It’s Bike Month – what’s your bicycle evangelism story?

Posted by on May 2nd, 2016 at 9:20 am

Tour de Fat 2008-27.jpg

Nothing like starting off Bike Month with 80-degree temps!
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to May, the month that bicycle lovers go forth and multiply.

Now that National Bike Month lines up with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s Bike More Challenge and also with the Month that Portland Weather Starts Being Awesome on a Fairly Regular Basis, it seems fitting to spend some time reflecting on the way bicycles reproduce in our auto-oriented society: recruitment.

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Occasionally helping a friend, peer or family member get a hang of the necessary basics of bike transportation is one of the major joys of being a “bike person,” and it’s one of the core traditions of “bike advocacy.” Sam Oakland, the Portland State College English professor whose “Bicycle Lobby” group laid political groundwork for the Oregon Bike Bill, may have been known to more of his contemporaries as the guy who gave you advice on which streets to bike on before the city had bothered to.

Bicycling is about individualism and self-reliance. But it’s also about community, in part because it’s so obviously contagious. What’s one time you spread the contagion, or saw it spread? And how did you catch the bug yourself?

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Bradwagon
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Bradwagon

Making my then-girlfriend get a bike and introducing her to road cycling. Now as a young family we got a trailer for our 10 mo old son and once a week when its nice out on one of her days off she and kiddo tag along a portion of my commute to a coffee shop. Great way to start the day together!

I’m still holding out hope that she’ll come around to the idea of using the trailer to swing by the grocery store on the way home but the suburbs aren’t the best for bike + trailer navigation. My wife is hesitant enough as it is towing it on the MUP’s…

Brian
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Brian

My son was not yet three and it was a rainy, Winter day. At this point he had been on a balance bike for a long time. We drove to a basketball court to have a flat surface to try out the pedal bike for the first time. I held on to the seat while he get on the pedals. Just as I was ready to start jogging alongside him, he just took off! The first thing he did was head right for the biggest puddle. Huge smiles on his face, and mine.
My favorite times with him (and I think vice versa) are riding trails and dirtjumps together.

David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC
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David Hampsten, now in Greensboro NC

“Bicycle Transportation” by John Forester. I bought a 1994 edition from Powell’s when I first moved to Portland in 1997. I may no longer agree with everything he wrote, but it did wake me up towards effective bike advocacy and planning, and that it was a serious study and worth pursuing as a career. Before then, I just a guy who rode and who studied geography.

Deeel
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Deeel

On Sunday mornings, when I was probably too young, my dad would give me some cash to ride down to the donut shop in our small town. I still get that great feeling of freedom and accomplishment every time I get on my bike.

Anne Hawley
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Anne Hawley

My sister, already an avid bike-rider down in Sonoma County, moved home to Portland. She started doing this odd thing: riding her bike everywhere. Honestly, I’d never thought about it before. “You can do that?”

It took a few years, but finally one day I enlisted her help and we went to a bike shop. I chose a bike, my first in 40 years, and she accompanied me on a short ride. She taught me about crossing railroad tracks at right angles; about shifting down before stopping, and getting a pedal in the right position to take off again. She was great!

Many years later, she does Cycle Oregon and bike-camping, and I just tootle around town on my Dutchie. (But she still owns a car, and I don’t.) The only “evangelism” I do is Being a Regular Old Lady in Public On a Bike. Who knows how many other women I’ve encouraged to try it?

Jim
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Jim

I was influenced a lot by Kent Peterson who used to blog about living car-free in the Seattle suburb of Issaquah (now he lives in Eugene). His basic principle seemed to be about just being ok with less which simplifies a lot of things. It hasn’t caught on in the rest of my house, but yesterday my 12yo daughter thanked me many times for taking her on a bike ride to visit several parks in our town.

Happy Bike Month!

Audrey
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Audrey

The Bike Commute Challenge at work introduced me to urban riding and got me comfortable riding on the streets.

Fast-forward 8 years and I’m riding everywhere with my toddler and co-captaining my (very large) company’s Bike Month challenge, hopefully completing a full cycle by encouraging at least one person to try bike commuting!

RushHourAlleycat
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I like to do my part to encourage people to think of downtown as a safe place to bike. It’s so organized and orderly, especially when things are slowed down by commuters, it is really freeing to blast through all that congestion.

eddie
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eddie

When I came to Portland in 1992 to go to college someone told me how to bike downtown from Lewis and Clark through the Riverview Cemetery. While I was still in school I moved to Sellwood and most of my friends would bike up to campus from there so I joined em… Bit by bit my range extended throughout the city.

Once I graduated, broke, it seemed silly to bother with a car when I could go everywhere I wanted on my bike. So I gave the car away. And now I just bike.

Unfortunately folks who are car drivers tend to be addicted to the lifestyle. And it can be hard to talk to them about biking without coming off all snotty about it.

