A few weeks ago I attended a conference that talks about poverty. The workshop presenter invited the participants to quickly mention things that come into mind when they think about poverty in the United States. People mentioned things like homelessness, unemployment, poor housing condition, food insecurity, illness (can’t afford expensive health treatment)… and suddenly someone shouted “bicycle!” The presenter stop jotting down the responds for a quick second, and responded back to the person, “Yes, unreliable transportation.”
I guess that participant’s view also represent a lot of other American’s opinion about biking. Biking is more associated to the inability to own a more reliable transportation, compared to other things such as healthy lifestyle or the alternative way to save the energy.
Of course US cities are not like the tiny Holland, and the distance from one place to another is often much further. People work in the city and live in suburbs, and so they need to have a car to commute. Make sense. However, many times I’ve seen people around my neighborhood jumped into their car and drove to the supermarket which is located a block away – just to pick up a crate of beer! I don’t get it. Public library, coffee shop, parks, church can all be found within each of the neighborhoods. I really don’t see the need to go to these places by car if you live around the area.
I bike to work everyday except during the Winter. My apartment is not far from the office, it usually took me just around 20 minutes to go to the office. I have several co-workers who even live closer to the office, but they all drive. All the time. When my co-workers found out that I biked, for some reasons they seem to be very surprised.
It got me thinking about it. The road is flat, it couldn’t be that biking is too challenging. It’s not that we have to be in a lot of different places for work. Is it because it seems strange to bike with an office attire? I don’t know. In Holland I’ve seen people from all walks of life use bike to go around. My professors went to campus in their suites and ties, by bike.
In Albany, there’s no bike trail on the side of the road. In some areas, you can find a road sign that says, “Share the Road” with the symbol of a bicycle. But even with that reminder, I often found car drivers who seem impatient when there’s a biker around.
I only wish that American cities can be more bike friendly. Watch this trailer from an independent movie maker Michael Wolfgang Bauch. You’ll know that there are Americans too who are wishing for the same thing. Come on America, don’t stop biking when you are 10!