The Bicycle Safety Paradox

There have been a lot of posts and articles coming across my feed lately about bicycle crashes and angry motorists and so on and so forth. Bicycling magazine has been among the worst offenders.  I’m not sure what’s going on over there but whatever it is has gotten so bad that I had to unlike their Facebook page.  It’s too Mad Max, and if it is impacting me in this manner  I wonder what it’s doing to the guy or gal who is thinking of getting on a bike for the first time in forever.  That’s what I want to talk about today.  I call it the bicycle safety paradox.

Protected bike lane, Pennsylvania Avenue, Indianapolis. Speeds are low , traffic is light, and the barrier is mostly paint and plastic,  so what’s gained here in terms of safety vs. cycling in the traffic lane?  Methinks nothing.
This is even worse.  Bicycle sidepaths and lanes are seldom cleared of snow and ice.  This bridge crossing on  the Ogden River Greenway in Utah is pretty typical.  The traffic lanes are clear and the better choice for most cyclists who are not adept at riding on ice.

I know that we all want to be safe when cycling and so those who feel the most strongly about cycling tend to advocate for things that we think will make us safer still.  But here’s the thing.  Cycling is already pretty safe.   While it’s true that cycling deaths are over represented in traffic mortality studies, they are not nearly as over represented as a lot of cyclists seem to think.    It would also be surprising if they weren’t over represented given the relatively small number of cyclists on US streets.   As more people cycle, those numbers will come down.

So how do we get more people to cycle?  Well, I think it starts by not scaring the bejesus out of them and telling them  just how dangerous it is to ride a bicycle.  I’m afraid that’s what a lot of advocates unintentionally do.  It’s not just Bicycling magazine.  Here are two other examples.

Protected Bike Lane Advocates

All things being equal, I like the idea of protected bike lanes but are they a must have?  No, absolutely not.  I’ve ridden over 30,000 miles since 2013.  Had I waited for protected bike lanes to come to me, I would have ridden no miles at all.  So when passionate cyclists go on and on and on and on about how dangerous it is to bicycle in the street with cars and trucks around and how we’re never going to get people on bikes without beautiful protected bike lanes, I can’t help but wonder how many people they’re unintentionally scaring off of bikes.  I suspect it’s more than a few.

Helmet Zealots

I thought long and hard before I used the word zealot but it fits.  These folks do incredible damage, mostly because they seem to be on a holy mission.  Why do I say this?  Mostly because they think it’s their place to lecture people like me whom they’ve never met whenever they see us on a bike without a helmet.   I’ve never met a group of people more over the top in terms of stating their case.  I’ve discovered that the only way to really get them to back off is to tell them their helmet is not properly fitted and a poorly fitted helmet provides no protection at all.  This is almost always true, by the way.

Some years back, Mikael Colville-Andersen  gave a remarkable TED talk on why we SHOULDN’T wear helmets when cycling.   Even though I didn’t agree with the underlying premise, I listened because (a) Colville-Andersen is one of the smartest minds in cycling and (b) I already knew that the Danes (and Dutch) generally don’t wear helmets while on the bike and they don’t collectively pay a price for it.   I wanted to better understand why this is.

Colville-Andersen’s talk was about more than bicycle helmets.   It was about a culture of fear that seems to be gripping the world.   It’s a heck of a thing.  We’ve never been safer and yet we’ve never been more afraid.    It has gotten so bad that some parents are now outfitting infants with helmets so that they can “safely” play on the living room floor.  I am not making this up.

thudguard.com

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be cautious.  Of course we should.  I generally wear a helmet on all rides longer than  a mile or two.  When I don’t, I mitigate risk in other ways.   I also love the idea of protected bike lanes, but as is often the case with great ideas, the truth disappoints.  The ones I’ve ridden (Ogden, Salt Lake City, Pueblo CO, Indianapolis) were all more trouble than they were worth.  They slowed me down while not making me any safer.   In general, they took me out of the motorists’ field of vision and that is problematic.  I typically avoid protected bike lanes nowadays.  You may be different in that regard.

