As I was pedaling between appointments on this rainy afternoon, it occurred to me how far #bikenyc had come in the past year and half. This time a year ago, we were dealing with an inordinate amount of misguided animosity towards people on bikes. There’s still a lingering taste of animosity or apathy (depending on your POV), but in general, the tide has turned. Bicycles and people on bikes are everywhere, from the streets of NYC to ads, editorial features and yes, even car showrooms. More and more people are joining us. It’s beautiful.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012 was the official start of Bike Month here in NYC and the rest of the United States. As I pedaled along, I also mused about the idea of ‘bike month’. Why did we even need the idea of a bike month? Shouldn’t we just be on our bikes every day of the year? If it were normal here, would we even need this?
When I got home, I emailed my friend Marc van Woudenberg of Amsterdamize.com to ask him if they ever had an equivalent in the Netherlands. Being that riding a bike in the Netherlands is as natural as getting out of bed, I thought his answer would be “no”.
To my surprise, he answered that yes, they had “Meimaand Fietsmaand” (which roughly translates into May month Bike month) and that it had been around for decades. In the Netherlands, they use the month of May to kick off the new cycling season, just like we do here in the US.
And that made me very happy. The Netherlands (and Denmark) are the two most cycle friendly countries we’ve got, period. They’ve engineered their roads to favor people on bicycles and foot. Everyone at any age cycles in the Netherlands. It’s not in their genes, they fought for it too. The fact that they had a national bike month too, gave me hope that we are on the right track.
I also discovered that Bike Month in the US had been around for fifty years. That also came as a big surprise to me. I’ve been on a bike for more of those decades than not, but I had no idea that it even existed until last year. Wow, you can do what you do for decades and not know that there was a month dedicated to you. That’s the beauty of discovery when you get involved in advocacy.
The ‘bikelash’ that occurred last year was the spark that got me involved in advocacy. So I can attest that there was at least one positive outcome to that brouhaha. I dream of seeing even more people on bikes and better cycling infrastructure, but this is bigger than just people on bikes. This is about all of us. It’s called Complete Streets.
We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long road ahead of us.
To start Bike Month, I leave you with this video, courtesy of David Hembrow. It’s a wee bit of history and a side of infrastructure. It’s not a normal picture of everyday cycling in the Netherlands, it’s a video of an event. But what I want to point out to you is that no one is wearing any ‘special cycling gear”. There are a few who are wearing period costumes, to emphasize the era of the bicycle they are riding, but aside from that, everyone else it dressed normally. That’s what we need to be fighting for.