Its officially spring here in my part of the Pacific Northwest. Daffodils, daisy, dandelions, cherry blossoms, and other early flowers dot the landscape as they have done for endless springs before. Casual riders are returning to the roads, and with them come the inevitable crescendo of complaints of infrastructure that the constant rider has waited for to build the movement that completes safe streets.
As if waiting for the political timing (I have no doubt this was a part), Seattle has announced they will take part in Vision Zero, a plan to reduce traffic deaths, pedestrian and cycling specifically, but also vehicular deaths, to zero.
I have not said much on the announcement because I've been riding more and on media in general less. Obviously I am for it, but it comes with the concerns any safety program has with enforcement and public will.
Recently, one of my friends has decided to get back on a back, she'd stopped riding after childhood because the bus was simply more convenient, but the hills between the stop and her house took to long to walk and she wanted to cycle up them. After constructing her bike (I'm not a mechanic and as a rule if you order a bike from the internet its not usually assembled and if you're not a mechanic you should take it to a shop and not have your only marginally good-at-this-shit-friend put it together, but we all learn these lessons), we proceeded to a bike shop for the aside aforementioned reason.
While she had biked as a child she had not done vehicular cycling, she'd only taken her bike to a park and ridden it there, or between homes of friends. In short, she'd never had cars fly by her at 40mph in a bike lane. She was rightly terrified. Good sense tells you not to be near something at high speeds, still I had not realized how fearless I had become as I stayed on her wheel coaching her down one hill and up another. More experienced riders passed us, I didn't get a good look at their team jersey, but they shouted encouragement and praise as they passed.
I tried to think which areas in Lake City would be good to take a nervous rider through, but those are fewer and further between than even Shoreline. We have the Interurban Trail, a safe place for beginning riders to learn the signals, connected by a protected lane that makes it a calm place to learn.
Her bike is currently being worked on, and she's still researching the best helmet for her, in a style she can live with. Because we can talk about Vision Zero all we want, but the Dutch don't cycle with helmets. California is talking about mandating them and reflective gear. Even though study after study says both will do nothing to prevent an accident.
Until Seattle cycles without helmets, until there is a true mix of beginners, and the fearful, the confident, and the fast, there will still be traffic deaths on bikes. Because there will never be enough people on bikes to get the movement behind them. Because we will always be waiting for spring to bring the slight volume increase to pass the most minor of helpful changes. Because we are stupid in the future.
And yes, I'm still wearing a helmet, not because it protects me, makes me safe, but because I can't afford the ticket. Other people wear helmets because of a police issue that I am not getting into here because my own feelings on it are too complex to be lumped into this issue.
Back to my own rides, its been at least two Critical Lass rides since I last posted, both rides were the high level of fun and comradeship that come with mass rides lead by experienced women. There are more coming in the weeks ahead and I encourage you to follow them on Facebook and ride along.
As for my new folding bike, I've named him Scamper, he takes hills like a champ! In fact, I must confess its amusing as hell to hear the grind of those big wheel bikes changing gear as my bike skedaddles up, only shifting until the peak or sometimes not even. Moreover, if I keep taking Scamper on group rides I'm going to have to be careful about actually shifting down on the hills just so I don't drop the group! (I uh, accidentally did that at an intersection, sooooo embarassing!) I also participated in the International Winter Bike to Work Day, which was like every day I biked to work, with only maybe one or two more riders. Too bad it wasn't one week later, as bike parking at my work has returned to a premium of first come first serve. However, Scamper sits next to my desk at work, so parking is no longer an issue for me,
I mean parking is still a huge issue for me, I'm not giving up our rights for racks, Ben has to park somewhere, and someday I'll probably have a cargo bike I'll need to park. Its not like Scamper is my only bike, N + 1, you know.
Next week is the Seattle Bike Show, which I'm sure everyone and anyone who is anyone worth riding with will be there. I, however, might not, I've got a wedding to plan, a new rider I'm helping get on the path, and of course, every social ride that comes with spring to plan for, and the spring challenges and pledges (like 30 days of Biking). You can, however, still find me on twitter.
The only thing I can promise is to try to be more consistent, but oh man, have you seen the weather here? I've just got to ride.