So what I do is, make a point of talking about how I’ve been able to do this and that an errand by bike in casual conversation.

And what I’ve noticed is, some people will sort of perk up and ask how long it took to get, say, from SE Clinton to NE Alberta. They’ll then mention that they’d like to try it by bike themselves sometime, at which point I’ll give ’em tips and hope they try it out, lead by example.

It works better with younger people, they’re more willing to try new things and are more likely to be motivated by biking being cheaper and more fun than driving.

karl d
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CD
Guest
CD

My then-girlfriend (now wife) rode a lot when she lived in Chicago and still does now. When my car was stolen in the Lloyd District a couple of years ago, we talked about what I erupting do if it didn’t turn up.

She suggested a bike and a light went over my head because I realized a good chunk of my trips were fairly short to begin with. So even though the police found my car the next day, I bought a bike about three weeks later and I’m still riding. When we moved in together, we went to a one-car home and plan to remain that way, as we both ride about five miles each way to work.

rachel b
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rachel b

My husband and I bought my sports-hating sister a bike for her birthday. She took to it like a duck to water and it wasn’t long before she was riding Riverview Cemetery and Council Crest. Nobody was more surprised than she that she was kind of ‘sportsy’ after all. 🙂 Her bike has been her main transportation for many years now.

Clark in Vancouver
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Clark in Vancouver

Biking was always one of the options but I didn’t think of it much. I would bike for short distances and use transit for long ones. It was never something I would have said that I was “into”.
Then there was a transit strike and I had to learn how to do long rides. Sometime later I was working until 2am and the transit agency decided to discontinue the night bus service (They’ve since brought it back) so I learned how to bike in the rain.
What I like most is that for a trip to somewhere and back that would be two bus trips, if I bike it instead I’ve saved over five dollars. Do that a few times in a day and it adds up.

As far as turning others on to it I have a philosophy about that. I’ll suggest it if they ask but I think that everyone should decide for themselves if it fits their life or not. If it doesn’t then they shouldn’t try to make it work just for the sake of it. It’s a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Carrie
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I organized a “bike to school route scouting trip” before a gaggle of the neighborhood kids started Middle School. The school isn’t that far away (1.5 miles), but you have to cross two major streets (though there are places to do so safely, luckily for us). Every morning when I see the tween set riding to school it’s so awesome to know I helped them get there. Honestly, they didn’t need the help, the parents needed the assurance that they knew how to get there and could do so safely, and I provided that.

The side benefit is that there are at least 3 cars NOT on the road every morning near the school. And I’m also positive there’s less morning stress in those houses as they get everyone out the door where they need to be, because mom or dad doesn’t need to add in another trip via car somewhere.

pdxhobbitmom
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pdxhobbitmom

When I lived in Dallas, Texas, I would ride my bike to work fairly often. I didn’t evangelize people about bike riding; in fact, I tried to keep it as below the radar as possible because most people thought I was a freak for doing it. There were a couple of times when I invited a friend to ride to work along with me. But the absolute best was one day, when I was walking down the hallway to my office after getting cleaned up, I saw one of my coworkers wheeling her bike in the door. She was well-to-do, well-dressed, well-connected, and one of the people who most enjoyed poking fun at my bike riding (in a friendly way). I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have considered riding her bike to work if freaky old me hadn’t put the thought in her head. I don’t know if she ever did it again, but it made me so happy to know that there really is hope for everyone.

Sam
Guest
Sam

14 years ago I taught me new wife how to ride a bike. She had not ridden one since she was 12 years old. She was scared and cried but she stuck with it. Four years after that she was pulling are 1 year old son around town in a Burley trailer. Further down the road of years she was pulling both our 4 old son and 1 year old daughter in the Burley. Shortly after that the boy moved to a tag-a-log and my wife was strong enough and confident enough ride to pull the bike/tag-a-log/trailer double rig to schools and various errands. (Metal Cowboy family style.) Now our daughter is still on the tag-a-log for longer rides but soon we’ll be a family of four travel around town.

Mao
Guest
Mao

My middle school bike got stole from our backyard. But that was close enough so I just walked. In high school we got passes each month, then I graduated.

I could no longer get free bus passes, so every transit ticket came out of my pocket. A round trip was about 4 bucks. Five trips a week would be about 20, one month was about 100, one year becomes 1200.

I could be spending that money on junk food!

doug B
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doug B

Love all these stories!

Julia
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Julia

I saw a guy who worked at Sweetpea baking wearing a Car-Free shirt and I never knew that was something that might be a good thing. I was raised to think that people without cars were losers. I had just moved to Portland and got rid of my car and I WALKED everywhere. I thought of that shirt later when I was riding my bike for the first time downtown. I have been car free for 6 years, now.