Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen the downsides of overzealous encouragement of cycling. “Bicycling for all!” “Ride with traffic!” “Share the road!” “Get out there and be one with your local city!” I often think about the responsibility that comes with encouraging people to ride their bikes, especially as it relates to their safety. While I believe the most profound tenet of cycling is self-reliance and the dovetail of self-accountability, I feel there is also a responsibility when introducing a new rider to cycling, to provide them the information and facts of safe riding. Getting someone excited about cycling, but without providing the knowledge to do so in a safe manner is setting them up for a bad experience.
Cycling has a history of providing a lackluster welcome to newcomers. The snobby shop mechanic is a trope that extends coast to coast. There are too many individuals for this mentality to be a conspiratorial or collective coldness, but instead, a symptom of an industry that has marched blindly forward without reflecting on the big picture of what cycling is and has become in the United States. A good portion of this is due to the intrinsic difficulty of cycling. The selection of a bike alone can be a daunting journey of blind trust, but the fitness required for regular bike riding combined with the courage to ride with automobiles creates a dividing line. Once this line has been crossed, it’s hard to remember how it was on the other side. Electric bikes are changing how people ride, and now is the time to look and reflect on what newcomers face in the cycling landscape. Reflect and understand that the health of the cycling industry in the US is immediately and precipitously tied to newcomers.
The perceived attitude that many newcomers face when joining a group of veteran riders is usually a mix of battle-weariness combined with a heavy dose of apathy. Riders who take their riding professionally (not to be confused with professional riders) are hesitant to encourage a sport that may require a deviation from the route. Call it the “beginners on the group ride? I’d rather go alone” mentality. Cycling in the U.S. has been a sport and pastime that attracts independent types, but that double-edged sword that helps our perseverance and dedication on the bike may be a hindrance, when off-bike. Now is the time to retract the quills and embrace all levels of cyclists, all types of cycling. Because lines are being drawn. Cycling has the potential to become a legislative afterthought without the collective unity required to bring sustainable access and provisions for cyclists. To get there, road riders, start advocating for wilderness access for mountain bikes. Mountain riders, begin attending open streets events in your town. See the similarities within various cycling modes, rather than picking apart the differences.
To this focus of unity, we bring an issue that covers the collective gamut of cycling interests. Including trikes, the lightest electric folding bike we’ve laid hands on, ride reports from both dirt and pavement, and most excitedly, a dispatch from our man on the road, John Woodson, who brings us his story of experience at this years Haute Route Ventoux, the pro-am stage race that will be coming to a city near you in 2018. Speaking of 2018, the event calendar is filling up with road, mountain, race and recreational events throughout the western United States.
Rounding out the legislative and legal side of cycling, Carl Lawton, a LADOT representative speaks to the frustrated cyclist in all of us and lays out the situations we may encounter on our roadways. Richard Duquette explains the importance of lighting while riding. It goes beyond illumination and falls under litigation. Don’t get caught in the dark.
See you on the route. Stay Safe. Peace.
Haute Route Ventoux Cover Photo By Olivier Borgognon