09 March 2008

Utility cycling in nonurban areas: Take advantage of development!

If I had a dollar for every time I saw someone moping and sighing that they would run errands by bike, really, if only they didn't have to live in those awful suburbs where everything is so spread out, I could, uh, pay that upcoming 10.25% sales tax.

Yes, living in a big (*cough*corrupt*cough*) city certainly has its disadvantages, and they tend to be very, very expensive disadvantages. And yes, those expensive disadvantages are things that we badass urban bike commuters tend to gloss over when we're tooting our horns and ringing our bike bells about how wonderful it is to live in a big city and not to have to buy gas.

So you wisely and sensibly decided to live in those dreaded, dreadfully boring subrubs after all, or maybe you already live in some smaller city that, while refreshingly far from the sprawl of a major metro area, has been following similar development patterns at the expense of its small-town feel. But the tradeoff is that you--grudgingly--have to drive everywhere, because everything you need is so far away from where you live.

But wait! Maybe you don't have to drive everywhere after all! What if the only thing preventing you from being the badass suburban utility cyclist you want to be, really, is the fact that you really don't know what lies within a mere mile or two of where you live? What if urban idealists and their dreams of denser development have actually been underestimating the value of that supposed plague--the suburban strip mall?

[Rockford's Perryville Parkway and Path.]

Don't take it from me, take it from one of your own (surprise!) at Commute by Bike:
Commuting 101: Learn your local “village”

"I personally think that commuting by bike is more than just the to-and-from work daily grind. It’s about cycling for transportation in general: Utility Cycling, if you will. A while ago, Warren introduced us to Clif Bar’s 2-Mile Challenge. To those of us who live in suburbia and are in the process of reducing our car usage as newer bike commuters (like me), it can be temping to drive to places that you are used to going to simply because those are the places you go, and they’re too far or too inconvenient to get to by bike for what they offer. Often, there are similar places close to home that you don’t even know about yet. Or, maybe you do, but as a creature of habit you’ve have passed them by."

[Prairie Trail in McHenry Crystal Lake.]

Now, whether or not such businesses have bike racks is another matter. Usually they don't, so get busy creating some demand for secure bicycle parking in your "village." In the meantime, you can usually improvise with a signpost, gas meter, etc., or else simply leave your bike by a window next to the front door with the wheels locked to the frame, and keep a menacing eye on it. One advantage of everyone thinking you're crazy for biking everywhere is that it's a wonderful theft deterrent.


At 09 March, 2008 16:48, Blogger David Johnsen said...

I'm pretty sure that's the Prairie Trail in Crystal Lake. That kiosk-like structure on the left looks familiar, and I think the sign in the background by the guy's head says "JCT US 14" (US 14 goes through Crystal Lake, not McHenry).

At 09 March, 2008 18:40, Blogger Jennifer said...

Our benevolent overlord Google confirms. Thanks!


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