I was invited to speak to the Rotary Club in my adopted hometown of Jefferson Iowa yesterday. I gave a brief presentation on why bicycle friendliness is so important to the overall health (both physical and economic) and vitality of small towns like ours. The purpose of this post is to share the slide deck as well as my thoughts about the presentation. Feel free to use the slides and images. If you do, attribution is greatly appreciated.
As I’ve talked to people about cycling over the years, I’ve come to realize that in the minds of many this is an “all or nothing” proposition. To choose a bicycle is to reject the automobile and everything that goes along with it. I think that’s part of the reason so many folks stubbornly resist cycling even when it makes more sense than driving. It doesn’t have to be that way.
So my presentation stressed that pro- cycling is not anti-car. Nobody has to give up their cars. You can get all the societal benefits of being bike friendly…things like civic vitality, a higher quality of life, economic prosperity…even if you never get on a bike. All you have to do is be willing to share your space with people who do.
I talked about the correlation between bicycle friendliness and the world’s best places. I provided examples from Pittsburgh (large), Boise (medium) and Park City (small) that illustrated shared spaces. There wasn’t a single slide of a bicycle-only place.
Even though I was hesitant to do so, I talked about our stubbornly high traffic mortality rate and our implicit willingness to accept carnage as unavoidable. I compared us to the Dutch and explained how they made changes that saved lives. I showed a picture of Dutch children riding without helmets to challenge the irrational assumption that cycling is somehow more dangerous than driving.
Finally, I explained that the best way to make a place bike friendly is to just get on your bike and go. The more cyclists on the street, the more naturally bike friendly the community will be. I understand that people who haven’t been on a bike in awhile may be concerned about safety, so I pitched the crowd on the League of American Bicyclist’s Smart Cycling course that is taught by League certified instructors like me.
I think it went really well. Will anything come of it? I don’t know. Jefferson is already pretty bike friendly but my wish is for it to become more so. I think it’s critical to our future, as well as the future of just about every other small town and big city in America.
If you feel that your community would benefit, feel free to use the slide deck as the basis for your own presentation. If you’re located between the Appalachians and the Rockies and would like me to present to someone in your community, please let me know. I would be happy to do so. We could do it online or I could come. Either way is fine.