One thing I think we all can agree on is that we should never let fear, especially the irrational variety, cloud our judgement.    Life has inherent risks and the easiest way to avoid them is not to live at all.  Bicycling is already as safe as just about anything else in life and all the accoutrements we believe will make us safer probably won’t.   Riding a bike isn’t that risky.  Living a sedentary lifestyle undoubtedly is.   So let’s not worry so much.   Let’s be careful not to scare people off when talking about safety.  We need them and they need us.  If we can get them on a bike, that’s a win-win, so let’s get out and ride…in traffic if that’s your thing.  Bring a non-cyclist or two along.   Wear a helmet, or not.   It’s all gonna be okay.   No.  Check that.  It’s gonna be better than okay.  It’s gonna be great.  It always is.

 

 

 

 

Winter At The Doorstep

I woke up this morning to a different world than the one I fell to sleep in last night.   I heard the rain falling and I knew it was cold.   I was right.   Forty degrees cold with a hard north wind to boot.   Yeah…the trifecta.  Cold.  Wet.  Blustery.  Maybe not winter just yet, but close enough to let me know that I am merely a bit player in a much bigger drama.

I knew this was coming but until it arrived I fooled myself into thinking that maybe this year would be different and it wouldn’t happen.   Just three days ago we were pushing eighty.  That was reality.  This morning reality was slightly skewed.   It had to be a mistake.   Yeah, right.   This is the nation’s heartland.  This is what I signed on for when I moved back here.  This is no mistake.  This is the new normal for the next little while.

Sunday January 8th, 2017…Ogden Utah. 6.8 miles…

And so I remind myself that it’s no big deal  because it really isn’t.  At least not to me.  I’ll dress in layers and fabrics  that wick moisture from the skin.  I’ll shift to wider tires.  I’ll ride on because that’s what I want to do.   Not riding is not an appealing option.  I haven’t missed a day this year.  I don’t see any reason why I should miss today.

It wasn’t always this way for me.  In fact, I didn’t start winter riding in earnest until last year.  That’s odd, especially when you consider that my epiphany occurred way back in 1991.

Jan and I had just moved to the Twin Cities.  It was our first Minnesota winter and it was colder than I ever could have imagined cold could be.   It was so cold, in fact, that the pneumatic fluid in the clutch on our Mazda pickup truck had frozen to a gel-like consistency.  I pressed the clutch down and it stayed down.  I had to get down on the floor with my hands and pull it back out.  Then I’d push it and pull it and push it and pull it and it eventually warmed to the point where I could drive in to work.  When I arrived at our offices on University Avenue in St. Paul it was still dark.   It was also snowing to beat the band.  I would guess maybe five or six inches had fallen and it was still coming down.  The plows couldn’t keep up and yet as I crossed the street from the parking lot to our building, a guy came slogging by on a bicycle.  I’ve never forgotten.

Was it worth the effort? What do you think?  Snow mutes sound.  It was magic…a completely different world.
Now that I have a fattie for the snow, I almost feel like I’m cheating.

I finally had one of these moments myself earlier this year.  It was January 8th, a Sunday morning. We lived in Ogden Utah at the time.  Eight inches of snow had fallen and as was the case in St. Paul so many years earlier,  it was still coming down.  I headed out on my Surly Instigator with the big old knobby 2.75″ wide tires and promptly went nowhere.   I couldn’t get enough traction to ride through the snow.   My plan was to ride every day in 2017 and here I was eight days in and stuck.  Then a plow came by and I followed him down the hill.  When I got to the bottom,  I turned around and came back up.  I was the only one.  People in cars were sliding all over the place.  They couldn’t get up the hill.  I did.  I spent an hour out there and managed to get in close to seven miles.  It would turn out to be the shortest day of the year for me. A few days later I bought a fat bike.  Problem solved.

