Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Plan: Make New Bike Commuters One at a Time


"Cell Phone Exchange," by Flickr user Thomas Hawk. Some rights reserved.

A long while ago, I had the idea that we could get more people to ride their bikes to work if we sort of held their hands along the way. Not literally, because holding hands while riding bikes, although romantic, is dangerous, but in the sense of helping these would-be commuters to get over the mental and spiritual inertia that makes their feet carry their bodies in to their cars when their souls are clamoring for the rushing wind, the chirping birds, and all of the other happy things that come with bike riding. Since having that idea, I have not taken any concrete steps to make it a reality, largely because I don't really have time and, as best I can tell, there's no money in it (C.R.E.A.M.). Then, two days ago, I missed the 5:15 p.m. train from New Haven to Hartford, causing me to have to wait for the 7:20 train, which didn't leave till 7:40 because it was waiting for the delayed train from New York. And you know how they say that when God closes a door, he leaves the key under the mat or something like that? Well, that proved true in the case of my two-hour delay, as it brought me into contact with someone who re-inspired me to launch my adopt-a-bike-commuter program.

(As an aside, goddamn it, Amtrak! I got to Union Station in New Haven at 5:05, which should have been plenty of time to get a ticket from the automated machine and get on the train. But of course, the machine couldn't read my credit card, and it didn't just tell me that, it had me swipe my card, go through the whole process of picking a train, then asked me to swipe again. After having this happen on two machines (which was especially annoying since my card worked fine earlier in the day and again later), I went to the actual human being at the ticket window, whom I assumed immediately would be nice, because he looked like Allen Arkin (by the way, if you do a Google image search for Allen Arking, make sure Google Safe Search is on, because if not, the second page of search results will contain an image that will (a) make you wonder whether Google has gone crazy or whether you accidentally typed "vagina" and (b) not be appropriate for work), and it turned out that he was a big pain in the ass because he kept telling me about how I can't bring my bike on the train and I'm having to tell him that I take it on the train all the time because it folds and he's asking me am I sure, and meanwhile precious time is ticking away, and when I finally get the guy to take my damn credit card, he's like, "You're not gonna catch that train," and he was right, 'cause the damn thing left two minutes early, right as he was saying that. But I digress.)

So on the 7:20 train, I ended up sitting next to a very nice lady who is a paralegal at an insurance company in Hartford, and we were talking about bicycles, and she was saying how she wants to ride her bike to work because it's only seven miles and she's a strong cyclist and they have showers at her work, but she can never quite motivate because of the traffic and the planning and all of that. And I thought, "This is the perfect case for the Beat Bike Blog Adopt-A-Bike-Commuter Program!"

It didn't seem right to tell this lady, "You know, I'll happily come to your house early in the morning and ride with you to Hartford," because, well, that's a little creepy, but later in the conversation, we discovered we have an acquaintance in common (one of my co-workers organizes a volunteer event that the lady helps to coordinate), so I know I could get in touch with her in a non-creepy way (i.e., through a professional connection), and I learned that she lives in Wethersfield, where a bike-riding pal of mine commutes from every day, and it all started to come together.

So, beat bike bloggers and fellow travelers: How shall we set this up? If you were a fifty-ish lady being approached by bike nerds, what tactic would most appeal to you and make you feel welcomed warmly into the bike-commuting community without undue pressure, weirdness, etc.?

6 comments:

Bianca said...

OMG presidente, what a coincidence. Your fellow blogger Ben is very good at organizing people from Wethersfield and Newington to meet on Fridays to ride to work together.
It's a leisurely ride and Kevin, Matt, and Ben are quite agreeable in the morning. 7am is not the time I "shine". It would be great introduction for new commuters.

The group meets on Fridays at 7:15am at the corner of Follybrook and Cumberland.
You fellows should put this on the BBB map.

Ben said...

awesome, and as luck would have it, tomorrow is not only a friday, but a free breakfast bike to work day!

plus presidente, its not so weird if you let her know about this, because we aren't even just bike nerd boys, we even have a girl who rides with us! of course, she is way cooler than us, but we'll not ask why she does it and just take the cred it lends us......

tell your friend to join us

eva said...

Hm. As someone who spoke to a lot of would-be commuters this morning at a Bike Commute Week event, I'd say...stress that you are a *professional* who rides to work for *excersize* and to *save money.* these are the most "legitimate" reasons that are most acceptable to mainstream people who might be a little hesitant to ride. then, if that goes over well, you can talk about *the environment* and *politics.* but you run the risk of sounding like a political extremist hippie if you start off with that line.

also, just common sense, but unless she really wants to talk about herself, don't ask too many questions about her life/work/etc. use yourself as an example and if she wants to talk about herself, fine, but if you're pushy with the questions it comes off as creepy.

good luck!

Joel said...

I added the Wethersfield rendez-vous point for S. of Hartford bicycle commuters to the beatbikeblog Critical Infrastructure/Key Facilities Map

kshitiz kumar said...

it was a very good idea that we have to do it iwsa wondeful ride

kshitiz kumar said...

OMG presidente, what a coincidence. Your fellow blogger Ben is very good at organizing people from Wethersfield and Newington to meet on Fridays to ride to work together.
It's a leisurely ride and Kevin, Matt, and Ben are quite agreeable in the morning. 7am is not the time I "shine". It would be great introduction for new commuters.