What to do Next: Ride!!

2 Mar

My previous post delivered the sobering news that only one of several bills that would contribute to cyclist safety passed the General Assembly this session.  The Virginia Bicycling Federation has posted a recap that has generated some discussion about how we can try to get more cyclist-friendly legislation passed next time around.  It also includes a very comprehensive list of links to reports and editorials about the bills that were defeated.

Aside from joining an advocacy organization, writing and calling legislators, and showing up to the Bike Action Day ride/rally next time around, what can we do?   It’s sort of cliché among cycling advocates, but one of the most important things we can do is — drum roll, please — ride our bicycles more and encourage family and friends to do so.  The more of us there are riding to get places, the more visible we are.  And the more visible we are, the harder it is to dismiss cyclists as just a bunch of lycra-clad jerks, which is apparently a widespread perception.

If you’re trying to convince yourself or someone else to hop on the saddle more often, consider this recent story that ran on NPR about kids not getting enough exercise.  It’s no longer news that we have an obesity problem in the U.S.  A combination of factors has made it difficult for kids to get the recommended amount of physical activity: school cutbacks on physical education, sprawling development that makes getting around in a way other than by car difficult, and overbooked schedules to name a few.

Kids that do get a good amount of exercise, as the NPR story suggests, ironically often have to be driven around by their parents to do so.  You can tell that the L.A. mom in the story is really stressed trying to ferry the kids to different practices and games.  Cut to another family that lives in Portland, Oregon, where physical activity is just an effect of getting around: they chose to live in a neighborhood (not unlike some in Richmond) that has parks, shops, and other amenities within walking or biking distance.  And of course there’s the issue of making the choice not to drive to those things anyway (a larger number of car trips in the U.S. are very short, under 2 miles).

Richmond is no L.A., although our suburbs are not that far off.  And the city is not Portland, either, although we have some very walkable and bikeable neighborhoods and an ongoing effort to improve bikeability.

So my challenge to you is this: is there a trip you made this last week or weekend that you could have made by foot or bike but didn’t?   If so, why not try it this week?  Ride to the restaurant for brunch, maybe?  To the drugstore a few blocks away?  To the park to play?   Okay, if it’s snowing or frigid outside, wait a week or two, but soon it’s going to be perfect biking weather!

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