Not a Bucket List, Not Resolutions, Not Really

I don't think we need resolutions in the dead of winter. Who wants to start something new now, in the season of hot chocolate, warm fires and fuzzy blankets?

Resolution season should be in fall with new back-to-school supplies. Or in spring with the bright yet fragile green of buds unfurling.

So these are not resolutions. Nor are they entries on a bucket list. I find the idea of checking things off before I die more grim than motivating, as if life is a series of things on a to-do list.

They're things I think would be interesting to learn or experience someday. If I happen to do them and if I remember this blog entry I'll come back and add the date. Some obviously require far more commitment, funds or time than others. These aren't arranged in order of likelihood or priority--they're random.

  • Make sushi
  • Ride in a hot-air balloon
  • Have a radio show
  • Skydive
  • Ride my bike through Italy. Or maybe France. Possibly England. All three. I'm going to note for the record that while I didn't ride through Denmark, I did bike in Copenhagen August 2019 on a study trip.
  • Or just ride my bike on an epic biking tour somewhere in the US. Done! 2017 Great Allegheny Passage + C&O Canal Towpath, then 2018 Washington state tour
  • Scuba dive
  • Make cheese
  • Watch 100 classic movies
  • Bungy jump
  • Go to Alaska
  • Take a sabbatical
  • Raft down the Grand Canyon
  • Find my maternal grandmother’s family home in England. I'm not going to count the Google satellite view that let me look at it; I mean actually going there.
  • Sew a quilt
  • Learn to change a tire on a car (which I can do on my bike--much easier!)
  • Write a book (technically, I wrote one for the North Idaho Centennial celebration, but I mean a real book with characters, plot, all that jazz.)
  • Learn some form of martial arts
  • Do a handstand
  • Start a business. Done! I ran Bike Style Spokane as a pop-up bike fashion retail business/side gig starting in 2010. I had to wind it down after moving to Seattle to become executive director of Washington Bikes. That's really another thing that could have been on this list: "Run a nonprofit doing work I believe in" has been a career goal for a big chunk of my life.
What are your "maybe I'll do this someday" items?

No Rack?! Now What?

Inspired by a discussion on the LinkedIn Bike Commuters Group

No, not that kind of rack so get your mind back on the bike. The question is, What do you do when your destination lacks a bike rack? (aka bike parking)

#1—Vote with your wallet! Take your dollars to places with bike parking: My closest grocery store has a rack so I like going there. When I set a meeting at a coffee shop I choose one with a bike rack whenever possible (and it’s usually possible). 

There are racks next to Taste, Madeleine’s, the Rocket Bakery on Main, and Coffee Social for starters. Other spots like Rocket Bakery at 1st and Cedar or Rockwood Bakery on 18th have railings you can hitch to.

I'm especially fortunate that my workplace has both outdoor racks and indoor hanging racks in secure locked spaces. Employers who want to attract healthy, active employees need to think about things like end-of-trip facilities (secure bike storage, showers, space to change clothes). Building owners/managers might want to look at these issues too, to make their facilities more attractive in a tough economy for commercial real estate.

Improvise: Street signs, hand rails, fences, benches and other fixed items enable you to use your lock. Parking meters are a last resort since you could just lift the bike, lock and all off the meter so it’s a defense in name only.

Impose: I have taken my bike into a couple of grocery stores and asked someone at the closest courtesy desk or checkstand if I can stash it against the wall near them and if they'll keep an eye on it, explaining that I have to do this since they don't have a rack. No one has ever turned me down.

I occasionally have to go to a meeting at a facility that lacks both racks and anything to lock to. One of our newer local event facilities presents me with this. I take the bike in, explain that there's no parking for me and ask if there's somewhere I can put it.

So far every time I’ve asked, staff have let me put it in a side room, a hallway, near the coat rack or somewhere that doesn’t inconvenience others but gives me more peace of mind that my transportation will be there a couple of hours later when I need it.

The key for me is two sides of the same coin:
  • “Entitlement"--I am a customer and they need to make it possible for me to deal with my transportation.
  • Lack of "entitlement"--I ask politely if they can help me solve this problem and they always do. I think I'd get different (worse) treatment if I got self-righteous or huffy about it.
I also bear in mind that I am almost never dealing with anyone who made a decision not to put in a bike rack, and they probably can't make one appear later either.

