Celeste LeCompte, Special to The Chronicle
Thursday, July 28, 2011
San Francisco is boomtown for bicycling. And with more riders comes more diversity. Among the growing population of bicyclists are those who eschew speed and spandex in favor of sitting upright and slowly making their way through town in whatever they happen to be wearing that day. It’s a trend that some are calling the Slow Bike Movement.
“When I think about the Slow Bike Movement, I think of bikes that allow people to sit upright, see your surroundings, be more visible to your environment that you’re riding,” says Public Bikes’ Dan Nguyen-Tan. “As a company, we’re in the middle of this wave of growing numbers of people incorporating a bike into their daily lives.”
One of those newer riders is Emma Logan, a human resources director in the Financial District. In March, she purchased a bright orange Public bike to use for commuting and leisure rides. While other riders on her routes from the Mission rush down Folsom or Market streets, Logan is happy to take it easy and arrive at work fresh from a slow cycle trip.
“I’m not hard core,” she says. “I’m just doing my own thing.”
That carries over to when you’re getting dressed in the morning. Slow riding means not arriving at work sweaty or worrying about wearing specific bike-riding shoes or any of the other wardrobe-related concerns that plague would-be commuters. Being a Slow Bike Rider may mean being left behind by the pack of spandex-wearing cyclists in the mornings, but it also means getting to know more about the rest of your community.
“I actually like interacting with the people in my city,” Logan says. “And when you’re riding slowly, that tends to happen more often.”
Both Logan and Colleen Stockmann, who works at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, say it’s easier to strike up a conversation with people on the street while biking. When you’re not rushing past, head down, people tend to talk to you – ask for directions, comment on your bike or otherwise carry on a conversation. Sometimes that means talking to curious tourists, and sometimes it means striking up a conversation with another slow rider in the bike lane.
Sure, it’s easier to talk to someone who isn’t whizzing past, but the laid-back pace also encourages you to look around, Stockmann says. When you’re riding casually, “you notice more,” she says.
For some San Franciscans, seeing slow-riding folks like Logan and Stockmann out on the road can be a refreshing encouragement to hop on two wheels for a daily commute or a quick trip to the farmers’ market.
“The research shows that cities and communities where more people bike are safer for biking,” Nguyen-Tan says. “The more people who bike, the greater the awareness around cycling.”
Feeling inspired? Here are some tips for how to make Slow Biking your mode of movement:
— Choose a bike that lets you keep an upright posture. Racing-style road bikes encourage the rider to lean forward, while step-throughs, cruisers and mixte frame bikes are more upright.
— Look for fashion-protecting features. Keep your ride comfy and your clothes clean with good fenders, chain guards or internal hubs, flat pedals and maybe even a kickstand.
— Go for gears. You’re not looking for a lot, but more gears gives you more options when you’re tackling San Francisco’s hilly terrain at a more casual speed.
— Ride safely. Even though you’re riding slowly, don’t forgo the helmet, stop at traffic signals and ride predictably.
— Share the road. When you’re riding slowly, it’s easier to double up in the roadways and chat with a fellow rider. Bring a friend and enjoy the time to catch up.
Bike About Town is presented by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, a 12,000-member nonprofit dedicated to creating safer streets and more livable communities by promoting the bicycle for everyday transportation. For more biking resources, go to www.sfbike.org