We live in what should be a relatively bike-friendly area that has 83 miles of on-street bike lanes, 27 miles of off-street bike paths, and 49 bicycle lockers, all in a city with a population of just over 100,000. It’s a nice suburb outside of a major metropolitan area that has a lot going for it, but it’s sorely lacking in both bike culture and fellow bike riders with which to share all that infrastructure.

Over the past few years we’ve had our share of friends and acquaintances retreat from parts less bike-friendly to places like Portland, Davis, and Boulder.

Over the past few years we’ve had our share of friends and acquaintances retreat from parts less bike-friendly to places like Portland, Davis, and Boulder. We’ve thought about making a move ourselves, and we may do so at some point. But when we consider making a move to a bike-friendly city, a nagging question always comes up.

Whenever we consider retreating to a city like Boulder or Davis, we wonder if we’d be less effective there, where we’d blend in with the already substantial number of dedicated transportational bicyclists. Where we’re at, we stand out and make a statement, a fact that’s supported by the number of questions and positive comments we get about our bikes and our bike riding habits. Here in the bike culture hinterlands, we’re missionaries of sorts, spreading our message about transportational bicycling in a place where it’s needed. We have to wonder, if we moved to a place like Davis or Portland, would we get lost in the crowd, would we be “preaching to the choir” so to speak?

What do you think? Does the example set by a transportational bicyclist have more impact in a bike-friendly city or in an area lacking in bike-friendliness?

Where does the example set by a bicyclist have more impact?

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46 Responses to “Retreat!”

  • yangmusa says:

    I imagine you make more impact in a city lacking infrastructure. But can you really live your life only to set an example?

    I wonder about this a lot too. I grew up in Europe and moved to the US as an adult. I work in urban planning – basically working to turn the US into Denmark ;-) But I have to face the reality that I’ll most likely work my entire career in the US and the US will still at that point be a less pleasant place to live, walk and bike than Denmark is today. So, why should I put up with it, why not just move? I’d love to live closer to my family and friends. On the other hand – they solved many of the difficult problems already, so my job would be less interesting… Ho hum, retreat or not?

  • oldfool says:

    In this place I am one. Oh there are others but I don’t know them. The ones I have seen don’t know they are bike advocates and would have a car if they had the money. I am one because I choose and I make sure to stand out. My impact in this barbaric land will be in the future if there is one.

  • Rick says:

    Alan, this doesn’t have anything to do with our moving to Portland this Fall, does it? :-)

    The question, for me, is easily answered: as much as I appreciate your setting a good example in the suburbs, for me, it seems a wasted gesture. Being a cyclist among gigantic SUV’s reminds me of the old poster of the little mouse flipping off the eagle screaming down from the sky right before he’s eaten, and beneath the image, it said, “The Last Act of Defiance”…it might make you feel better intellectually, but in the end, it really doesn’t serve any purpose. I just don’t have any optimism in the inherent selfishness of the American suburban middle class, and I can’t believe they’ll ever come out of their tanks until they are absolutely forced to–and politicians haven’t the spine required to make them realize the real issues involved with their transportation choices.

    On the other hand, even though you’re one of many, being a cyclist in a “bicycle-friendly” environment has the advantage of strength in numbers: the only way you can advance the cause is to be big enough that you can’t be ignored, witnessed by the attention of Portland, Boulder, Madison, Austin, NYC (who’d ever thought that, ten years ago?), and others are having on the national debate over transportation dollars… which is where the revolution will truly begin.

    In a place where thousands of people ride everyday, everywhere, regardless of weather, it will be much easier for the car-dependent to look out at the masses and say, “maybe I can do that!”, and get on a bike for the first time. A solitary cyclist on a busy suburban street might have the effect of people saying, “gee, that looks like fun”, but without a constant reminder to try something different, the lemming mentality will prevail; after all, who moved to the suburbs to be different? (Well, except for two of our favorite people, that is.)

