It is a sad thing.
Just take a look at this picture.
That’s the bicycle rack outside Pummil Hall on the MSU campus. I took this picture about 20 minutes ago. Nearly every rack on campus — and we have a bunch of them — looks exactly like this. The roads and (unfortunately) the sidewalks all around campus are full of students riding bicycles. The amount of bicycle traffic downtown — always fairly represented — has grown since Saturday.
Here’s the thing: By October, this rack will not look this way. Traffic will lessen (although the weather will still be great). By spring, the racks will be home to many abandoned bicycles.
There are many reasons. I want to discuss one briefly. I have no idea if it is a primary reason — probably not. But it is a reason that I believe does have an influence on students — and others — not to ride. It is a reason that must be met. And, through CyclingSavvy and this weblog, I hope to have some small influence in overcoming it.
OK, here it is: I think one reason students stop riding bicycles is that they have bad experiences riding them in Springfield. (I also think the anticipation of bad experiences keeps other people from riding.)
Bad experiences include: Close calls with pedestrians and cars because of riding on sidewalks. Close passes by cars caused by riding too far to the right and misunderstanding how traffic works and the role of a bicycle as traffic. Honks and anger from drivers caused by riding as a road salmon or making other unpredictable and dangerous maneuvers in traffic.
That’s a short list. And all of it (i.e. that short list) is eliminated by simply driving a bicycle.
I believe one’s experience of pleasantness on the road is determined largely by one’s willingness and ability to drive a bicycle. I don’t think bicycle lanes help (indeed, I think they can make things worse). I think education helps (if you can solve the problem no one has yet solved — getting people to take a class).
So, to that end, following the CyclingSavvy class for women (30 Sept. and 1 Oct. Registration link will be active soon!), I’ll be putting together a student class.
Wish me luck.
Better yet: help me! Gimme a holler if you’d like to be involved. We especially need another CS instructor in Springfield.