I want to bike and walk but…



I want to bike and walk but…

I’m not sure how we missed this last year.

For Earth Day 2010, CTC member Audubon Society of RI challenged students grades 3 – 12 to respond to the lead-in “I want to bike and walk but…”

The students addressed their essays, poems or raps to their town’s mayor and submitted their work individually or had it selected by teachers from 27 classrooms in 19 municipalities. The students wrote about barriers encountered in walking or bicycling to school or visiting family and friends and suggested solutions.

You can read a selection of the works received for the contest on the CTC website.  It’s not just children I hear these types of comments from.  If I could have a nickle for every time I’ve spoken with someone about trying bicycle commuting and they say something along the lines of this phrase, I’d be a rich man.  When you approach co-workers, neighbors, and relatives about biking to work, what do you hear?  Do most people look at you like you have two head when you tell them you ride your bike to work or the store instead of a car?  How do you counter this?


  • MattM
    Jan 13, 2011 at 7:18 am

    I don't get a lot of "I want to bike but…" I get more "I can't imagine not having a car/ How do you go to the store/ What about snow?" I also get a lot of "I can't believe you rode today" and "That isn't safe", usually followed with a statement of belief that I'm likely to be hit by a person driving a car. I think that belief in being hit by what is generally perceived to be the low standard for vehicular control is the biggest thing keeping them from even thinking about it, and why, despite their issues, well designed, well maintained bike lanes are the way to reach out to the "I want to bike, but" crowd.

    I rode today, and it was beautiful, some rough spots, and some great fun working the bike through the tire ruts and packed snow.

  • MattyCiii
    Jan 13, 2011 at 8:11 am

    I stay at my girlfriend's condo a couple nights a week. I keep my bike in her place. Once while awaiting the elevator, another resident told me "bikes aren't allowed in the elevators, you have to store it in the basement." Great, I have to hump 40lbs of bike up and down a flight of stairs to lock it up inside? Or lock it up outside where it is more vulnerable to weather and vandals?

    Thankfully the condo rules don't actually disallow bikes in elevators. But people still think so, which leads to conflict.

    We have laws to protect discrimination against people who need wheel chairs and walkers. People with strollers and wheeled grocery carts are not similarly protected, but aren't discriminated against (e.g. I've seen people take strollers and wheeled luggage that are more unwieldy than my bike onto trains – trains that specifically prohibit bikes.

    "I want to bike, but…" we need a federal law banning discrimination against bikes.

  • Jan 13, 2011 at 9:13 am

    I think that belief in being hit by what is generally perceived to be the low standard for vehicular control is the biggest thing keeping them from even thinking about it.

    Have you ever taken such a conversation to the next level and asked the person, who fears for their life because of the poor drivers on the roads, how they would feel about more stringent training, fines, etc.? I've had a number of conversations with random people along these lines and I'm amazed by how the conversation can go from effectively supportive (i.e. the cyclists is likely to get run over by a poorly behaving motorist) to very defensive, almost on the verge of saying cyclists are at fault for being so foolish as to ride on the road with cars. I then point out this apparent shift in logic and have yet to bring anyone around once they go on the "defensive". It's a paradox I've wondered about frequently… what do people have to fear about better training and more stringent laws or enforcement? I drive and yet have no fear of police ramping up ticketing as a result of speeding or assigning blame in accidents. It's a risk I'm willing to bear and a responsibility I'm willing to take if my actions someone resulting in an injury. My big ask, and perhaps the fear people are actually responding to, is that these rules be applied equitably and there are no loopholes.

  • Dennis
    Jan 13, 2011 at 10:35 am

    I ride to and from work. Once people get over the amazement that someone would not drive everywhere they usually ask me why I ride.

    I ask them if they used to ride a bike. Like as a kid?

    Of course they did.

    Why don't you ride now?


    Then I explain that I ride because I like to ride. Its a lot more fun than driving. Sometimes I go into how it started here in Providence, most times I don't. Then I brush on the other benefits of riding. The conversation generally ends with the same question.

    Aren't you afraid of getting hit?

    I tell them that I already have been hit, many times. And that I realize that one day a driver will kill me. That's usually the end of the conversation.

  • MattyCiii
    Jan 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm


    Dying would indeed suck. I'm resigned to it though, too… I ride RI roads, and I honestly feel I will end my days as roadkill. But for what it's worth, I'll have it no other way.

    I regularly ride Warwick Ave (one of the heaviest travelled non-highway roads in RI). It's two lanes North and South. Here's the paradox: When I ride about 40% into the lane I **feel** safer, but I still get cars passing me in my lane while there are cars in the left lane (do the math… that's two cars, then me, with about 5' to my right). Conversely, when I ride about 50% into the lane I feel **very vulnerable** – but people pull fully into the left lane and pass me as they should (with horn pressed, and at least one finger waving… But, in the left lane nevertheless). Why don't I feel safer, I wonder? (PLEASE NOTE I am lit up like a christmas tree and I wear lots of safety gear). Perception?

    Let's take our lane, I say.

  • Jan 13, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Conversely, when I ride about 50% into the lane I feel **very vulnerable**

    My guess is you know there are those complete nut cases out there, who would actually run you over. When you take up 40% of the lane, there is still enough room for them to get by without having to wait to move over into another lane. When your dead in the middle, they either have to move over or run you over. I think it's a very small number of people who actually devalue life to such a point that they would knowingly run someone over, but they are out there and something in your consciousness knows they are out there.

  • MattM
    Jan 14, 2011 at 9:00 am

    @Mark: I've never gotten to the point of specifics in the conversation about why they think I'm unsafe and what could be done about it. I've decided that the 2 people who generally start a conversation with "You didn't ride today, did you?" are not genuinely interested in a conversation and aren't going to be swayed by anything I say. I usually respond with very positive "had a great ride", "it's just cold".

    I have to agree with MattyCii on the feeling more vulnerable riding further out. For me there are 2 things going on: a little bit of feeling that I'm being rude/inconsiderate to someone else, and a lot of wondering if the person is going to try to squeeze by anyways and clip me. I get the latter pretty regularly on Westminster street between Olneyville and Classical High school. I don't think I'll be hit from behind by an angry motorist. Given current street conditions around Providence, with the bike bouncing left and right, this close passing seems even more dangerous.

  • Feb 10, 2011 at 10:22 am

    No matter how bad biking in Providence seems, it's not nearly as bad as Austin, Texas, where 300 cyclists a year are hit by cars, 4 fatally.
    Granted, while both are state capitals, Austin is several times more populous than Providence.

    RI's population actually grew from 2000 to 2010, but it was the nation's smallest gain, only 0.4%, amidst an average 9.7% growth. Surprised it wasn't a mass exodus, considering 11.6% reported unemployment (actually over 35% and predicted to remain as such for at least a decade), although many are indeed moving to the South and West.

    Texas is an oil state. If you study reports and statistics, you come to a conclusion that oil states tend to fall behind in everything that makes bike-friendliness: complete streets, traffic enforcement per capita, speed limits, vulnerable user laws, etc.

  • Labann
    Feb 14, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    What's wrong with this picture? http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/theblotter/
    Motorist slams Seattle bicyclist, and bicyclist faces 90 days in prison. No charges against motorist.

    And the usual, bicyclist killed and motorist not charged… http://www.kptv.com/news/26860057/detail.html
    You shouldn't bike where traffic is bad, apparently. And where is it not?

    Hopeful note in today's news: Somerset is planning to revert a section of Route 6 from 4 lanes to 2 with the object of making it more bicyclist and pedestrian friendly. At last, behavior to encourage. http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x2106601302/Route-