There is strength in numbers. All over society you can see examples of it. Come to think of it, society itself bears out a whole being greater than the sum of its parts. In cycling, the peloton—or group ride—is the perfect metaphor for this phenomenon. The group operates at a level that is unachievable through an individual effort.
There is probably no better week to talk about cultivating cycling culture than the week of the Philadelphia Bike Race. Over the years it has known many names, but this year it has started a new, with fresh race organization and sponsorship. It is a true showcase for our city and its cycling community. Cycling will be more visible to the “others” (aka non-cyclists) in Philadelphia this weekend more than any other weekend of the year.
So what though? What responsibility do we have as cyclists to our community? Well it’s simple: Community breeds culture. That is, communities—hopefully positive ones—can grow and influence until there is no longer a simple like minded community, but a pervasive culture. This is how we change our city’s landscape to one that embraces cycling—by cultivating a robust and positive cycling community.
A thriving community means good things for every cycling-related stakeholder—whether manufacturer, retailer, consumer, or sponsor. Manufacturers and retailers get to sell more products. Consumers get better infrastructure and more market parody, and sponsors get a larger market and more return on their investment. So often each of these stakeholders work individually to achieve their own markers of success. Manufacturers try to sell. Sponsors try to market. Consumers lobby for respect on the roads. Retails try to stay in business. But what if each of these entities focused only on community? What if we tried to grow cycling as an idea rather than a product?
Admittedly, that sounds a bit too vague and conceptual for my own liking. A good lofty goal to shoot for, but connecting the dot of wherever you are reading this, to a full-fledged cycling utopia is not simple. This weekend is a fantastic opportunity to start working towards that goal. Come out, attend a group ride, watch the race, and be a member of the community.
At Cadence, we are committed to this idea of community. We understand that it is what keeps us in business. Products are cheaper online. They can be shipped quickly to your doorstep. We appreciate that customers come to us to put their fingers squarely on the pulse of the cycling community—whether to chat about the Tour, or get suggestions on local club rides.
It is our responsibility as a cycling stakeholder to not just be here to sell things, but to work on sharing our love of cycling. This passion and love for all things cycling is what binds a community together. It is the common thread we all share. There is such diversity in the cycling world—from business leaders to students, professionals to the most basic of beginners. All of these crazy people are brought together by a simple love of pedaling.
This community is a two way street. You get more when you give more. A vibrant cycling culture benefits everyone—even drivers. They would probably scream otherwise, but more bicycles are good for non-cyclists. Better bicycling infrastructure keeps cyclists organized and safer in traffic. Not to mention, more cyclist-motorist interaction means a better understanding between the two groups.
The objective is easy, and it is obvious to see all the benefits. Doing it is hard. You can start by coming out to all the great events that surround the race this weekend.
Build community. Ride your bike. Be a presence at your local shop of choice. Frequent group rides. Mentor a lost beginner. Hang back with someone who is getting dropped. Help someone fix a flat when you could just ride by. Join a team. Do a race. Ride a century. Do your part to build cycling culture.