Bicycling Rites of Passage, Spokane Style

Inspired by Bicycling Magazine

Cyclists who reading Bicycling know that its content aims primarily at racing cyclists and people who like to think they might be someday. Ads for Hammer and GU gel, car ads that compare the feeling of driving to the feeling of cycling at high speed, training tips for people who plan their lives around “base/build/peak”—this isn’t for a 12mph rider on an old Schwinn, or someone who adds an electric motor to his/her bicycle to make it possible to get up hills without working.

Their Rites of Passage piece has a lot of high notes for their typical reader, and a few for the rest of us. I thought I’d add a few of my own.

First, you might go read their list and the comments. I particularly like the one who said “Realizing that you want to ride so bad that the trailer and kid on the back that add 60lbs to the already 7% climb is a small price to pay.” This person is hard-core, but a parent who's ready for Spokane's hills. (And don’t assume this is necessarily a DAD, either!)

In no particular order, here are some of my own rites of passage—some specific to Spokane, some not. Why not start riding and rack up a few of your own?

  • Catching and passing a guy (after he first passed you) on a steep hill on the Old Palouse Highway coming back from coffee at On Sacred Grounds in Valleyford with your husband who cheers you on, after which he explains the meaning of the phrase "to get chicked," as in, "You just chicked that guy!".
  • Leaving for your morning commute in the rain, knowing that you'll be riding home in either rain or snow.
  • Riding down Stevens at 30-35+ mph when all the lights are turning green for you and realizing it would be so much easier to shoot the lights if the cars didn’t get in the way. (Drivers who aren’t hypermilers do a lot of jack-rabbit starts, then have to slow for the next red light just before it turns green, instead of going at a nice steady pace that would let them keep rolling. They could learn something from the cyclists.)
  • Recognizing that downtown Spokane has a slight rise heading west to east—something you never really noticed when you drove through.
  • Avoiding the Centennial Trail as a commute route because it slows you down. (Did you know there’s a speed limit? 15 mph)
  • Choosing the Centennial Trail as a route because it lets you ride by the Spokane River, and that’s worth slowing down for.
  • Discovering there are some great biking bloggers in Spokane.
  • Creating a log-in at a cycling site with your main email address, not the one you use for warranties and junk email, because you actually want to read the newsletter they'll send you.
  • Volunteering to do something in your community to make it better for cyclists, whether it's working on bike infrastructure, helping put on a family ride, or showing up to testify at City Council in support of a master bike plan.
  • Asking candidates for public office where they stand on using transportation dollars to pay for bike infrastructure—and voting accordingly, since bikes are transportation.
  • Joining cycling organizations and clubs that advocate politically and publicly on behalf of cyclists, not just ones that put on club rides.
  • Realizing you don’t know the price of gas—and you don’t have to, any more than you have to carry change for parking meters.
  • Learning that within downtown Spokane, it’s usually faster to bike to a meeting than it is to find your car in the parking lot, drive, find another parking spot, realize you don’t have change for the parking meter, run to the meeting to borrow some, run back, plug the meter, and scurry back to your meeting in high heels. That could just be me J but for most trips under two miles--and most trips ARE under two miles--the bike is frequently faster than the car.
  • Drawing the circle within which you’re going to house hunt based on three factors: high school zone for your kids, legislative district for your politics, and bike distance to work (and associated hills) for your legs and butt.
  • Walking into a Chamber of Commerce event taking off your helmet and carrying your panniers like they're your briefcase.
  • Saying jokingly to a Chamber staffer, “You put in that new bike rack outside the building because of me, right?” and having that person answer in all seriousness, “Yes.”
  • Having people look twice when you show up at a meeting without your reflective lime green/yellow jacket.
  • Realizing that a building or establishment that doesn’t have a bike rack or other secure bike parking facility isn’t your problem—it’s their problem—and asking them where you can put your bike so they have to solve that problem, the way they solved it for their car-driving customers. (Just last week at the Davenport Hotel they checked my bike like a suitcase—awesome service, delivered without batting an eyelash. If enough of us ask, building owners will catch on and put in parking. They do it for cars.)
  • Falling for the first time as an adult—getting up bleeding—and finishing the ride instead of calling for help with your cell phone. (This one is for Betsy J, founder of Belles and Baskets.)
  • Smiling at a motorist who yells, “Get on the sidewalk where you belong!” because you know the law, and he clearly doesn’t. (Bikes on sidewalks are illegal in downtown Spokane, by the way.)
  • Particularly for women: Realizing that you now evaluate potential clothing purchases based on whether you can bike comfortably in them, in addition to how they look on you and whether they’re on sale.
  • Having bikes in your living room because—well—your house is where you live, and bikes are how you live.

I’m sure there are many more. Add yours in the comments!