S.E. Livingston: Women’s involvement signifies a ‘Pedaling Revolution’Author Jeff Mapes wrote in “Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities” that a bicycling revolution has truly taken hold in a city when you see women commuting to work.
Have you seen the revolutionaries? You may have sworn at them or raised your fist in anger. Did they care? Probably not, because they know they are superior to you. The essential elements of their revolution make them more physically fit, more environmentally pure, more fiscally sound, less dependent on the oil industry and bigger risk takers — which make them just tougher people. They are the bicycling commuters, and they are pedaling Duluth into a progressive culture.
I know they are taking over our city because last week I saw three of them at an intersection with a stoplight. There were more bicyclists in line than cars. One of them was a woman. No, I do not seek to be sexist here; my observational value is based on a comment by author Jeff Mapes, who wrote “Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities.” He says a bicycling revolution has truly taken hold in a city when you see women commuting to work.
Cycling has been the activity of fitness freaks, kids and people who have had their licenses revoked because of too many DWIs. But when gas prices soared a few years ago, some people took a look at their dusty bike hanging in the garage, their gas-guzzling SUV in the driveway and the roll of fat around their waist and thought, Hmm … I can see the benefits of hopping on that thing and exercising on my way to work. It would be challenging but worth it. The only downside is risk of vehicular injury.
Oh that. Duluth is probably one of the scariest places to ride a bike. The hills and lack of bike lanes is a part of the problem. A larger danger is the ignorance of many drivers who are under the mistaken idea that paved roads are for cars and trucks alone. The cycling commuters, daily made aware of the risks, outfit themselves in helmets and orange or yellow vests. They also don a kind of courage reminiscent of pioneers and cowboys. How can you not admire these people?
Denis Sauve of Twin Ports Cyclery in Lincoln Park has been a bicycle enthusiast and excited observer of the bicycling trend for more than 30 years.
“What started as a sport grew into a recreation in the ’70s and is now developing as utility,” he said.
In Duluth, they started a racing club and it quickly turned into a touring club in 1976.
Sauve has been gratified to see the number of cyclists growing every year. As fuel becomes more and more expensive and the city of Duluth seeks to be more cycle friendly, the number of people who depend on their bikes and their own steam power is increasing.
I’m speaking from my voyeuristic reality. Do I ride my bike to work? No. Do I run my kids to soccer on tandem bikes? Not yet.
But two years ago my husband, Ernie, hung up his car keys, threw his paperwork in a bike pannier, jumped on his bike and pedaled off to work. He rides almost all downhill to work and almost all uphill in the evenings to get home. Guess where we live? Yeah, just about anywhere in Duluth!
We’ve saved on gas money, fitness club memberships, parking charges and, because Ernie works off his workday stresses on that enduro-pedal home, therapist costs. The sweet simplicity and elegance of getting exercise while getting to work is becoming a celebrated ethic.
According to Sauve, the biking season isn’t too short. Many bike commuters are able to bike all year long as long as they know how to outfit themselves and their bikes. The same preparation goes for navigating the hills. If your bike has a close gear system, and you’re looking for exercise, then Duluth can be biked. It’s not Minneapolis or Portland — but, then again, haven’t we prided ourselves on not being Minneapolis or Portland? We’re just a little edgier.
If you are considering joining the revolution, Sauve has some advice for you: Take the time to figure out the best bike route. Wear bright clothing and move predictably. Most importantly, simply obey the rules of the road.
Not exactly a revolutionary himself, George H.W. Bush as U.S. ambassador to China in 1975 uttered this visionary comment: “The more I think about U.S. domestic transportation problems ... the more I see an increased role for the bicycle in American life.”
Way to go, you buff, bicycling commuters. You are revolutionizing transportation in Duluth.
Monthly Budgeteer columnist S.E. Livingston is a wife, mother and teacher who writes for family and education newsletters in Minnesota (and lives in Duluth). E-mail her at email@example.com.