Ever notice how America’s best bicycle cities are cold and wet places like Denver, Minneapolis and Portland?  I now understand why this is.   It’s possible to ride through the nasty if you want to badly enough.  For whatever reason, people in these places want to.  I want to.  I can’t exactly explain why.

The bottom line?   It’s gonna get a lot colder and wetter than it is today and sooner rather than later.  I’m going to ride today.  I plan to go 30 miles, more or less.  Mother Nature does not decide when I get on the bike.  I decide  and I’ve decided. It’s a great day to go for a bike ride.

Later…

Riding Home in the Rain

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”   T.S.Elliot

There was rain in the forecast when I left home this morning…lots of rain.  I knew I was going to get wet.  I went anyway and I was a full two counties from home when the heavens opened up in earnest.   It wasn’t particularly cold and what wind there was would follow me home, so I didn’t have to worry about hypothermia.

In fact, I didn’t have to worry about much of anything and so I didn’t.  I just rode on as the rain fell harder and harder.  It was surreal, like somebody was turning up the volume very slowly and deliberately. I was out on the plains all by myself and it was so incredible to be riding through a deluge.   Ed Abbey once said there is heartbreaking beauty everywhere.  I know this.   I also know how to find it.    Saddle up.  Ride.  It doesn’t even matter which direction I head.

I posted an entry here a few days imploring people to just ride.  I don’t want anyone to wait for a bike lane or trail that might never get built before they get on a bike.  The same goes for the weather.  Some days are perfect.   Other days are magical.  I never know which I’ll get until I head out.   Once I do, I just need to keep turning the crank until it comes.  It will.  It always does.

When I was new at this, I twisted myself in knots trying to figure out what it was about the bike that was so unique and special.   These days, I don’t really think about it at all.  I no longer need to know why.   It’s enough just to know that it is what it is.

Some of you who have been along on this journey for awhile have probably figured out that this blog isn’t really about bikes.   It’s about something much bigger and much more important.   The bike is just the vessel.  If I ever figure it all out, I’ll let you in on it.  If you figure it out first, please do the same with me.   In the meantime, let’s just ride.

Pura Vida.  

If You Want to Cycle, Just Cycle

One of the things that makes cycling truly unique in my mind is its ability to heal us collectively as well as individually.  Cycling can fix what’s broken in our communities just as easily as it can fix what’s broken in our bodies and minds.

That’s why it’s so disappointing to me to have discovered that so many people who advocate for cycling and walkability seem to be angry all the time.   It bothers them that the idiots (their word, not mine) on their local city council just don’t see the wisdom of bicycling infrastructure.  They rail against motorists and car culture.   Just look at the message threads on Strong Towns or any one of a host of other websites that advocate on behalf of smart cities.    So much of what they post is toxic.

Want bicycle friendly? You already have everything you truly need to get there.

What seems to bother these people most of all is that everybody else doesn’t see it the way they do.  They are incredibly insecure and when triggered they respond emotionally.  Comments I’ve made that have challenged their conventionally accepted orthodoxy typically lead to a spate of name calling and, in some cases, pure hatred directed at me.   I’ve talked to enough other people to know my experience is not unique.  There is a whole cadre of bicyclists who have come to the conclusion that our reputation as arrogant and entitled is well deserved.  That’s tragic.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

At one time, I thought I wanted to be an advocate for cycling but these people have pretty much cured me of that.   The world doesn’t need another screaming voice added to the din.  What the world needs is more cyclists.   I’m not sure that I can help make this happen by shouting, but I am pretty  sure I can do it by engaging in the simple subversive act of saddling up and riding.

I have two heroes when it comes to bicycle advocacy.   Neither one of them talks much.  They’re too busy doing.  One  is a Dane named Ole Kassow.  Ole started Cycling Without Age in Copenhagen back in 2012.  I can’t think of another organization that exemplifies the beauty of cycling as much as Cycling Without Age.  The other is Jason Hall.  Jason is the driving force behind Slow Roll Detroit, a weekly bike ride that brings people together in a way the “talkers” never will.    Slow Roll is what we should all be working towards in our communities.

