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Friendly is as friendly does
I’ve never considered Lawrence or Kansas to be particularly bicycle-unfriendly, in part because, with the exception of the time I saw a hot, grumpy, tired and possibly bonking cyclist taking out his frustrations on a balky derailleur with a tire lever (oh, wait, that was me), I’ve never really witnessed anyone show any emotion at all toward a bike.
So I’ve always been somewhat amused that the League of American Bicyclists (not to be confused with the Extraordinary Gentlemen) honors Bicycle Friendly communities, businesses and universities. According to the League, “The Bicycle Friendly America program provides incentives, hands-on assistance, and award recognition for communities, universities and businesses that actively support bicycling, and ranks states annually based on their level of bike-friendliness.”
The funny part, of course, is that any community, university or business would be friendly toward a bicycle, which would so not appreciate the gesture, when it could make nice with, say, a bicyclist instead.
Anyway, Kansas isn’t particularly kinds to its bikes. The state ranks 34th nationally, with just three Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFCs), three Bicycle Friendly Businesses (BFBs) and zippo Bicycle Friendly Universities (BFUs). BFD.
The communities, you’ll be glad to know, are Shawnee, Manhattan and … Lawrence. All three barely make the list at the “bronze” level.
One of the BFBs is Lawrence’s Anderson Rentals, Inc.
So, yay for us.
All of which, of course, means exactly bupkus when it comes to pedaling the not-so-mean streets.
That said, I just returned from a week in the cycling Nirvana of Seattle (see what I did there? Nirvana? Seattle?).
Washington ranks No. 1 in the country, according to the League, in bicycle-friendliness, and Seattle is a “gold” BFC. Only three cities — Boulder, Colo.; Davis, Calif.; and Portland, Ore. — get the more-precious “platinum” designation.
And after a week in the glorious Pacific Northwest, where the temperature never rose above 62, I can see why Seattle is so highly regarded by the League.
Everywhere I looked there was infrastructure in place to facilitate cycling: multi-use trails, sharrows, signage, bike lanes and bike racks galore.
I’m sure the weather contributes to it, too. Did I mention it never rose above 62? That makes for a much more pleasant ride than the triple-digit swelter with which I was greeted upon my return. I literally stuck to my saddle during my first ride back. Unsee that, if you can.
I noticed one thing in particular. I was only there a week, but in all that time I never once heard a honk directed at a cyclist (or a cycle). It’s not that Seattlers (Seattlans? Seattlinos?) don’t honk. I’d say they’re just as horn-y as any other city dweller, and I heard plenty of horns, but none that I could tell were directed at a cyclist.
It’s not that the cyclists are any better at it. I saw cyclists blow through stop lights and turn without signals and take whole lanes and strangle cute baby koalas and all the other things that so infuriate noncyclists, but maybe the whole hippy-dippy Pacific Northwest vibe just makes it easier to turn the other cheek.
Or maybe it’s the coffee.
You can’t swing a half-caf dry cappuccino without hitting a Starbucks (how, I wondered time and again, can a city the size of Seattle support sometimes three Starbucks PER SQUARE BLOCK?). Intuitively, I’d figure the more caffeinated the driver, the more likely he’d take exception to, well, anybody. But the whole Seattle vibe is mellow, man, not jittery.
It’s a mystery, but any city that likes its bikes and its coffee as much as Seattle is OK by me.