It’s Cleveland Bicycle Week.
And it’s raining.
This is not a Laurie Anderson song.
This is just the way it goes.
Anyone who’s read this far could be forgiven for having already formulated some crack on the righteous vengeance of Cleveland weather, raining down upon the two-wheeled idealists during their festival of two-wheeled idealism. A person could also be forgiven for posting the same on George Nemeth’s new Cle+ Sucks blog. http://cleplussucks.com/
But even with the rain falling like a punishment, you can’t help but find encouragement in the bike culture that has emerged in Northeast Ohio in the last couple of years.
It’s not that those of us who choose to get around on bicycles aren’t still considered weirdos with some kind of zealous, environmental agenda pushing us along. People still think biking to work is pretty exotic. To wit: the Minister of Culture, Michael Heaton rode his bike to work on the one sunny day last week — so that he could write something for the Pee Dee this week. Bless him for pedaling all the way downtown from Bay Village. But on the sidewalks, Michael? Really?
Heaton’s column simultaneously is evidence that while biking to work is still pretty unusual, it’s got the attention of the mainstream just enough to write funny adventure stories about it.
Here’s another sign of progress: Maybe a dozen years ago, the local Critical Mass contingent was meeting in Ohio City, at the underground concert co-op known as Speak In Tongues. Maybe half a dozen riders would gather, and when I told them I wanted to write about it, they were uncertain whether they wanted their radical cycling movement to grow beyond the underground. Biking to work . . . . sharing the road in the city . . . . Shhhh!
By about eight years ago, Cleveland Critical Mass numbers had swelled to about 40. After one fateful night in 2003–when Cleveland police swarmed around the cyclists and wrote a bunch of tickets–then-Mayor Jane Campbell’s planning director Chris Ronayne –now director of University Circle, Inc.–joined the ride. It was both shrewd political posturing and official recognition that bikes belong downtown.
By Summer 2010, Cleveland Critical Mass was drawing hundreds of cyclists every month. Hundreds.
Now, Cleveland can actually talk about bicycle culture. It’s not just the righteous, environmentalist thing to do anymore. Sure, you’re burning less gas and saving money, and pumping out less pollution when you ride your bike to work. Sure, you’re consolidating your commute time with your exercise time, and you don’t get any parking tickets. But for all that to continue, there must be something more. And fortunately there is: you’re having a great time: balanced on two wheels in a line, leaning through your turns. A bicycle is a gyroscope that takes you places.
Please do yourself the favor of checking out Cleveland bicycle culture this week. You’ll meet people. You’ll find encouragement and support that might just get you over that hump of motivation so that you use your bike a little more. And if you bike a little more—trust me on this–you will simply have a better life.
Bike culture even found its way into an art gallery, as Wall Eye presents Pedaling Art. https://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=208311342532611 I’ve got a series of woodcut and letterpress prints in the show, which opens with a reception from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday. They’re pictures of bikes, and they go with a rhyme about riding your bike through the depopulated city at night.
We go flying on our bikes
Through the city at night.
We’ve got generator lights
Front and back, red and white.
When we go downtown
There’s nobody around
And so the only sound
Is our wheels turning around
On the pavement.
Don’t know where the people went.
Doesn’t matter what they think:
The city is our roller rink.
Here’s the rest of the Pedaling Art info:
FRIDAY, MAY 20, 6:00-11:00 PM
Free secure bicycle valet parking provided by Ohio City Bicycle Co-op
8:00-10:00 PM — Stationary bike racing by Great Lakes Gold Sprints
MEGACHURCH AT MIDNIGHT
After party at 1300/Third Gallery, 1300 78th Street, third floor
SATURDAY, MAY 21, 12:00-6:00 PM
2:00 & 4:00 pm — Bike Films
SUNDAY, MAY 22, 12:00-4:00 PM
2:00 pm — Bike Films
FRIDAY, MAY 27, 6:00-11:00 PM
8:00-10:00 pm — Great Lakes Gold Sprints
SATURDAY, MAY 28, 12:00-6:00 PM
2:00 & 4:00 pm — Bike Films
AND BY APPOINTMENT THROUGH JUNE 4