And so my message continues to evolve and what I believe continues to galvanize.   I don’t need protected bike lanes, sharrows or safe passing laws to ride a bicycle. They would be nice and I understand why people want them, but they’re not really necessary. That’s good, because I will never get those things by demanding them of others who are inclined not to see things my way.  All I really need to cycle is a bike and I already have a bunch of those.

So if you want to cycle, just cycle.  Invite someone along.   Invite everyone along, even those whose world view is decidedly different than yours.  Especially them.   That is how we can change the world.  That is how we can get to bicycle friendly.    The rest of it?  Not so much.

 

Live to Ride Another Day

A friend sent me a video of a crash between bicycles and a minivan in California.   It was in my Facebook feed when I woke up and fired up the computer this morning.   Ouch.  Thankfully, everyone’s okay.  Next time they might not be so lucky.  I realize that it might be difficult to watch, but I think if you cycle regularly on the road you should watch it all the same.  It contains a teachable moment.  Here’s the link.

Screen grab from video. Photo: Cycling Today

What I’m about to say is probably not going to be very popular among hard core cyclists, but I’m going to say it anyway.  As a League of American Bicyclists Certified Cycling Instructor (LCI #4661), my job is to help people learn the techniques necessary to  ride safely on the road in a variety of situations.  Sometimes that means riding defensively.  This is especially important when conditions suggest that what happened in this video might actually happen.

Here’s what I saw when I watched the video.

  •  The road is narrow with no shoulders.
  •  There are limited “escape routes” as lots of trees line the road.
  •   Markings dividing the opposing lanes of traffic are washed out and substandard.
  •  Line of sight is limited.  It’s somewhat twisty and hilly.

Maybe you saw more, but the four items I saw were enough.  The cyclists were properly positioned in the lane…no problem there.  The teachable moment?  If I ride this road, I need to slow down.  I need to exercise extra caution.  Why?  Because I’ve ridden enough to know that motorists do what this particular motorist did, and if I come across him or her at speed what happened here is likely going to happen to me, too.  If, on the other hand, I slow down I greatly increase the odds of avoiding the crash altogether and surviving it if I can’t.

I know all the arguments as to why we shouldn’t have to slow down.  I know the cyclists were in their lane.  I know the motorist crossed the barely visible line.  But I also know that at the end of the day, job one is to get home in one piece and how we ride has a lot to do with that.  We are responsible for our personal safety.    Each of us has to decide how badly we want to live to ride another day.   Every time we get on the road, our head has to be in the game.  We have to be focused not on the ideal behavior to expect from other road users, but rather the “most likely” behavior.  Once we do that, we then have to adjust our riding style to accommodate it.

So that’s why I posted this clip.   I’ve ridden 30,000 miles over the last three years.  Most of them have been on the road and many have been in traffic scenarios I couldn’t imagine when I started this magical mystery tour back in 2013.   I seldom feel unsafe, but that’s because I seldom put myself in unsafe situations.  I practice what I preach.

If you’d like to learn how to ride safely in traffic, I can’t stress enough how important it is to take Smart Cycling from a Bike League Certified Cycling Instructor.  If you find yourself in Central Iowa or nearby, I can help.  If you live elsewhere and don’t know how to jumpstart this process, please let me know and I’ll connect you with a local LCI.

Be safe.  Have fun.

 

 

Corporate Partners Help Fill Central Iowa’s Missing Trail Link

I hopped on my bicycle this morning with the idea of taking the Raccoon River Valley Trail (RRVT) to Perry, a town located about 25 miles south and east of Jefferson. Perry’s the halfway point to suburban Des Moines and the largest town on the trail.  That makes it a worthwhile destination.

