Friday, May 17, 2013

2013 Bike-to-Work Day

Today is Bike-to-Work Day in West Bend, part of National Bike Month. Early this morning I made the trip up the Eisenbahn State Trail to Rivershores, paused for just a few minutes to talk with friends, then hurried back to where my job gets done: home. This is my third spring as a home-based employee. From 2001 through 2010, I made a 70-mile roundtrip commute between West Bend and Brookfield, five days a week. For me, what once was impractical to do by bicycle is now unnecessary.

There was a time when commuting by bicycle would have been my best option, but I failed to realize it. In the early 1990s I lived on the east side of Milwaukee and worked downtown. It would have made a lot of sense to take a bike to work, but I didn’t own one. Instead I took the bus or spent a lot of money on parking for my car.

If I had been a bike commuter, then perhaps today I would be more interested in their advocacy efforts and more sensitive to their calls for protected bike lanes and other infrastructure designed to keep bikes and motor vehicles separated. But that’s not how things played out. For me, cycling is recreation not transportation. Intellectually I get what the commuters are saying, but I don’t feel any kinship with them.

That makes me even more emotionally distant from the organization behind the new Urban Cycling Hall of Fame. Apparently, we’re now going to give formal recognition to bike couriers and alleycat race winners for their extraordinary contributions to cycling. Really? Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised; reality television already has created celebrities out of working-class nobodies from almost every imaginable profession, however mundane.

Call me old fashioned, but I like my halls of fame to be pretty damned obvious in scope and mission. At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY, you might accidentally learn about a great player whose name you didn’t know before, but you go there because of players like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Their exploits surpassed well-known and became legendary; no one need insist upon their greatness.

The Urban Cycling Hall of Fame, I’m sure, will be nothing more than a circle jerk of hipsters armed with GoPro video cameras and an unhealthy contempt for traffic laws. This morning in West Bend, I observed two dozen bike commuters riding sensibly and lawfully. If you want to be an advocate for cycling, just do more of that.

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