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Willie Weir : September 21st, 2009

Are Your Friends Making You Bike?

While riding down on the train for our bike trip within the city limits of Portland, Kat and I read Clive Thompson’s article Are Your Friends Making You Fat? in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. The article goes into great detail about how our social networks influence us. Obesity, smoking, happiness and loneliness spread through our social networks. If you hang out with people who overeat … you will tend to overeat as well. Hang out with a bunch of happy campers, and you’ll most likely be one yourself.

Well, after a week in Portland, I can say it works for cycling as well. The popularity of cycling is riding a bigger and bigger social network wave. If you work in Portland, you are bound to have several workmates who bike to work. Many of your classmates cycle if you are in school. If you live in Portland your boss, teacher, lover, dog-walker, waiter, plumber or tax accountant is more likely to get around by bicycle than in most cities in America. So you are more likely to bike as well.

Portlanders commuting across the Hawthorne Bridge

Portlanders commuting across the Hawthorne Bridge

To stand on the Hawthorne bridge during rush hour and watch thousands and thousands of cyclists crossing the river on their way into downtown, is to witness an amazing social phenomenon.

I talked with a cook at fabulous rib joint where we ate lunch.

Lycra not required ... or even encouraged

Lycra not required ... or even encouraged

“All my friends bike. If you drive your car to a bar to meet your friends, they’ll all kid you about it. Why did you drive?”

But this social success comes only after years and years of advocacy and public policy and progressive politicians willing to make sometimes unpopular decisions. To ride a bike isĀ  cool, trendy, hip and environmentally conscious. For some, it is all of those things–for others, it is just transportation. But most of all, to ride a bike is to be a Portlander.

Do you have friends who live in Portland? If so, they probably ride bikes. And according to Clive Thompson’s article … they make you more likely to ride one as well.

1 comment to Are Your Friends Making You Bike?

  • Last night talked to Scott Bricker, head of the Bicycle Transportation Aliance who is in Victoria BC to speak at a Capital Regional District Advocates session this evening. He said the modal split for cyclists in Portland is 6-8% but from south east Portland it is 10%. These are by and large not lycra-wearing cyclists. Scott said this kind of development has to grow out of the community. In spite of Portland’s high unemployment rate, people are moving to the city for the cycling lifestyle. The cycling education in the schools also helps. Many kids in grades 4-7 receive a 10 hour program of cycling skills. These kids take what they learn home to their parents and influence their peers. They grow up to be commuters crossing the Hawthorne Bridge.

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