The missing link (yellow) will connect the RRVT (west) to the High Trestle Trail (east).

These sort of decisions are always subject to change, but I felt pretty good today.  As I pedaled south and then east, I thought about how blessed and lucky I am to live alongside one of America’s great rail trails.  The RRVT was a big part of the reason we chose to buy a home in Jefferson.  We haven’t been disappointed.  It’s a special trail, mostly because it is loved and well supported not only by the communities that line it, but statewide.  I know there are a lot of fabulous trails in other parts of the country, but there’s only one Iowa.  This sort of thing seems to matter to people here more than it does most of the other places I’ve been.

And so I wasn’t really all that surprised to hear yesterday that Iowa health insurer Wellmark just wrote a $90,000 check to Let’s Connect, the local group that is working to build a nine mile connector from the RRVT in Perry to the High Trestle Trail in Woodward.  This process has been driven for the last year by Perry-based Raccoon Valley Bank.  They’ve also made significant contributions to the connector.   In fact, over 1/3 of the $5 million dollar total price tag has already been raised.  This is going to happen.

High Trestle Bridge over the Des Moines River between Woodward and Madrid Iowa

When it does, two of America’s premiere rail trails will be connected.  It will be possible to ride from our home in Jefferson all the way to Ankeny (120+mile round trip) on the north side of Des Moines via the iconic High Trestle Bridge without ever getting on a road.   We can also continue east on the Heart of Iowa trail to Marshalltown.  Our options, already many and varied, are about to get a whole lot better.

There are a few longer trails than the combined RRVT and HTT trails, but in my opinion none better.  In my work as an advocate for bicycles as transportation, I always come back to connectivity.  Trails may be fine recreational assets, but they can serve double duty as transportation resources…highways if you will…when they connect us to other places.  The thing that’s so unique about our network is that it looks a lot more like a grid than a single line.  That’s connectivity and it will lead to all sorts of serendipity for the region and the people who call it home.

I want to personally thank Wellmark and Raccoon Valley Bank and all the other visionary people and organizations who are working to build out this world class network of trails.  The connectivity they’re making possible will lead to all sorts of serendipity for our region.  I imagine a future where companies will locate along trails like this and people will commute from the small towns that line these trails to work, schools and other places.

Thank you, one and all.

 

Remove the Freeway, Heal the City

Way back in the 1950s, an epic battle of philosophies took place in New York City.  Robert Moses, the Master Builder, was on one side of the battle. Moses advocated on behalf of elevated, sweeping highways and was responsible for many of the access roads that were eventually built in New York.

The West Side Highway  photo: Ed Yourdon on Flickr – Originally posted to Flickr as “Playing ball under the West Side Highway”, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6959213

One of Moses’s elevated freeways  collapsed in 1973.  The West Side Highway in Manhattan was perceived to be a vital link.  Gridlock was feared but a funny thing happened.  Once the road was taken out of commission, the traffic didn’t back up.  It didn’t seek and find alternative routes.  It simply went away, never to return. Thus was born the principal of induced demand.  If you build it, they will come.  If you unbuild it, they will leave.

Induced demand changed everything.  For the first time, traffic engineers and urban planners were able to see clearly that building superhighways through the heart of our big cities was literally killing those places.  This was true in New York, but it was also true in Detroit, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Chicago and Indianapolis.  It was especially true in those places because they had something New York didn’t have:  a virtually unlimited supply of land for new suburbs.

Enter Jane Jacobs, the soul of the city.  Ms. Jacobs was Robert Moses’ alter ego.  Whereas Moses believed that the role of roads was to move cars and trucks through the city as quickly as possible, Ms. Jacobs believed that streets and sidewalks were the city’s vital organs.  They should be focused towards people, not machines.   When they were narrow and speeds were slow, they encouraged life.  When they were wide and fast, they cut life off.

