In another thread, Badger said something that I have been thinking about for a while and have started several times to pose to the group. When he said
"One of which was me, the other was a custodian that couldn't afford a car so he rode a Huffy. I respected that guy a lot.", he echoed my thoughts. Almost every day I pass 2-3 people who are obviously commuting by bike because they either can't afford a car at all or can't afford to drive it to work. These are the people you see riding without lights, in dark clothes, often on the wrong side of the street, raising concerns among the more informed of us for their safety as well as our own.
But think about it. These people probably don't know any better. If they can't afford to drive a car, they certainly don't have a computer at home or a propensity to read up on things like cycling safety. They probably don't give it any thought. Just get on the bike and ride to work to make some kind of living. These are the people who really need better provisions for cycling in traffic areas, the ones who have no choice.
We ride because we want to for some reason. To save money, for fitness, for the fun of it and all the reasons we have shared before. I would venture that many of these people have no choice. I have a lot of respect for all of them. Luckily the streets I ride are lighted well enough for me to see them coming and give them space. I always give them a wave and a "How's it going?"
Here is another thought, and I swear this just occurred to me and was not the point of this post. Maybe these are the people for whom we should be advocates of better cycling infrastructure. The less-advantaged who ride to work because they have no choice, and put themselves at risk every day. Bike paths in parks and along the lake are great, but they do little for someone commuting to a downtown location. Bike lanes or at least wider shoulders would do more good. Bike paths in parks, etc., only perpetuate the "bikes are toys" mindset. And, let's face it, the image of people riding to work in their work clothes because they can't afford the alternatives would get a lot more favorable response than the image of someone wearing $200-300 worth of special shorts, jerseys, shoes, etc. riding a $2000 bike to work to get in some extra training time (I know, I know, not really us, but an image some have when they think "cyclist", especially in high-falootin' places like Washington, DC).
Maybe these are the people we should talk about when we write our legislative representatives. What do you think?