  • Threespeeder says:

    I live in Dayton WA a small rural town 30 miles N.E of Walla Walla a larger small rural town! There is a lot of interest in velcro biking in these parts but practical bicycling as “transport not sport” is a foreign concept. I think there is a mindset that those who ride slow bikes are either retarded or broke, maybe even communists! I will keep riding to the store which is over almost 2 miles away in a desperate attempt to evangelise the area. I think perhaps a tweed ride might work and bring out some of the casual riders at least.

  • Lee Trampleasure says:

    I think the question poses a false dichotomy. If we didn’t have bike-friendly cities, we wouldn’t know that it could work. But in the “hinterlands,” you are correct that the individual stands out, raising awareness that the bicycle is a realistic transportation option, in “rain, wind, sleet or snow” (OK, maybe not snow and sleet for everyone).

    So, I say the place you make the best impact is where you live. If you don’t ride, you don’t make an impact (at least not a positive one).

    Keep riding :-)

  • Logan says:

    Rick H. and I go back and forth on this topic. I think both areas have an impact. Cars are so pervasive that even in bike friendly cities cars get the majority of funding and attention from the city council. Although Portland, OR boasts the greatest percentage of cycling commuters in the nation it still has greater than 90% of the population that chooses to transit by motor vehicle.

    The recent bike plan accepted by the city council here remains unfunded and alot of contention surrounds the Mayor’s commitment to fund more bike projects. Ironically enough the only friend that cycles to work of about a dozen folks we know here in Portland is also a transplant from Sacramento. ;) In our own way we are trying to show Portland that they still have a long way to go and we believe we still stand out and make a statement as transportation cyclists. There is room for cycling ambassadors everywhere and our hope is that by moving here to a bike friendly city like Portland we can help push toward a growing tipping point that may shift the local priorities from four wheels to two wheels.

  • steve says:

    The real question is how much biking is necessary for the actions of a few to make much of a difference. Portland, Boulder and Davis are primitive compared to Copenhagen, Aarhus and Amsterdam. People need to make biking much more popular in these places too.

    It may be that it is easier to grow once biking is already well established. Getting involved in moving a town from 5% to 25% or more may be easier than going from 0.1% to 0.2%

    If the US had a few working examples of 25% (still low compared to Copenhagen), perhaps people in the un-biked cities will take more notice when the next oil spikes strike.

  • Tom says:

    A very good question indeed. I plan to move with my family from the midwest one day. Finding moderately sized town/city with a fairly well established bike/pedestrian infrastructure is certainly on the wish list of things I’d like to have in our new setting.

    I’ve spent many a morning commute contemplating all of this, and I have response that I tell myself whenever in doubt of what it is that I am doing out there. I’m trying to prove to no one but myself that I can and will ride a bike as transportation as much as possible. I’m not trying to convince anyone else to ride by riding, although I would love more company on the road and I always encourage anyone who asks me how I do it to just get out there and try it. I’m not trying to change the annoying drivers habits who make a game out of nearly running down bikers trying to get a reaction from us. That’s exactly what they want.

    I simply ride for me. It makes me feel better about myself, and phsically it makes my mind and body feel better.

    Luckily I have sites like yours which allow me to be actively engaged, even if only virtually, with other like-minded people. But, if given the opportunity to move into an area where the community is real, and riding a bike or undertaking some other form of human powered locomotion isn’t look at as “extreme activisim”, I would jump at the chance. Would I make as much of a difference? Probably not. Am I making a difference now? I’m not sure! I have a feeling I am a momentary road obstical to most drivers, who forget about me as soon as they pass me. And that’s alright with me. At least they saw me, right!

    You have to do what feels right to you. Whatever you do, know that this site and the work you do will still be my daily inspiration for all things bike, so keep it up!

  • Alan says:


    “Alan, this doesn’t have anything to do with our moving to Portland this Fall, does it? :-)”

    Yes and no. Your impending move was the catalyst for this particular conversation, but it’s been an ongoing discussion in our household for at least a couple of years now.


