Honking in Traffic: Choice or Necessity?

Honking in Traffic published an article yesterday about the “unseen” portion of the bike commuter population made up of people who commute by bike not by choice, but out of necessity. Here’s an excerpt:

I’m happy, and exceedingly lucky, to have the choice to ride my bike (er… choice of one of many bikes) for utility or for fun. (I’m even luckier to have a partner to ride a tandem with, who has by and large the same motivation as me, plus can speak Spanish…). There’s probably at least as many bicyclists who ride out of necessity, as out of choice. As our society looks at products to market, services and education to offer, and new transportation plans and policies, I hope that a major demographic of the bicyclist population doesn’t get lost on the side streets.

It’s an excellent article that’s well worth a read.

Honking in Traffic

9 Responses to “Honking in Traffic: Choice or Necessity?”

  • Donald says:

    Thanks for the link. This is a very interesting article. It makes you really appreciate that we have transportation options, the bike being just one. Maybe I will not complain so much the next time it gets a bit wet and cold. (OK…in Sacramento we call cold the high 30’s) The bus runs past my house and stops a few blocks from work. I have a car to use if needed, and if all fails I could walk to work in about an hour. I guess life is good.
    Sacramento, California

  • Rex in Phoenix says:

    Great article on a part of cycling that doesn’t get much attention. In Phoenix we seem to have more of these riders than recreational cyclists. Their presence was a factor in getting over my unwillingness to ride a bike I previously considered beneath me but could afford in the absence of a bike I approved of but could not afford. They are almost all riding the Wal-Mart bikes that so many of us deem “un-ridable”… a bit of a reality check.

    There is one guy I repeatedly pass coming the other way on my ride. Judging from the different points I’ve seen him on the ride he is commuting at least 5 miles. He was on a cruiser previously, but today he was on something with a straight handlebar… didn’t catch the rest… maybe he got a new bike. We always wave and say hello. He seems like he’s in a good mood, but I doubt he’s riding by choice.

    These folks are an unsung part of the cycling population. I know not all of them are noble hard-workers. I don’t romanticize them but I respect anyone who, instead of complaining that they can’t get to work for lack of a car, hops on a bike and makes it happen. That kind of can-do attitude will serve them well.

  • John says:

    Very interesting article, Alan. Thanks for the link.

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    This is a good point. People who cycle out of necessity in the classic sense do not tend to start blogs, magazines, flickr accounts – and so they remain unseen and unheard.

    On a separate note, some of us – myself included – are in the category where although other transportation options are available, we nonetheless feel as if we are cycling out of necessity. Being in a car or bus in the city makes me motion sick, and I just can’t face that on a daily basis. With the subway it is less so, but still there. It was so bad, that before I rode a bike I used to walk everywhere, even if it was on the other side of Boston and took me 2 hours to get to! So even though I can afford a variety of transportation options, I find them unrealistic and really only see 2 choices: walking or cycling, unless I want to arrive to my destination with a full-on migraine and a case of nausea.

  • Cullen Carter says:

    I’ve noticed that many folks that cycle are people who’ve had their drivers licenses revoked, for some reason or other, and can no longer *legally* drive. Many of these folks ride cheap Wal Mart-purchase bicycles.

    If most of these folks actually cycled a nicer, more-expensive (but, not TOO expensive) bike , they’d definitely feel the difference.

    At least they’re riding velocipedes!

  • Alan says:

    I read somewhere that even in bike-friendly Denmark teenagers would like nothing more than to have a car. I don’t know if this is fact, but it wouldn’t surprise me.


  • ToddBS says:

    Here in FL, most of the people I see riding out of necessity are the ones that show up in the statistic summaries at the end of the year. They’re the guys you see riding against traffic on a 4 lane highway, or darting across a crosswalk on a no-walk signal at 9:30 at night.

    That said, I have actually seen a few folk riding around town of late with bikes that are fully equipped. Lights, racks, baskets, you name it. I actually feel some kinship with those people. Not like the guy on the carbon rocket, jersey adorned with someone else’s sponsors, who makes his way to the front of the line at a red light and then goes on through.

  • Scott Wayland says:

    As you may have noted, China recently exceeded the USA in automobile purchases. Can’t blame them. When the weather’s bad, a car is very nice indeed. If I lived in the Midwest or other snowy, nasty winterized place, I’m sure I’d ride less than I do. It is a luxury to have a choice. Of course, it won’t be too long before gas is super expensive, and a good many more people will be necessity-based cyclists! Maybe this will be a good thing, a bit more political clout. When gas in the USA is $8+/gal, our world will look vastly different. I’m not looking forward to it, but this will probably happen in my life time.


  • ksteinhoff says:

    I’ve been meaning to t do a piece on what I call “stealth cyclists” for a long time. I was sitting at a window seat at a Lake Worth, FL, BBQ joint that looks out onto U.S. 1 a couple of weeks ago watching traffic go by.

    In the course of eating an exceptional rack of babyback ribs, I counted at least two dozen “stealth cyclists” and only a couple of what I’ll call “serious” riders who were riding as traffic.

    The former group rides on the sidewalk, in the parking lanes and sometimes in the street, hopping from one to the other in whatever makes them less visible. Most are third-world workers, with the occasional DWI suspect mixed in. They often ride against traffic and rarely have lights or even reflectors.

    Like the story said, I doubt that many of these riders are doing it for fun.

    I had a great discussion one day with a park worker who commuted 50 miles a day on a beater bike.


    He had been named employee of the month because he hadn’t been late to work in six months.

© 2011 EcoVelo™