It's like dealing with customer service on the phone: they didn't design the problem so they don't really own either problem or solution. They're just there to make you feel better so you'll keep bringing them your business.

And you’re there to remind them that if they want to continue getting your business and that of other people on bikes, they might want to suggest to management that a bike rack should be installed.

Trends in Books, Bikes and Real People

What happened around 1940? That’s when references to the bicycle peaked in books written in English, according to this Ngram created using Google’s newest toy search tool. Could it have something to do with the invention of the cable-shifted derailleur in 1938?

Or was it in 2000 that things peaked, based on uses of the word “cycling”?

Hard to say for sure what happened in 1940 since I hadn’t been born yet, but the rise in references to cycling, biking, bicycles and biking over the past 50 years is heartening.

Remember the Presidential Fitness Test from grade school? I have dim memories of having absolutely zero hope of completing even one pull-up.

Looking at a timeline where you can learn more about bike history I discovered that test—the bane of many a grade-schooler—launched in the year of my birth and may deserve some of the credit for increased interest in the bicycle for recreation and fitness. (Maybe because riding a bike doesn’t involve pull-ups, push-ups or curl-ups.)

As another factor there’s Earth Day in 1970 (for the record, I was eight at the time). By 1978 thanks to the oil crisis more bikes than cars were being sold in the US.

Although "cycling" is the most-used term what I find most interesting is the small but steady rise in the use of “biking” over the past 20 years.

A recent post by Mia Birk talked about the “real cyclist” phenomenon: fragmentation inside the community of people who ride bikes so that one group defines itself as “real” and others as somehow not real.

As I commented there, I'm real enough, but I'm moving away from using the term "cyclist" to describe myself. I find the phrase "bike rider" a tad awkward but I like it better, or just “someone who rides a bike.”

I ride my bike: lots for transportation, some for fitness/health, some for time with friends, some to see if I can do a really long ride while supporting some local good cause—but always because it's fun and freedom and now I can't imagine not riding.

And I call what I do biking as much as—more than—I call it cycling.

Cycling for me summons up Spandex and sweat, intervals and heart rate monitors and pouches of sugary carb supplements. (Yes, Sweetie, I’m talking about your training for races J)

People who drive cars mostly don't go around referring to themselves as drivers. They're people who drive cars, and I doubt they worry about whether they're authentic or not.

Is the little old lady who only drives her car to church on Sundays somehow less of a driver than the guy in the tricked-out hot rod or the suburban mom in her SUV, let alone a NASCAR or Formula One driver? (Well, okay, maybe those last two.)

It occurs to me that the problem isn't with defining "real"--it's the word "cyclist." I think for the general non-riding public "cyclist" (real or not) brings up images of brightly colored Spandex and Lance Armstrong (they don't know who Contador is). If they can't envision themselves ever being like that--and how many of us can really attain a body fat percentage near zero?--they have no point of connection.

For them "cyclist" just isn't the lady in heels on her step-through. She's not a "real cyclist." It's as if all drivers are either NASCAR/Formula One or they aren't real drivers.

Let's be people who ride bikes. Hard to say someone isn't a real person. Then the trend line in future Google Ngram searches will keep biking on the climb.

P.S. If this flashback to the Presidential Fitness Challenge makes you nostalgic you can check out the Adult Fitness Test.

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Help Bike Shop Girl Ride Again

For some time now I've read Bike Shop Girl (Arleigh Jenkins), both on her blog and on Twitter (@BikeShopGirlcom). Arleigh feels like a friend: practical, capable, dedicated to helping women experience the freedom and joy of riding a bike.

About two months ago she went through what all bike commuters have to think about at least some of the time when we're on the road: She was hit by a car. And now she's afraid to ride on the street.

She has recovered enough to be able to go mountain bike riding, but venturing out into traffic? That's another thing altogether.

A few days ago she wrote a blog post asking us to help her get back on the road. Here's my idea--and I know it's cruddy biking weather in Spokane so I'm reaching out to bike folks through Twitter, Facebook and comments on other blogs--

1) Take a bike ride in honor of Bike Shop Girl.
2) Post a comment on her blog telling her you did a ride in her honor to encourage her to start riding again, along with whatever words of encouragement you can share.
3) If you're on Twitter, post a tweet with @BikeShopGirlcom #youcanride in the body.
4) If you're on Facebook write a comment on her wall telling her you rode in her honor to help her get started again.

Let's get Bike Shop Girl back on two wheels!