  • Torrilin says:

    We’re both fairly bold riders, and we’re not easy to scare off the roads. I’ve had drivers literally try to run me off the road, and I still ride.

    My partner and I are *not* very social tho. We are flat out terrible at politics. I am somewhat better than he is, but most city planning meetings are held in the evenings. I’m the sort of person who naturally wakes up at 5 am. If I put in the effort to make every city planning meeting, I’d pretty much never be home for dinner and I’d be exhausted all the time. I also wouldn’t be very effective.

    The advocacy I’m best at is just getting out there and riding. Being just one more bike.

    Given that, staying in a bike-friendly city like Madison, and working to make it *actually* bike friendly is a good use of time and resources. The infrastructure here is very weak, because large areas of the city don’t have sidewalks, the speed limits are often ignored, and a lot of the road design is not scaled for humans. It’s also built at a very low density, and where there are sidewalks, they’re not up to standard for the use they see. A large part of bike-friendly is having the city be pedestrian friendly… and for pedestrians, Madison is a pretty cruel and hostile place.

  • jamesmallon says:

    I am disappointed that 2/3 of your voters are optimistic beyond all reality: voted to stay to make a difference in a milieu which is hostile to cyclists. ‘Hostile’ is the correct word to describe N. American communities, with the exception of those you mention in the states, and here in Canada, only Vancouver and downtown Montreal. You can’t make a difference as a ‘voice in the wilderness’, besides having to do it in a place where you are at greater risk of accident and assault from motorists, much less the added stress from living in such ungracious places.

    People are naive to how progressive change happens, such as the civil rights movement. It isn’t a few righteous people who lead opinion; it is a few righteous people who GALVANIZE opinion, and disgust in the status quo, which is already there. You don’t get thousands of Selma marchers unless thousands already believed the staus quo was disgusting- – but you do need a few heroes to get these people off their @$$*$. That’s not the situation regarding transit in most of N. America yet. It will come, but it won’t come for environmental or health reasons; the financial breaking point is already upon the middle class where they will realise they have a choice between a roof and a car or two. That was the catalyst for me to ditch my car, and I have much more financial freedom for it, as well as the other benefits.

  • Cezar says:

    For me personally it will be a sad day when you move. In about a year, I will be moving from a bike friendly city, into it’s suburbs. I’m doing this because the entire family is located in a pocket in said suburbs. My wife, who is very close to the family, spends most weekends driving down to see her family. In our case, moving to the suburbs will create less driving for us.

    I do consider myself lucky in that Chicago has the Metra system so that I can ride to the train and take it into the city. This is probably my biggest saving grace. In addition, the suburb in question, has a very nice and ridable downtown and connection of trails.

    At one point someone told me to be that bike guy. If we’re going to make a difference in the US, we need to show that suburbs can be more sustainable. Show that they need to be more livable communities with downtowns and train networks connecting to the cities. I believe that a more sustainable suburb is a real possibility.

    In all my bike advocacy to the people around me, I’ve only found one thing to work. That is to ride and be happy. They will see it, and it may take a few years, but they will catch on. They will at least try it. That’s been my experience.

  • steve says:

    Some people will want to be active and others not. There are some great ideas for making communities more bike friendly and some existence proofs that it can be done. What I’d like to see is a sharing of tips and tricks at all levels. My community is a very bike unfriendly piece of suburbia. Reading about Copenhagen or even Portland seems unobtainable here. What I’d like to know is what is the most effective use of my time to go to the next level. This all has to be done in steps.

    I’ve seen a lot of failure along the way. My wife and I have invested a lot of time trying to make the community better for bikes and walking, but our approaches (and a little group we are part of) have proven ineffective. Maybe they would have worked somewhere else, maybe not – it would be nice to understand why.

