OK, it’s the height of the cycling season. Let’s everybody hold up our right hands (or left hands, or whatever) and take the Bike Guy Pledge for Civility and Reasonableness for the general well-being of everyone on our wonderfully busy — but completely self-regulated — bike paths, lanes and boulevards.
Ready? Say, “I (say your name) … ”
• Will always pull off the lane or path completely when I stop to check my phone, rest or chat, so that I am not creating an annoying and sometimes dangerous obstacle for riders behind, some of whom are quite young and unprepared to swerve abruptly around me.
• Will, if I am a runner or walker, stay off the blasted bike paths, especially in groups, so that I will not be creating an annoying and sometimes dangerous obstacle for everyone around me.
• Will think about someone other than myself when faced with an inconvenient one-way bike path around the lakes, and will, thus, absolutely not ride the wrong way on that path, which every person knows creates an annoying and dangerous obstacle for others.
• Will be sensible about speed — feeling free to go crazy when no one’s around, but cutting back to way-way-slow around crowds, so that I am not a completely annoying and sometimes dangerous person.
Thank you for your pledge and commitment. (You may put your hand down.)
Nice Ride, also a necessary ride
Portland State University recently released a national survey of people who use bike share programs like Nice Ride in the Twin Cities, asking basically: Why do you use shared bike programs?
One category of rider — “higher income whites” — tended to speak about bike share programs as a pleasant convenience. However, “low-income or riders of color” tended to speak of bike share programs — particularly those with income-based discount programs — in economic terms. Those riders were not, in other words, heading off to a picnic; they were using a shared bike to get to work.
If bike share programs started out to be, well, nice to have around, they are apparently also becoming necessary, and an important social equity component of the region’s and the nation’s transit systems.
For example, Bill Dossett, Nice Ride’s executive director, said that last year about 500 people took advantage of his operation’s free, income-based passes to use shared bikes. (Regular season passes this year are usually $75.) And when the new dockless system is phased in, some similar free or reduced-price plan will be available.
These passes will improve the lives of bike share people like the woman from north Minneapolis who told a University of Minnesota researcher, “There are single parents like myself who needed this program in their life. … I was able to land a job in my community because with the transportation of the bicycle I was able to make it to the interview. I didn’t have to depend on the bus, didn’t have to worry about going to the store, to doctor’s appointments I had to cancel in the past because of transportation. … This program made a big change in my life.”
Nice Ride is nice, but, as Dossett said, “It is essential that we continue our equity role.”
Quote of the month
From Edin Barrientos, a South Los Angeles resident, on the bicyclists’ life in Southern California, as quoted June 23 in the New York Times: “Once they see people on bicycles, they think it’s like a homeless person or someone who’s getting to work on their bike because they can’t afford a car. And I think that’s why there’s a lot of hostility around here. Drivers and the public don’t see a cyclist’s life as valuable.”
Cycling tax policy update
A small shudder went through the bike commuting crowd when Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., was defeated in his district’s primary. Crowley — head of the Democratic caucus and potential speaker of the House — was the political muscle behind the Bicycle Commuter Act of 2018. The legislation would reinstate and expand the federal tax benefits that used to be available to bike commuters and their employers.
Those benefits were suspended this year when Congress and President Donald Trump enacted a tax overhaul bill. Crowley’s cosponsor is Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat. His office declined last week to discuss the future of the bike commuting tax benefit, but it is notable that Blumenauer is co-chair of (yes) the Congressional Bike Caucus, a 130-member bloc that is “working for safer streets, pro-bike policies and livable communities.” For the record, every current member of the Minnesota congressional delegation is signed on to the bike caucus, except Republicans Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis.
Tony Brown is a freelance writer from Minneapolis. This column appears the second Friday of the month.