The weirdness of it.
On Sunday, I packed up a cake and a camera on the Bullitt and rode over to enjoy Mother’s Day with friends. It was just a couple of miles ride, from Beverly Hills to the Fairfax District, and the day was spectacular: sunny, not too warm, a gentle breeze. I was keen to show the bike to Paris, my nine year-old “nephew,” as his dad has been trying to interest him in riding, and I thought he’d like to see a different take on it. His response? “You certainly live a weird life,” he said. Ha. Game. Set. Match.
The “alternativeness” of the bicycle is ingrained, at such an early age, in this country, and especially in this city. My dad, born and raised (in part) in Los Angeles, thought I was a bit bonkers when I took to cycling in my teens. He told me that in his youth, you either walked or drove. Riding a bicycle meant that you were too poor to have a car, and you didn’t want to be caught dead on one. That view may have changed somewhat since then, but somehow it doesn’t feel like it, not to those who get around on two wheels.
A German study that came out a few months ago emphasized the importance of peer influence in establishing cycling as a normal mode of transit. In effect, the more riders we have on the streets, the more other people will start riding. The behavior stops being “weird” and starts being, well, normal.
The trick is figuring out how to make that happen. I’m not the first to advocate for better infrastructure, and not the first to realize the “chicken-and-egg” nature of it. It’s difficult, politically, to ask for better infrastructure without riders, but it’s hard to get riders without better infrastructure.
But maybe, somehow — if we continue to soldier on, if we keep riding cakes over to Mother’s Day brunches, if we keep asking for a better cycling city — we’ll finally get there.