    A friend tries to get kids and hopefully their parents active in Southern California – birthplace of car culture. She has had some success and a bike was made for her in recognition ( … she is too tall for standard bikes, so this was a huge thing for her). A similar approach here doesn’t seem to work as well. Parents are upset that their kids are being encouraged in what is obviously a “dangerous” activity.

  • Bob says:

    Not sure what the cost of living in your current town is, but it seems to be quite high in places like Boulder or Portland. Of course, I live in Texas, where we have lots of sprawl and houses are relatively inexpensive. Our city, Richardson (a Dallas suburb) is developing some excellent bike paths, and connecting them to the trails of neighboring cities. We have some good bike lanes too, etc. Like you, I find our bike infrastructure is under-utilized, but I think we are preparing for the days not so far ahead, where gas is a lot more expensive. At any rate, my intial point was going to be that while I own my home here outright, if I sold it and got top dollar I couldn’t buy the same thing in a town like Boulder. So there are economic issues to deal with.

  • Vik says:

    I’m considering the move to a more bike friendly city myself. I’ve lived in a big urban centre for nearly 14yrs. I’m not sure my bike riding had any real impact on those around me from a role model perspective. I also don’t consider one of my priorities in life to be a role model. I’m happy to be a positive example when I can, but I’m not going to decide where to live based on that.

    Having just spent time in a city with lots of similarly minded transportation cyclists I can say the enjoyment of seeing and interacting with other like minded folks far out weighs the ephemeral karmic reward for toughing it out in a place that doesn’t love bikes.

    Now if you are a bike activist in your area that is really involved in local and state politics to change the bike situation I guess that’s another matter. I just ride my bikes and go about my day. I might as well do it some place with great bike infrastructure and bike friendly laws.

    Plus don’t under estimate the benefit of being an example of how attractive a bike friendly city/area is to people looking for a place to relocate. If you can publicize how much of a factor the bike infrastructure/politics of your new home was in making your decision to move there that may well have as much positive impact on policies in bike unfriendly areas when they are working on plans to attract more people.

  • Sharper says:

    I often ask my friends in suburban gated communities an almost identical question: what benefits do you get from willingly cloistering yourself among the like-minded rather than interacting with the greater whole, where preconceptions can be challenged?

  • Alan says:


    “I just don’t have any optimism in the inherent selfishness of the American suburban middle class, and I can’t believe they’ll ever come out of their tanks until they are absolutely forced to–and politicians haven’t the spine required to make them realize the real issues involved with their transportation choices.”

    I guess I don’t see it as being an “us versus them” situation. Afterall, I still drive a car, I live in the suburbs, and I have a long commute into the city; I’m more “them” than “us”. :-)

    My belief is that we are all at different places in life and learning as we go, and that there are far more people who are open to making positive changes than seems obvious at first glance.

    As for selfishness, I see it in all levels of American society; I don’t think middle-class suburbanites have an exclusive on that one… LOL.


  • Bren says:

    One commenter calls the majority of voters who support riding in less bike-friendly places “optimistic beyond all reality”. I agree that we are optimistic, but in my experience, biking in less friendly areas presents a novel example to others who, believe it or not, have not considered the feasibility of commuting by bike.

    At my work I have personally converted several people into bike commuters simply through my example of riding to work day in and day out. My father has also become a bike commuter, in large part due to my example, and he has converted some of his co-workers to bike commuting as well. My girlfriend has cut out driving completely and now only commutes by bike or bus. When she upgraded her ride a few months ago, we sold her hybrid to one of my coworkers who didn’t have a bike. Lo and behold, she now commutes on it. I could go on, but you get the picture.

    The point is simple: cycling is infectious. Ride in a place where there aren’t a lot of bikes, and you will rub off on the people around you. Ride in a place where there are already plenty of bikes, and the people around you may have already made their decision about whether ride or drive.

