Slow Ride, Take It Easy

I’ve been thinking a lot about slowness lately. Part of my
inspiration has been from necessity: I recently found an old tandem
bike on Craigslist and have been using it to get around Brooklyn with
the kid. It weighs roughly one ton. It has only one speed, and only one
pace: stately. When riding it, I affect a lordly indifference to the
cars and bikes that whiz by.

3593842052_03235f0de7_m.jpgWith a bike like this, you could learn to ride more slowly, too. Photo by Beat Bike Blog.

And
it feels great. Especially after a couple of days spent racing around
town on my other bike, which is light and fleet and always seems to be
asking me why I bother stopping when the light turns red (that’s
another post).

Slow biking as an international phenomenon may not be as well known as slow food, but it’s out there and growing, along with many other manifestations of a slow movement
embraced by people who find the hectic pace of the 21st century
dehumanizing and counterproductive. You can find a slow biking
manifesto at The Slow Bicycle Movement website. Brought to you by the Copenhagenize folks, this is a blog that moves at an appropriately glacial pace.

Many slow bikers are also cycle chic aficionados. One of our most recent additions to the Streetsblog Network, Charleston Cycle Chic, is a great example. (We’ve added Cycle Chic Estonia,
too, because, you know, why not?) We applaud these efforts because they
are part of a trend across the world, and even the good old US of A,
toward "normalizing" cycling as transportation.

Another of our member blogs, The Beat Bike of Hartford, CT, has this to say about the slow ride:

One
of the things I noticed when I was in Cuba is that the people there
ride their bikes slowly. Singlespeeds are prevalent, but even bikes
that appear to have functioning derailleurs or internally geared hubs
are usually left on one speed, and people just plod along. The average
speed is maybe twice as fast as a leisurely walk, keeping cycling in
the realm of appreciable mechanical advantage while obviating the need
not only for multiple speeds but, for the most part, brakes.

…[I]nspired,
I suppose, by my trip, I decided it might be nice to embrace leisure in
my riding — at least when I am wearing a suit. The problem (if it can
be called that) is that the two bikes I have like to go at a healthy
clip — the handlebars are pretty low, the saddles are kinda high, and
somehow, they make me ride hard. Enter the Raleigh Twenty…

Today,
all spiffed up for court, I endeavored to ride slow on a bike that I
judged would not go fast even if I wanted it to. The result: smashing
success. Rather than be a weird, fast-riding guy with suit pants rolled
up, awkwardly straddling two worlds and two speeds, I embraced my inner
country lawyer and toodled along in old-school, three-speed style. It
was enjoyable, and I didn’t get too sweaty… Also, I was able to
imagine this song as my soundtrack.

Other tidbits that have flowed past us in the fast-moving Streetsblog Network news feed: The Infrastructurist posts 36 reasons streetcars are better than buses. Orphan Road writes about increasing density along commuter rail lines. And Mobilizing the Region discusses the role of public-private partnerships in transit-oriented development.

  • Great post! I was thinking the same thing about the types of bikes I ride. All of my bikes are fairly fast and I wondered why. I have found that I have taken on the hectic pace of the traffic around me and my bikes reflect that.

    I have been wanting to get a bike with a chain guard and slower pace. Now that summer is upon us, maybe its time to bite the bullet and get one. The only problem is that I already have four others and they have to hang on the ceiling b/c of lack of space.

  • Tod Booth

    I had no idea there was a “slow bike movement.” My zippy old bike got stolen and I bought a big, clunky “semi-recumbent” thing that let me put my foot on the pavement while still sitting on my saddle. And I soon realized that I A. Couldn’t ride as fast as I used to and B. LOVED not riding as fast as I used to. The usual SF streetbike — handlebars low with body poised like a jockey — just begs a person to try and match or beat the traffic speed. Once I slowed down I felt much calmer and much safer. Nowadays I love it when all the other bikes are whizzing past me, looking just as frantic to get where they’re going as the folks in their cars. Slow down! Enjoy the scenery!

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