Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Socializing bike commutes

A couple of posts back, I mentioned socializing bike commuting as one way to ease new commuters into it (or maybe encourage occasional bike commuters to ride more often). Let's push the idea a little more.

It seems like a natural in some ways. One of the advantages of bikes is the ability to ride together and converse but still have one's own vehicle for different origins and destinations. Kind of like a carpool without the annoyance of the pickups and dropoffs. A group of cyclers is surely more visible than an individual cycler. Especially in the dark, rainy months, it might feel a lot safer traveling home with a group. Veterans could share load carrying, clothing, and other riding tips with neophytes. And, assuming one finds an amusing, like-minded group, there would be some positive peer pressure to get on the bike each day.

Could organized groups of commuters scattered around the city become a sort of dispersed Critical Mass (without the baggage)? I think it's possible. Smaller groups with an "acceptable" reason for riding (getting to work) might make a real positive impact on commuting motorists in a way that neither organized disturbances nor lots of individual commuters could.

Obviously, there are some reasons this sort of thing hasn't just sprung up on a large scale. There's the logistical challenge of matching up a dispersed group of cyclers with different schedules and riding preferences (routes, speeds). Especially with commutes on city streets, legal issues might pop up. At what point would your commuting group need a permit? How do you keep the group together through stop signs? None of these are insurmountable, I think.

Two commenters in the post two down from this noted a couple of potential models to build from (the Bike Buddy program (example here) and a once a month version in Toronto called BikeFriday). Kent Peterson also just posted about a proposed bike "bus" program with a similar intent.

I guess some thought needs to be given to who/what social bike commutes would best serve. Once a month (or week?) probably makes the logistics easier and would serve antsy new commuters and the "Critical Mass" visual impact. Daily groups might better serve the group safety and support role. This is Portland, maybe themed commute rides. I could imagine the impact of 30 cyclers from the "natty dressers commute club" pedaling downtown in their finest some Friday morning! Comments welcome. Would you want to share your commute once or more a month?



Blogger bmike said...

hmmm. sort of like the walking school bus, but for grown ups who like to have fun.


glad to see you are posting again. i missed your writing.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Danielle Lanee said...

okay so you might be able to help me... where can i find a baggins bag online??? ive been searching for hours and cannot find them... any suggestions??

4:47 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

bmike: yeah, that's the idea, I think, have fun and change the world, that sort of thing :-)

danielle: Baggins bags came from http://www.rivbike.com/ but are no more. They do have similar looking "Nigel Smythe" bags in tan canvas now, I think, but I haven't used them. Carradice bags are made of similar material and also work well.

7:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

I'm lucky that an occasional group commute develops organically at my workplace. Once of couple of us started and it became "socially acceptable" to ride a bike to work, others joined in. And because there is only one pavement marked bicycle lane in all of downtown Savannah, a good number of us wind up taking the same route to work. Although we don't plan to ride together, spontaneous group commutes do sometimes happen. Other times I'll see a coworker several blocks ahead or over my shoulder or at the bike rack when I arrive.

9:35 AM  

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