leaders and hangers-on will be riding through downtown at 8:00 in the morning. When they get to City Hall there will be free donuts.

    If you want to segregate bikes from the rest of the methods of transportation, I'm okay with that, as long as there's free food involved.

    Just sayin'.

  4. I didn't know I was supposed to celebrate my woman-ness two months ago.

    I don't like to celebrate seemingly exclusionary events like this even though I do participate in them.

    I saw many more commuters this week than all the weeks I've been riding to work since March. Maybe it won't make any lasting change, but I do believe that a few moments on a saddle in traffic will make one see things in a very different light than from a driver's seat. So perhaps the cyclist/driver will be a bit more cautious in the future? One can dream...

  5. Great questions. I agree, by the way, with subjugated groups. There is no excuse for mainstream culture to continue to neglect the stories of black folks, women, Latinos, etc. These "months" constitute a kind of multiculturalist discourse that, in my opinion, causes more harm than good by avoiding the deep structures of power that inform the preferences of dominant culture.

    Anyway, in theory, I agree that a similarity exists in Bike To Work Day. But sometimes, the more people try a bicycling commute, there will be some who become committed to it.

  6. I can see the point although I'd never thought of it that way. I can see how it would be a cop-out Perhaps if it is one of a lot of initiatives it would work, as in all year there is advertising and a gradual improvement of infrastructure, and then a big push once a year. I'd agree that it needs to be a week or a month though.

  7. There were close to a hundred bike commuters today that rode through downtown Fort Worth to a cycle commuters breakfast at the train station. The best part was that the Fort Worth Police bicycle squad provided an escort for the knot of cyclists, so we crossed through the downtown area without having to stop for traffic lights. Which was cool, but.... kind of exclusionary.

  8. If the result is good, sure. But, the precept of it really is blah. Thom.. Beany.. Project?+

  9. To add to what Beany said I think cycle riders, when/if they get behind the wheel of a car, are some of the most respectful drivers...

    I think these days bring very few new riders to the fold, but allow cyclists to make contact with each other, get support from other riders.

    Looking around the web world as a new entrant to the cycling blog community lots of new riders seem to be blogging their experiences of riding with others... and one day seems irrelevant to me looking at their stories


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.