Bike to Work Day: Communities and Sustainable Life

[Updated] Thursday, May 18th was Bike to Work Day. The city of LA and its surrounding suburbs participated in various activities and sponsored prizes in hopes of encouraging people to ride their bikes to work more often. I participated in Pasadena’s Bike to Work Day and their sponsored events. Cyclists met in front of the central library from 7-8:30 A.M., ate a continental breakfast, had tune-ups done on their bikes, received door prizes and had their names put in various raffling drawings.  [You can also read this article on CICLE.org]

I can’t say whether the event was a success or not, and I am not sure whether it really matters to make such a claim. There were about 50 people there when I was there and everyone seemed to have a really great time. But when I consider how many people work in Pasadena alone, even if 100 people showed up to the event, I am not so sure it would be considered a “success??? if you’re a numbers person; fortunately I am not.
There are two things I can think of that make things like this a success: considering the “first time riders??? and building a community of support for current bikers. There were a number of people who rode their bikes into Pasadena for the first time. One woman from my work place, Fuller Theological Seminary, rode her bike from seven miles out for the first time. We celebrated such a brave ride. Hopefully she will ride again; hopefully many of the first-time riders will have the determination to keep it up.

My co-worker’s seven mile ride seemed more sustainable than some of the other first-time riders; a couple of gentlemen who work for the City of Pasadena rode in from Simi Valley (43 miles) and another supposedly came from Irvine (55 miles). Getting people to ride for the first time is great because it helps them see that it really can be done and hope that its “not so bad.??? But having people ride from 50 miles out, though a triumph in one sense, is just not sustainable. The next time these guys ride their bikes to work will be next May.

It seems to me one of the main points of sponsoring a “ride to work day??? is to encourage more people to ride their bikes regularly; we are looking to encourage sustainable lifestyles. If we are truly concerned about this, then we need to consider whether we should be working so far from where we live. If I have to train for months in order to ride my bike to work one day a year, I may be living outside the “sustainable lifestyle??? boundaries. In addition to this we factor in the credible threat of global warming and the continual uncertainty of gas prices, and it seems even less “responsible??? to live such long-distance lives.

There was another aspect that was successful in Thursday’s events: building a community of people who are interested in living sustainable lives (and letting people know that a community already exists). This is something websites like CICLE.org and other advocacy groups seek to do. Anytime a supportive community group is assembled for causes like peace, sustainable living, and human rights, we are meeting with success when we encourage more people in these practices and build supportive communities. This is because movements like this need support; they are, after all, seeking to live against the grain of American consumerism and individualism.

If we propose to care about the planet, and I’d say all of creation, then we have to be willing to sacrifice some of our own “rights??? and luxuries to accomplish our goals. Days like “Bike to Work Day??? remind us that we should consider ways in which we can simply our lives. Living this kind of life is not only difficult, its increasingly inconvenient. I was thankful to be with people trying to rally together and help one another remember our reasons for advocacy.

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.