Last week, literally dozens of people from coast to coast donned their helmets and threw a leg in honor of Bike to Work Day. I watched a few of our own locals participating in the alleged nationwide movement, sheepishly waving to their friends that drove by and honked, and digging deep to find the speck of pride that the day is supposed to provide.
For the majority of new participants -- excluding the shprocketwonk population (ie, anyone who knows what Swobo is) -- Bike to Work Day is not a liberating experience. It blows. It's humiliating. And the reason that it sucks and blows and is humiliating is that the vast majority of bike routes and bike friendly facilities in the United States are a woefully inadequate and barely usable piece of crap.
On paper, Bike to Work Day is a no-brainer. We market the event, we draw new bicycle commuters into the population, global warming shall bow down before us, and we toast our energy independence with a hearty slap on the back.
The reality is much less kind. While the veteran bikearazzi enjoy the thrill of riding with traffic, new bike commuters are acutely aware of the true dangersof bike commuting. They feel exposed on non-existent shoulders, as they should. They recognize that drivers care little about knocking them into the ditch, as they should. And they quickly realize that their local government cares even less ... a sad state of affairs, particularly in our own "outdoor friendly" communities.
The largest tragedy of all is that when (and if) a first-time Bike to Work Day commuter makes it home, they've probably had a conversation with themselves about the wisdom of being used as a traffic slowing device by their local DOT ... "Was it really such a good idea? Maybe doing this bike thing once a year is plenty."