Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, but not for the more common reasons that might come to mind, like lots of good food and time with loved ones (although I do adore those parts, too). The reason I treasure Thanksgiving is that as a nation, regardless of race, religion, or class, we have designated a day to give thanks. I share the long-held belief of many that when people can stop and think of something for which they are grateful, they experience higher levels of happiness and inner peace. Sounds hokey? Try it.
We industrious humans work constantly to improve our lives and we complain about what doesn’t work. This strive for improvement helps us make the world a better place, but it’s also important to appreciate what is working and that we have a wonderful place to call home. When people learn that I’m an avid bicyclist, conversations often lead to why people don’t bicycle or what parts of the bicycle infrastructure or political system are broken and need fixing. Why not focus on the positives, too?
Taking stock of bicycling here in Santa Barbara, we have much to be thankful for: pleasant weather year-round, diverse riding terrain, and a community of thoughtful, fun-loving people.
Weather and Terrain: I’m grateful for our weather. We can commute by bike and enjoy recreational bicycling year-round and bask in warm sunshine (mid-day at least) even in winter. Unlike Portland, where bicycling is even more popular than here, rain is sparse.
I’m grateful for our terrain. For a leisurely joyride, we have flat, open expanses of roadways as well as off-road bike paths (check out a past article] for more tips on stress free places to ride in S.B).
When we feel like racking up the miles or climbing mountains, we can ride to points far to the east or west, or into the expanses of the Santa Ynez, Santa Maria, and Lompoc valleys. And then there is the network of front- and back-country dirt trails for world-famous mountain biking (see yet another Pedal On article, Mountain Biking 101).
Roadway Infrastructure and Facilities: I’m grateful for our bicycle infrastructure and facilities — techno-jargon for things that make bicycling safer and more comfortable (stripes on the road, signage, bike racks, separate bike paths). We, of course, need to be vocal about enhancing bicycle infrastructure, fixing those dangerous intersections, and closing the gaps that exist in a bike route. But right now we’re focusing on what’s working, remember? And, by the way, even though the political and financial climate supporting bicycling has certainly chilled in recent years, we have been blessed over the past 30 years with forward-thinking decision makers and planners. Just think, in the 1960s, State Street had car parking, narrow sidewalks, and no bike lanes. Comprehensive planning has led to the State Street corridor, which is being cited around the country as a vibrant downtown area, where pedestrians come to enjoy the wide sidewalks and cyclists pedal their way down to the beach on bike lanes.
Culture: I am grateful for our wonderful community of bicycle enthusiasts.
There is a lot of talk these days about bike culture blossoming in communities across the country and globe. Over the past few years, bikes have become part of the lifestyle of more and more people. And it is thanks to these lifestyle choices that bikes are becoming irresistibly cool.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the many ways that bike culture is improving our general well-being.
I’m grateful for bicycle clubs. My goodness, we have a lot of bike clubs and group rides! There are many no-drop rides with groups like the Goleta Valley Cycling Club, Neon Girls Cycling, and the Santa Maria Tailwinds.
Our many clubs create camaraderie and opportunities for residents to get out and see new parts of our county while getting fresh air and exercise. And when people are riding for recreation and fitness, they are paying attention to roads in new ways that often lead them to advocacy.
Advocacy: I am grateful for the countless individuals who have worked to create a bike-friendly community, and I’m proud to be one of them. We support programs that educate both bikers and motorists. And we do it every day, bit-by-bit, by our actions. We stop for red lights and stop signs and follow rules of the road. We’re advocates when we work to positively increase public and political support for bicycling. Advocacy is not something someone else does. It’s grassroots. It’s about each individual taking responsibility. Start right now. Take a minute and complete this short Fix-It Survey. Document where you see problems that need to be fixed. Stop complaining to yourself and let’s fill in that pothole, fix a dangerous intersection, trim the trees overhanging a bike path, or add a bike lane to a local street. Be an advocate!
Fun: Let’s face it, bikes are fun, and I am grateful for that! Every time I put on my bright yellow reflective vest and get on my bike, I have a smile on my face. When I’m commuting to work, I enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells along my route. I have time to think and breathe. I also love the camaraderie of the monthly Bike Moves theme rides through downtown Santa Barbara. Bike riders are having fun, and pedestrians and shoppers along State Street turn and smile as the parade goes by. I think they wish they were on a bike. When I ride alone, ride with friends, or go to bike events — biking is fun!
We have plenty of work ahead of us to make bicycling an integral part of people’s transportation choices. Let’s just be sure to appreciate the positive things happening daily that make bicycling a wonderful option, right now. We have a lot to be grateful for.