In hindsight, it is now clear to many urban planners that cutting those highway scars created  demand for even more roads and lanes that wouldn’t have existed if the original highways were never built to begin with.  In other words, urban highways were a solution in search of a problem.  These days,  cities from San Francisco to Seattle to Dallas are now removing or considering the removal of urban freeways once deemed essential.  They know that induced demand works.  They know that once the road is gone, the traffic will go away.

Not far from the West Side Highway, there’s a park in the sky.   The High Line is a 1.45 mile long linear park that lines an old elevated railway corridor.   It opened in 2009 and cuts through the heart of lower Manhattan. Rather than divide people as the old railroad once did, it brings them together.   It offers them a place to gather and mingle…to relax…to heal.

The High Line photo: Beyond My Ken – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10811588

Things are getting better in New York and everywhere else.   Jane Jacobs is no longer with us, but wherever she is I suspect she’s smiling.  Robert Moses may have won the battle, but she won the war for the soul of the city she called home for so long.  That’s good for New York.  That’s good for the rest of us, too.

Smart Streets

I recently read an interesting book called “Street Smart:  The Rise of Cities, the Fall of Cars“.  It was written in 2015 by Samuel Schwartz, a New York City-based traffic engineer affectionately known as Gridlock Sam.  I learned a lot from this book and I wanted to share some of it with readers.

As the title suggests, Street Smart is about our streets and how they work (or should work)  for us.  I don’t know how it is for you, but most people I speak with just assume that the primary purpose of a road is to move people and goods in motor vehicles.  Schwartz slays that sacred dragon right up front.  The earliest roads, he writes, predate cars and trucks by hundreds of years.  They were built for pedestrians, oxcarts and other similar conveyances.  That’s something to think about the next time you hear that roads are for cars.  They’re not.  They never were.

This is the crux of the matter for those of us who believe that using bicycles for transportation can transform our places and greatly improve our quality of life.  It’s not about infrastructure.  We already have everything we need when it comes to asphalt and poured concrete.   It’s simply a matter of changing how we use it and that starts by changing perceptions of how it should be used.

Since moving to a small town in Iowa, I’ve been able to see this in a way I never could before.  Jefferson is a very easy place to bicycle.  Local stores and restaurants always have bikes out front.     We’re located on a regional rail trail and that certainly helps keep bikes in the public consciousness here, but we don’t have a single piece of dedicated bicycle infrastructure.  There are no bike lanes, protected or otherwise.  There are no sharrows.   If you ride in town, you ride on the street.  Motorists understand this and are generally supportive.  It works as well as anything I’ve seen anywhere.

This is important.  Most bicyclists I know do not want to hear this, but we simply do not have the collective will to build out a nationwide network of bicycle infrastructure.  Even if we did, it wouldn’t be complete until most of us are long gone.  What are we supposed to do in the meantime?

The obvious answer is to go back to basics.  Streets can serve a wide variety of users.  That’s what they were designed to do.  Instead of letting one user group impose their will on the rest of us, we need to go back to the future.  Roads are not for cars or any other single class of vehicle.  Roads are for people.  Sam Schwartz understands this, and he makes his case elegantly.

What Do I Do With This?

And you may ask yourself,  how do I work this? -Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime

We were  in Des Moines earlier this week and stumbled across some freshly painted bike lanes along Grand Avenue in the city’s trendy East Village neighborhood.  They were protected bike lanes, too…the kind that used parked cars to shield cyclists from speeding motorists.    This is good because study after study shows that the general public is more likely to use bicycles for transportation when and where this type of infrastructure exists.  More bikes means less cars.  Less cars means more livable places.   Move smarter.  Live better.

