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Pedaling: The rural side

June 30, 2014

photoI love bicycling, the wind through my hair and the world up close and personal. I moved to rural Arkansas from a city with a growing bicycle and pedestrian program. My bicycle was my preferred mode of transportation. I had options about where to ride — roadways, bicycle paths, and mountain bike trails. I had my preferred bicycle shop. I helped organize events with bicycle rides to concerts and bicycle valets. I was a part of a community that saw the importance of bicycling.

Now I live in a place with very few cyclists. I am the lone person in my area participating in the National Bike Challenge. Most roads don’t have shoulder. Cars  speed by without checking for oncoming traffic. It often feels unsafe. I’ve found routes that avoid the more dangerous roads. I bicycle roads with beautiful scenic views, rural architecture, grazing horses and cows, wildflowers, and wildlife. I’ve even found a few people who like to ride. Despite this, there is still that fear that a log truck will round the corner in the wrong lane or a car will speed passed and collide with another car.  375069_10152854070820083_714035844_n

But I still ride. I travel to nearby cities and participate in group rides. I commute to work and I ride around my community. I believe that people seeing me and my friends on the streets everyday makes a difference. I’ve thought about starting a bicycle club or organizing group rides. But it’s daunting in a place without the infrastructure — without bicycle shops, mechanics or vocal bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees.

I know there is still a lot to do to improve bicycling in urban areas. Yet if we are going to create safer roads, stronger communities, and a bicycle-friendly America, it is important to reach out to rural areas. It would be great if we could create bicycle and pedestrian programs that connect rural towns with larger cities. These programs could provide workshops and training in bicycle mechanics and safety, show people how much fun it is to ride in groups and organize rides, and teach people to be advocates for cycling in their community. The countryside is a beautiful place to ride. It’s important to build the infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists here too. I’m volunteering to help. Anyone want to lend a hand?

 

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Jamie Chad Brandon's Home on the Web... an anthropologist living, researching and teaching in Arkansas

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