  • PJ says:

    Great post.
    My wife and I have had the exact same discussion numerous times.
    I have commuted on my Breezer Villager everyday for the last 2 years here in Fort Wayne, IN.
    I know that it has made a difference.
    Love the blog by the way.
    Fort Wayne Bike Commuter

  • robert says:

    you can’t run to or away from something, if fundamental change is what you wish to do, then do it where you stand.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    If you want to set an example, stay where you are. Especially with your pretty bikes and lovely family, people can’t brush you off as weirdos or failures etc.

    And you’ll have the bike paths all to yourself, something not to be underestimated! :)

  • Leon Webster says:

    I have been commuting for over 30 years now. Not every day, but somewhere between 100-150 times per year, based on the weather. I started out riding in Indianapolis, In. and then I moved to St. Paul, MN. When we moved to St. Paul, our housing location was based largely on transportation. Our house is close to a bus stop, and within easy cycling distance of both downtowns. When I started riding my bike to work in downtown Indianapolis, there were only two other people that rode to work, and one executive suggested that my future would be brighter if I drove a Buick. It was the very beginning of the bicycle advocacy movement. Currently I work in downtown MPLS, there are over a dozen commuters on my floor alone, including my boss (different boss), and we bring our bikes into our cubicles. The company I work for has a local bicycle commuter group that has well over 100 members (and a contest to see who can ride the most between May and August). Last I heard, Minneapolis has about 2% bike comutters, and is second in the country right behind Portland. Pretty impressive when you consider that the roads were filled with ice ruts between Christmas and March 1 this year. but it wasn’t always that way. We certainly didn’t move to the Twin Cities for the bicycling. We like the theater, music, art, and the recreational opportunities (including x-country skiing).

    Over this time, I have decided that the most effective thing I can do to promote bicycling is to ride as often as possible, and to smile when I am doing it. Over time, my neighbors and co-workers realized that a) they might know the cyclist on the road so give them a break. , and b) it might even be fun to try it them selves.

    My suggestion is that you pick a city you like, and then pick a location in that city that allows you to live the lifestyle you prefer.

  • Lyle says:

    The town I live in, Chico, CA, is a rural farming community with about 100,000 people and has a state university with about 16,000 students located on a small campus in the center of town. The university has a very pro bicycle policy and many students cycle to campus. It’s undoubtedly the most bicycle friendly place I’ve ever lived.

    Moving here from Seattle in 2002, I was amazed at how many people bicycled and how courteous drivers were towards bicyclists. The city council is pro bicycle and has a master bicycle plan with new lanes, paths and parking being added as money allows. The council also has a bicycle advisory board. Although Seattle has probably passed Chico in facilities and commitment to bicycles in the past 8 years, Chico remains a wonderful place to cycle and due to the university, probably always will.

    Living here, I don’t feel like a salmon anymore like I did in pre-bicycle crazed Seattle. It helps that California’s central valley is flat and the climate is warm!

    Did I make a difference in Seattle? Maybe a little bit. Have I made a difference in Chico? Maybe a little bit.

    In places where nobody bicycles, cyclists can stand out as freaks. In places where bicycles are more common, it’s harder to make a difference. But, in the end, it’s all about reaching that critical mass, whatever that might be in relation to where you live.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    Maybe there’s two different kinds of bike-friendly:
    1. it’s reasonably easy for adults to get places by bike
    2. a lot of people ride bikes

    Judging from this blog, your town is already bike-friendly according to number 1 but not according to number 2. And in that case, it needs people cycling! Otherwise people will say “look at all the bike paths we built, all for nothing”.

  • Logan says:

    Wow! After reading the comments this morning I realize how hot and contentious this topic is Alan! Thanks for bringing this up!

    After meeting both you and Michael I believe you have made a tremendous influence on your resident community and also the online community. I think one other important cycling recruitment tool besides your location is making cycling aesthetically attractive and hip. I think the candid, approachable demeanor and the fantastic application of beautiful bikes you and Michael share, combine to make an unparalleled force for attracting new cyclists. We are truly fortunate that you both choose to share your adventures here in the online community.

