The Real Bicycle Commuters

Here in the North Dallas area, you see two groups of people riding bikes to work.

Group 1: People who are into cycling, and perhaps committed to sustainable living, who ride their bikes to work because they choose to do so. Which is cool. But really, most of these people have cars. These folks usually have a nice commuter bike.

Group 2: Latino guys who are probably blue collar workers/laborers/whatever, who ride their bikes because that is their only transportation. These guys usually ride pretty inexpensive bikes, and I imagine a lot of them might prefer a car. But they are on bikes, going to work, riding to the train station, or whatever.

This morning on the way to work (in my car), I noticed a  young hispanic guy on a bike about to cross the street. Based on his clothing, I’d say he was on his way to work.  As he crossed and was approaching the grassy median between sides of the road, he gracefully swung one leg over the bike, coasted up to the curb of the median, balanced on one foot on one side of the bike, and easily came to rest up in the narrow grassy space, waiting for the oncoming cars to pass.

Something about this move really made an impression on me. It was so practical. It was the kind of move a real bike commuter in a pretty bike-unfriendly environment would adopt. There are no bike lanes here, it was rush hour, and this guy was making it work. It was not a move that I would imagine any book or website on bike commuting to recommend. And while perhaps not the safest way to cross the street, it was totally practical and efficient. Finally, his execution of the move was so casual and perfect, it just really drilled in the point that this was his mode of transportation.

I’ve never seen much mention of the use of bikes by latino workers in the bike literature. In some ways these people are sort of the invisible members of our society. But local planners should be aware of these folks when dealing with bike commuting, since they are productive members of society.