Friday, May 15, 2009

Bike to Work Week - Day Five

First of all, let me say that I really like living in Spokane. We live here by choice, and have no desire to exchange our fair city for another, especially any in Washington beginning with the letter "S". That being said, there are aspects of life here I wouldn't mind changing. The streets really are bad. The last two winters have been long and white, and the last two springs haven't arrived at all. And then there's bicycling.

I have become a bit of a bike zealot. I came to this form of transportation late in my adult life, and it has rewarded me with improved health, a renewed zest for existence, and the self-righteous smugness of having a MUCH smaller carbon footprint than the Dodge Ram Mega Cab Dually drivers with whom I share Spokane. My greatest frustration is the sense that, despite somber lip service to the contrary, Spokane remains a community inhospitable to bicycling. 

One example of this inhospitality is in regard to bike parking. Whenever major biking events are scheduled in Spokane, an attended bike corral is provided. That's good, for otherwise every tree and street sign in Spokane would be festooned with bicycles. There are countless downtown blocks where there is no bicycle parking to be found. The lack of suitable bike racks sends the strong message that Spokane doesn't really expect anyone to ride here. This is in sharp contrast to truly bike friendly communities like Amsterdam, or even Corvallis, Oregon.     

Corvallis has been recognized as one of the most bicycle friendly communities in the nation, with lovely bike paths, continuous bike lanes, sensors at intersections allowing riders to get a green light without waiting for a car or pedestrian to come along, and numerous bike racks on every block downtown. It is not hard to find a bike rack in Corvallis, though finding an empty space at the end of the block you prefer can sometimes be daunting.

In Spokane we are often relegated to locking our bikes to trees, street signs, or using the rack in front of a bike friendly business like Auntie's Books, even though our business is elsewhere. As much as I like living here, decent bicycle parking would make things better.

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