There’s a trend I’ve noticed, wherein prominent bike authors known for exalting the vast virtues of the bike seem to also predict – even promote – the odd notion that as the predominance of cycling rises, it must also become boring.
Now, I get it that the Danish wear their normal boring work clothes on their normal boring work commutes. But I’ve been riding to work wearing regular clothes for most of my adult life, and never has the act of cycling felt boring. Whether solo commuting to a job every day or bike partying til the break of dawn, there’s nothing at all boring about riding a bicycle.
In a recent Salon.com piece, a noted cycling writer predicted, “I see it as becoming kind of a boring thing in the next five years, actually. And that would be a good thing. You don’t think about going grocery shopping as an exciting adventure, normally, but when you go by bike now, in most cities, it is. The idea is that in five years, it probably won’t be that way. It’ll just be what you need to do after work.”
Granted, the more you ride, the less adventurous your grocery trip might seem, if for no other reason that you’re more skillful at outmanuvering steel leviathons. Regardless of your skill level, at no time while pedaling your two-wheeled steed should you be suffering a lack of stimulating sensory input. There’s a reason they don’t print t-shirts that read ‘Put the Boredom Between Your Legs‘.
The role of the bicycling “subculture” was also addressed by Mikael Colville-Andersen. He feels that in order to “mainstream bicycling” it needs to be re-branded as a “normal, borderline boring transport option.” To do this he feels like cities should “focus less on subcultures”.
This might be a somewhat biased view based on the fact that most folks riding around Copenhagen do so on bikes that appear pretty homogeneous in nature – where people tend to dress fairly identical as well. And that’s fine. They can enjoy their 36% mode share. But the key to growing cycling as a movement in America isn’t to shun subcultures, it’s to embrace them. I’d argue this, more than anything, has led to Portland’s own heralded 6+% mode share.
It wasn’t bland marketing campaigns that got more people riding. What got us there was Critical Mass, alley cats, urban adventure leagues, disco trikes, Midnight Mystery Rides, craft accessory shops, co-ops, rooftop rides, naked rides, short short rides, hott socks rides, chariot wars, scavenger hunts, Unipipers, bike pubs, bike polo, bike yoga, bike smut, bike farms, bike chiropractors, bike temples, bridge breakfasts, park dinners, dance troupes, disaster relief trials, Zoobombing, palm-treeing, fire-jousting, move-by-biking - and all the other cycle-related activities that form the complex mosaic of cycling culture enjoyed today. The strength of our movement lies in its diversity, not its normality.
There is no greater invitation for the uninitiated than fun. Making the bike experience boring and bland will not entice new riders. It will not forward our cause. What will? Being creative, being adventurous. Celebrate the gift of riding a bike with everyone you can. Tell those you meet to never settle for boredom. Promise the frivolity and zeal that awaits them like nothing they’ve felt since childhood when first exploring the boundless possibilities of their world.
I can’t tell you how many times a newcomer to Pedalpalooza will pull up next to me, panting excitement, asking why this much fun can’t this happen all year. “It can, and it most certainly does,” I reply. Hook them in on the summer festivities and you’re halfway to creating a year round commuter. Once they get there, there’s a solid chance they may find cycling to the grocery store routine, but they’ll never find it boring.
See you in the streets.
“I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.’”
~ Louis C.K.