Today was Bike to Work Day in my area. I had high hopes of seeing large numbers of new bike commuters on the road, but it didn’t pan out. In fact, if I hadn’t known it was Bike to Work Day, I wouldn’t have noticed anything at all different about today’s commute.
Our local TV news had a reporter out this morning asking people if they would consider riding their bikes to work. In every case, the answer was no. The reasons included a long commute, the need to drop off kids, the danger of sharing the road with cars, and the desire to remain sweat-free. I suppose this shows that we still have much work to do, and that in many areas the barriers preventing the average person from bike commuting are still firmly in place.
2008’s $4 per gallon gas did significantly more to increase bicycle ridership than just about anything in recent memory. People were hit where it hurts (the pocketbook), and they responded by leaving their cars at home. I remember train cars packed to overflowing with bikes that summer. Today, with gas down under $3 per gallon, I had no trouble finding a place in the bike racks, even on Bike to Work Day.
While events like Bike to Work Day do much to raise awareness, only with widespread improvements to infrastructure, combined with financial incentives and education, are we likely to see substantial growth in bike commuting. In cities like Portland and New York where investments are being made, the results have been dramatic. In other areas…. maybe not so much.