You can’t help learning stuff writing a weblog.
I’ve learned quite a bit about using a bicycle as basic transportation since beginning Carbon Trace. I expect to learn a lot more.
Here’s one thing I’ve learned to dislike: the gerund “commuting.”
When I started writing this blog I used “commuting” differently compared to traffic experts. I started with the dictionary definition: “to travel regularly over some distance, as from a suburb into a city and back.” Following from this, I also used it to mean any travel at all from point A to point B. So “bicycle commuting” to me was getting around on a bicycle for basic transportation.
I’ve since learned that traffic experts tend to use it to mean traveling regularly over some distance, as from a suburb into a city and back, to a place of employment or other purposeful location. I was using “bicycle commuting” to mean “utility bicycling” — the former one aspect of the latter.
A funny thing happened: I started disliking “commuting,” or, rather, the emphasis I’ve seen placed on commuting in bicycle advocacy. I certainly commute to work by bicycle, and I recommend it to anyone willing to give it a try. But there is general cultural block that makes riding a bicycle to work seem terribly difficult — especially for women. How to dress. Fear of sweating. Time pressure. Social pressure. Traffic fear. All of these and more play a role in the perception that bicycle commuting is difficult.
I now think emphasizing bicycle commuting as a part of bicycle advocacy is a bad idea. It just throws up too many culturally-bound barriers and fears.
This is why I like the 1-mile Solution better, and it is why I used it as the focus of the Drive Less, Live More booklet our local advocacy committee published with the help of Ozark Greenways and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Riding a bicycle near home just doesn’t present as many culturally-bound problems as commuting to work.
If we can get people on bicycles for routine travel near home, they will figure it out on their own that bicycle commuting isn’t all that difficult — assuming positive individual perceptions of proximity and safety that the 1-MS can address.