Friday, January 22, 2010

Social Benefits of Cycling

One thing that has gone by the wayside in America as of late - the concept of community. I am particularly talking about local community in the physical world. Where you live. People shuffle to work today with barely a notice of their neighborhoods, save maybe the the people obsessed with HOA rules or the occasional “howdy there” courtesy wave to the guy down the street you don’t know but pretend to. Who moved in down the street? What is that one neighbors name again? Sorry, but you just don’t get out much, so you likely just do not know. 

Urban Planners like to boast about how they are “creating community.” But are they really? In some cases they are laying the foundations that help foster community - but real community only happens because people want it to. There are plenty of well designed, carefully constructed Urban Planning communities out there that are completely devoid of the “community” part. They are lifeless - but only because people make the choice to be so.

Communities have changed over time and now many people may find themselves connected to more modern communities - like those online - than their real physical community. People can debate the validity of online groups like Facebook and targeted internet forums as being "real" communities or not. I pose that they are and that they are a very beneficial, but a topic for another day. A re-connection with the physical community though is always a good thing and needed today as much as ever. 

Now before hopping in the car to toddle through the ‘hood on the way for a latte - I propose a different method for your short errands. Ride bikes! Experience your community on a bike and you will have a vastly different experience than you can have in a cage. Even in a roofless cage! The hardest step is the first one. Once you are “out of the cage” you will feel - as David Byrne of Talking Heads fame (who rides a bike as his principal transportation) a “sense of liberation, exhilaration, and connection.”

There is something primal about getting through and to places under your own power. It is enlightening. You see things differently. You see different things. The journey to your destination takes on a new meaning. All the while the gaining the health benefits that come with cycling. Do so and you might find that the ‘lil “courtesy wave” you do while driving past the neighbor down the street in his front yard might turn into a real conversation.

What do you think? Have you experienced a greater sense of your own community through cycling?

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