    We are social animals after all and when folks feel the social pressure to be “green” and “eco-friendly” I imagine people typically consider buying an electric/hybrid car. However, after seeing your family on bikes in person and your photographs online I’m sure many of these same people reconsider the electric car and start considering a bike. Hat’s off to your family! Thank you for your work inspiring your local community through minority representation and thank you for inspiring the rest of us in your online community. Tammy and I recommend EcoVelo every chance we get here in Portland and we hope your influence continues to thrive! :)


  • Barf Rider says:

    I moved to a city (Vancouver, British Columbia) 20 years ago because it was fairly bike-friendly. I rode my bike everywhere and I got involved in organized cycling advocacy. It was all very exciting and I honestly believed Vancouver would become some kind of sustainable transportation utopia. Now, 20 years later, motorists have successfully conquered Vancouver and it’s a stinky, dangerous car-topia very bad for cycling. Last year I left and moved to another city.

    The moral of the story is that motorists can wreck any city no matter what cyclists do by setting an example. The best you can hope for is to move to a city that does not attract motorists.

  • dave says:

    bike-friendly cities are bike friendly because some people organized and got the infrastructure in place – someone has to go to the meetings and get support or the infrastructure will never be built.

    Not every rider is an advocate, which is okay, but it’s an important implied part of the question.

    I guess the question I asked myself was not should I move to a bike-friendly place, but what can I do to make this place bike-friendly?

    If I did not have the time for advocacy, then I would be asking myself if it was time for a move. I am fortunate in that sense. Sort of.

  • peter says:

    Density is as important, if not more so, to bicycling than things like special infrastructure. Davis and Boulder are both small, relatively compact towns with pretty complete services and attractions within the towns. Both are a little isolated from the neighboring big cities ( Sacramento and Denver, respectively) so that you don’t want to drive outside the town for routine stuff.

    Both are small/compact enough that you can bike the entire town in a reasonable time by bike.

    Suburbs tend to sprawl with pretty large distances to daily destinations, with a lot of the needed /entertaining destinations in the city they are a suburb of or in other suburbs of the city.

    So it’s unlikely there are ever going to be large number of transportational cyclists in the suburbs.

    Even better than bike towns like Boulder are cities with traditional dense urban centers. These centers are ideal for transportational bicycling, even though in some of them there is not yet a bike culture to take advantage of the physical setting.

    Maybe a town like Philadelphia, which already has a good bike culture among young unmarried folk in its dense “Center City” but could use the impact of more bicycling families. You are more likely to have an impact by your lifestyle in such places.

  • Sharper says:

    I’ll second Logan’s second post; I can say that nine years of off and on bike commuting and two years of heavy bike commuting have probably had little impact on my friends, coworkers, or the people who might see me on the street. It’s been my active participation in the bicycle community outside of the act of riding seems that really saw some results. The number of people I’ve helped get on a bike or stay on a bike by working at the local bike maintenance nonprofit easily dwarfs the number I’ve personally inspired to ride. It’s a similar story volunteering for my local advocacy group; I’ve had many people tell me that they rode their bikes to an event specifically because our bike valet service made it an easy choice.

  • Don says:

    Bike-friendliness is not exclusively by design. Some municipalities, by virtue of density, geography, size, or predisposition, need little outside encouragement to take advantage of the bicycle as part of the transportation mix. In these cases it is hard to distinguish bike-friendliness from other aspects of openness or flexibility. And as mentioned by others, the logistics of modern child care can be particularly challenging.

    Sometimes the quirks of history have unforseen consequences, as when river or railroad cities have fallen by the wayside, only to see a rebirth when technology or other developments allow it. I live in a small Eastern college town with a lot of hills and plenty of old roads that cannot be widened. It’s hard for beginning bicyclists. So the town could be more bike-friendly, I guess. My point is that such things are highly local. Short-sighted infrastructure, like highways that divide neighborhoods or an overdependence on feeder roads, can limit a bike commuter far more than any general acceptance of the bike option, and mitigation can be more expensive. All the more reason to advocate where you are.

