When I suggested (to my Vancouver girlfriend) that we take our bikes to Koreatown, I fully expected a bit of friction. But I also expected that once I got her out there, she’d be pleasantly surprised by what a difference our little wins here and there have made, and would soon relax and enjoy the night-time ride.
That was a delusion.
Our ride was exasperating. I reserve the use of my bell for avoiding potentially dangerous situations, and even still, I was ringing it the entire ride. We had a near-miss with a driver pulling out of a curbside parking space before checking for cyclists, and shortly after we were aggressively honked at by a young woman in a sedan who was simultaneously sharing an apparently hilarious story with her passenger. …
Cycling infrastructure isn’t about people like me. I’m a diehard. I get a kick out of cycling in the road with the cars. I get a sick pleasure out of blazing past gridlocked Audis and Mercedes on the streets of downtown. I love keeping up with the commuters along the length of Wilshire Blvd, giving them a passenger-side nod as we reunite at every single red light. I’m going to be on my bike whether or not there’s a dedicated lane there for me.
But for Kristi, and for the vast majority of everyone else in this city, that’s not the case. She’s not the kind of person that would “identify” herself as a “cyclist”. She’s just someone who went from relying on a bicycle for transportation in a city where cycling is such an inherent and obvious part of daily life that it hardly counts as a decision, to being forced off her bike and into a car by one where cycling is such a laughable option that choosing to ride three blocks on two wheels makes your friends question your mental health.
Those are the people we’re building bike infrastructure for. And as far as I’m concerned, until they’re making the decision to get out on the streets of their own accord, we’ve failed.