New and improved Grand Avenue, Des Moines Iowa

So all is well in River City, right?  Well, no, not exactly.  As I walked around and shot pictures, I couldn’t help but notice the confused looks on both motorists’ and pedestrian faces.  They didn’t know how to interact with the new markings on the street.  Pedestrians crossed the bike lane without looking for oncoming cyclists.  Motorists struggled to figure out where to turn.  A Pepsi truck ran over the pylons protecting the lane.    Most of these issues will work themselves out with time but as someone who rides a lot of this sort of infrastructure I know good and well that it’s gonna take a while and that in the meantime people are placed at risk.   I found myself wondering if maybe there might be a better way of implementing this type of change.

Take safe passing laws, for example.  More and more jurisdictions are implementing laws governing how motorists should overtake cyclists on the streets.  This has resulted in a hodgepodge of laws.   In some cases, it’s a three foot law.  Other places have four and five foot laws.  Some have laws that require motorists to move completely into the other lane.  None of these laws are ever explained.  In many cases, they’re not even marked.   They’re just enacted and so motorists have no clue what they’re supposed to do.  Neither do many cyclists.

The same is true of new infrastructure.  It’s great that communities are building this, but it’s simply not enough to throw paint down on the street and pretend that it changes everything.  That’s completely unrealistic.  You have to explain the how and why behind it and few places make the effort to do so.  If you don’t, frustration mounts and resentment builds.

I don’t know when we got so sloppy as a people.  It seems that when I was younger we did things like this a little better, a little more completely.  We sweated the details.  Maybe I’m wrong about this.  Maybe it’s just revisionist history combined with a longing for the good old days.  I don’t know.

What I do know is this.   Bicycles are transportation and we need more infrastructure.   Just as importantly, we need more education and enforcement of laws for all road users.  Engineering, education and enforcement are the three legs of a metaphorical tripod.  If you have all three, the thing stands just fine.  Take one away and it falls down.

 

Lyft’s Move into Rural America is Game Changer for Bikes

Lyft announced yesterday that they will begin service to the rural outback in 40 US states.   This is what I was hoping for when we moved to Jefferson.  It happened far quicker than I thought it would.

Car sharing is the future.  Companies like Ford have embraced it as they’ve run out of creative ways to get people into their ever more expensive products.   Some people see it. Many don’t.  More still don’t want to see it.   It messes with their worldview.  But more and more people are either accepting or embracing the fact that even if they can afford their own car that maybe it doesn’t make sense to allocate scarce resources there.  It’s not just young people, either.   Yeah, they led but others are following.

A new day is dawning in rural America for cyclists and those who would rather get around without the expense of their own car.

So what does this transportation future look like?  Well,  Ford  has also embraced electric bikes,  Their vision is that more of us will use bicycles for trips close to home and share a car for longer trips.   All of our transportation needs will be met and at a fraction of the cost of owning a motor vehicle.    I’ve done the math here before.  The average car costs the average person $9,000 to own and operate.   You can get a high quality electric bicycle now for $2,000  or less and it will last for years.  If you don’t need the motor, it’s cheaper still.  That leaves a lot of extra money for Lyft and other types of transportation, or you can spend it on something else…or even save it.

Lyft in rural America is a huge game changer and not just for Jan and me.  Many of these small towns offer an insanely great quality of life.  They’re less expensive than the big city.  There’s very little traffic.  The air is clean and crime is isolated.  In states like Iowa, most people I speak with who have migrated to the big city tell me that they would come back to the small towns of their youth in a heartbeat if only there was economic opportunity here.  Interestingly enough, it’s not so much an economic problem as it is a transportation problem.   Small towns have always been tethered to reliable transportation.

But the times they are a changing.  As global companies shutter manufacturing facilities, many of these places have become job creators out of necessity.  It’s an old lament that the new jobs don’t pay like the old ones and it’s true in a lot of cases, so the way you make it work is to cut costs…like learning to live on one car instead of two.  The availability of low cost ride sharing changes the economics of these towns.   It makes it possible for some of those folks who left to come home and live the good life.   It gives us another edge and I have no doubt we will leverage it.    Bikes and car sharing are the future.  Thanks to Lyft, that future has arrived in small town America.