    Basically we’re all saying, think globally, act locally. And use it or lose it.

  • Alan says:

    Wow, this has been a great conversation! Thanks, everyone, for participating. Let’s keep it going…


  • Alan says:


    Thanks so much for the kind words. Michael and I look to you and Tammy as role models and we know you’ll do great things in Portland!!


  • Rick says:

    Alan, when I reference the “the inherent selfishness of the American suburban middle class”, what I mean to say is that it is the consumer-oriented expectations of that demographic that will lead to its eventual downfall, not individuals, per se; yes, you can still do what you want to do as an individual (and I would offer that a majority of the respondents to your question are iconoclasts by merely being your readers), but it is the soul-deadening sameness to the suburbs that people like yourself will constantly challenge, and like Sisyphus, you will have to decide for yourself the amount of futility you’re willing to put up with.

    You say, “My belief is that we are all at different places in life and learning as we go, and that there are far more people who are open to making positive changes than seems obvious at first glance”, but nearly forty years after Neil Goldschmidt became mayor in Portland–which began the extraordinary changes there–and we still seem to be locked into the “car vs. everything else” mentality; having a 24/7 accessibility to a car has become a mindset so persuasive that I’m sure I won’t live to see it change: there just isn’t enough of a reason to force people to do so, and we don’t have leaders willing to try to convince them otherwise. As I’ve learned while working as a nurse for the past 20 years, sometimes you just can’t save people from themselves–you just take what they give you, and move on.

    Sorry to be so negative–birthdays have a tendency to make me reflect on the world–but I’ve come to a point where I’d rather spend my “golden years” being around people that understand my values more easily, and where I can ride safely into my 70’s and beyond.

  • Alan says:


    I know you well enough to know you’ll do good work wherever you plant yourself, Rick. :-)

    Happy birthday!

  • Sharper says:

    I suppose it depends on the nature of the suburbs, too. Even in our backyard, suburban cities like Folsom and Roseville encompass two competing ideas. One is of the small “main street” community — old Roseville, Main Street Folsom, which can be relatively easily (given sufficient pressure) converted to bicycle havens. The other is residential expansion of tract housing and car culture, which is nigh impossible to bicyclize. The former is vibrant and healthy, that soul-crushing sensation comes almost exclusively from the latter.

    Heck, even “big city” Sacramento shows this dichotomy. There’s a reason I live in midtown, not North Natomas, after all.

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    Would be great to have you up here in PDX. If you have any doubts about how far there is to go still, even here, just check the comments section on any OregonLive article mentioning cycling.

  • Rick says:

    Dolan, we have–and we were amazed at how angry–and ignorant–people were; once, the antagonist was the announcement of a bike boulevard in Sellwood, on Spokane, and we followed the story in to a television station’s discussion post.. wow!.

    My family has lived in Portland for generations, my Mom went to High school there, and my grandparents are buried there; I went to school in Ashland and Eugene, and another set of family members live in Klamath Falls… so I know that Oregon isn’t the liberal paradise some make it out to be!

    But we’re going anyway! See you in November–hopefully, Jocey will have another Tweed Ride ready! :-)

  • Frank says:

    I used to live in Hampton Roads, VA and sailed a rainbow sailed Hobie catarmaran. I used to think that Virginia Beach should pay me to sail in the Chesapeake Bay because of the joy people must have felt to see such a sight. I feel somewhat the same way when I ride thru neighborhoods. Whether they realize it or not, a bicycle brings that same feeling. So in a bike-unfriendly town, they should pay people to ride their bikes. The sight makes people feel better about where they live.

  • Alan says:


    That’s a lovely thought. Just the other day we were noticing all the kids and families out walking and riding their bikes on a sunny Saturday morning and it made us smile.


