May is National Bike Month, and May 9 marks the first ever official National Bike to School Day. Events celebrating bicycling and encouraging more ridership are taking place all throughout the country. The weather is warm, spring has sprung and flowers are blooming. It’s an awesome time to get on your bicycle, and people are doing this everywhere because it’s fun and it feels good.
The timing of National Bike Month coincides perfectly with the second Weight of the Nation (WON) Conference taking place in Washington, DC May 7-9. WON is a major event designed to raise awareness around obesity and what communities can and are doing to create policy, systems and environment changes to turn the tide and create healthier communities all across America. I’m excited to have the opportunity to present at WON on May 7 during the “Focus on the Streets” panel along with Barbara McCann from the National Complete Streets Coalition, and Leslie Meehan from the Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization and TN Obesity Coalition.
As we work to create a healthier America, one thing is for sure – we’re going to be helped along the path as the bicycle becomes a more integral part of transportation systems everywhere, linking to schools, transit, homes, pedestrian plazas and downtown centers.
I write this blog as I’m on the train to Sacramento, with my commuter bike. I start at the Oakland 19th Street BART station (Bay Area Rapid Transit), taking the elevator with my bike loaded with panniers to catch the Richmond train heading north. At Richmond, I proceed to the Amtrak platform where I wait in the 80 degree afternoon sunshine watching the seagulls do an intricate aerial dance, flying from street lights to polls, singing their sea songs.
The Amtrak train to Sacramento is spacious and smooth, and I easily lock my bike in the front car which is dedicated to bike storage. I watch the bay and various communities as we cruise on the tracks on the trek from Richmond, to Martinez, to Davis (a platinum standard bicycle friendly community) and ultimately to Sacramento, my final destination. When we arrive, I’ll load my bike back up with my panniers and cycle to my hotel near the Capitol. In addition to being a healthy and fun way to travel, the bike/transit combo is contributing to improving air quality, and as an added bonus, I’m able to access wifi the whole way.
Tomorrow I’ll be attending and speaking at the California Department of Public Health’s statewide Safe Routes to School workshop which is focused on non-infrastructure best practices and information sharing and is organized by the health department’s Safe Routes to School Technical Assistance Resource Center. The next day I’ll be participating in TransForm’s Transportation Summit, speaking on a panel with Dave Snyder from the California Bicycle Coalition and others. We’ll be discussing active transportation and health benefits and how we can build more momentum and partnerships to further increase the networks of safe bicycle and pedestrian facilities that connect to schools and other destinations statewide.
As I make this journey by bicycle and transit on the eve of National Bike Month I have time to reflect on how far we’ve come to improve bicycle conditions over the past 10 years, and how much both the culture and infrastructure has changed to become more bike-friendly. It’s great to see this transformation. Still, we have much further to go, and much work to do.
As we begin National Bike Month, I’m celebrating the bike and how it’s a fun, healthy, economical and social way to travel. I’m also envisioning what our nation could look like 10 years from now, when all communities throughout the US are vastly more bike-friendly, and as a result safer and healthier.
”Some may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…” I invite you to join me in celebrating bicycling this May by speaking up for improved facilities, and getting out there to ride as much as you can. My guess is that pedaling your bike will put a smile on your face, and get your day off to a good start.