The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bicycle Commuting: Building Linear Communities

East towards Bellevue 2Everybody knows that Portland and Seattle are bike commuting havens. Motorists see cyclists everywhere and know that those cyclists travel from Point A to Point B while also fitting in a workout, reducing their carbon footprint, cutting down on traffic, and getting a caffeine-free, natural wake-me-up -- well-known benefits of commuting by bike.

What non-riders don't know is that cyclists who ride regularly also form a linear community as they ride. I wave and call "Good morning!" to an elderly crossing guard, who wishes me a good morning in return. I salute the walker who wears Mickey Mouse gloves and waves at every vehicle that goes by. I smile at the long-bearded cyclist I encounter every morning at the same place. I smell the fresh, sugary smell as I pass the Hostess Cake factory. I hear the birds singing and watch the pairs of mallard ducks trolling for their breakfasts. I see the same young boy at a bus stop each morning, playing with one stuffed animal or another as he waits. I chat with other cyclists at stop lights and ride with fellow commuters. I've met a number of very nice Bicycle Alliance supporters that way, out on the road. My favorite bike shops -- and, indeed, shops in general -- are all along my route, not necessarily near my home, but handy to stop by on the way here or there.

This is the beauty of going by bike. In your car, you choose comfortable, climate- and noise-controlled isolation. On a bike, you hear, see, smell, and feel it all, building a depth of relationship with the people and the place unimaginable to the average motorist. And when you roll in soaked to the bone, leaving damp footprints and a trail of drips behind, you know you aren't alone. You're part of the bicycle commuting community.

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