  • randomray says:

    Hmmmm , When I move it’s either for a job or the climate . Once there you find a place to live that fits your life style . Are you living your life or living to make your bicycle happy ? Bicycles are a great way to get around effectively , but not the only way . Now I wear a sticker at work that says ” Live to ride and Ride to live . ” I think Frank is correct cyclists increase the property value of an area . People actually move to Bucks County because it’s so ” nice ” that it has all these cyclists on the roads . And frankly our cycling infrastructure is the pits . I think the drivers are a little nicer here because they’re afraid they might be hitting one of their neighbors .

  • Adrienne says:

    Your question of where there is greater impact to be made is not quite hitting the mark for me. I think that going a bit deeper and asking yourself which environment makes the greater impact for you gets you closer to an answer that is productive. The things that make the greatest impact to us as individuals are the things that allow each of us to have an impact on our surroundings. Unless the change is growing in you then there is no chance at you eliciting change in others.

    So, where do you find the greatest growth in how you live?

  • Alan says:


    I’ve lived in the city, the country, and the suburbs, and I’ve been equally happy and made progress in all three environs. I guess, for myself, relationships and work fuel growth more than where I happen to be living. Maybe this is different for others…


  • MU says:

    “The number of people I’ve helped get on a bike or stay on a bike by working at the local bike maintenance nonprofit easily dwarfs the number I’ve personally inspired to ride. “

    That assumes that you know of everyone you’ve “inspired to ride”. Nothing inspires people to ride like seeing other people out on the roads, even (or maybe especially) when they don’t know them. Advocacy groups and collectives are critical to supporting people to get out there. But I’m convinced the number 1 thing you can do to promote cycling is to ride.

    I think a lot of other commenters are right about how hard it is to get people on bikes in any real numbers in areas that are not bike friendly or even bike hostile. But I’d just remind everyone that places like Portland and Davis (even Copenhagen) were not always big biking centers. It took work, time, and commitment to make them that way. I remain optimistic, but hopefully, not “beyond all reality”.

  • peter says:

    Sorry MU, you are incorrect about Davis and Copenhagen. They are not good models for what you are trying to say. Portland, maybe?

    Copenhagen had a very large bicycling population right back to the beginning of safety bikes in the late 19th century. Bicycling in Copenhagen began falling in the ?late 1960s due to a return of prosperity and so many people began buying cars. Facilities were expanded then as a way to try to maintain bicycling although it has continued to decline somewhat.Similar pattern in Amsterdam.

    Davis also had a very large bicycling population at least since the 1950s as it grew as a college town and before any bicycle-friendly infrastructure was developed or people promoted it.

    Being “bike friendly” may have helped maintain these cycling populations in spite of the car’s dominance, but they started out bicycling.

  • Giffen says:

    I think many of you overestimate the effect that an isolated cyclist has on the community around him. It’s kind of hard to explain, but most non-cyclists in bike-unfriendly communities simply lack the cognitive framework needed to “understand” cycling. In a sense, they don’t even notice cyclists, much less think about adopting cycling.

    Here’s a story that might illustrate my point. One of the three most popular teachers in my high school, a very cool guy, rode his bicycle (very visibly, in his jacket and tie) to school every morning. I viewed this as a kind of amusing quirk, and never in my four years there did I think “Oh, I could be doing this myself!”

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    Peter, “Bicycling in Copenhagen began falling in the late 1960s due to a return of prosperity and so many people began buying cars. Facilities were expanded then as a way to try to maintain bicycling although it has continued to decline somewhat.”

    No. Bicycling in central Copenhagen remained stable from 1970 to 1990. Between 1990 and 2005, it increased 70%. Motor vehicle traffic fell 12% from 1970 to 2005. As measured at the city limits, cycling has remained stable from 1970 to 2005.

    37 per cent of Copenhagen commuters cycle. This includes commuters from suburbs.

    See graph:

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