It’s bike to school/work/wherever week and, as someone who commutes next to a bike lane, I can tell you it’s working. Bike lanes, bike sharing systems and an overall rise in the number of commuters taking the self-powered approach means that the roads are getting more and more crowded. How much more? According to the census, the numbers of bike commuters rose 60 percent in the last decade but still make up a scant 0.6 percent of commuters.
Faithful readers of the blog might recall that I even experimented with bike commuting last year until I realized that it wasn’t really all that pleasant – and my bike got stolen. I’m still a big fan of bike shares. But I’m a Gen Xer, and the group most responsible for driving (pun intended) the bike movement is the so-called millennial generation, the eldest of whom have now rounded the corner on their 30s. In many ways, biking is the perfect form of transportation for them. Here are five reasons why. I’ll let you figure out how tongue-in-cheek these are.
1) Biking allows millennials to feel special
There used to be a group of people who didn’t own TVs. If you ever met one, you knew it immediately because they would tell you. You’d ask an unrelated question (“Hey, can you pass the salt?”) and they’d respond with “Yes, I have plenty of time to pass the salt because I don’t own a TV.” Biking to work seems to have the same effect. Since birth, the helicopter parents of millennials have told them how they are all unique and special snowflakes. They didn’t have to win to get a medal, they just had to show up and try hard. They never learned to drive because their soccer moms would chauffeur them around all the time in their outsized SUVs. Biking to work allows them to continue this feeling. No one who drives to work or takes the bus feels special or feels the need to weave it into conversation as seemingly seamlessly as a messenger dodging potholes and traffic. But a bike-to-worker will let you know their special commuting status within minutes. Poser as I was, I told people about my experiment quickly. And it did feel kind of cool. But then I realized I was a poser and got back on the train. Here’s a GoPro video of my commute home. Exciting, right?
2) Biking allows millennials to feel “Us Vs. the World”
Millennials have had it tough. Many joined the job market just as the economy tanked. Record numbers of them are living at home. They’ve grown up feeling narcissistic and entitled, and when life doesn’t pan out quite the way they intended, they have to go and occupy something. Gen Xers have responded from time to time that things have sucked for us, too, but millennials can out-whine us with sheer numbers. This us-against-the-world mentality is a comfort blanket they can wrap around themselves as they curl up with their iPad in mom and dad’s basement entertainment center and stream stolen music because why should anyone pay for anything? Yet, in many ways, the bike-to-workers have a point. The world really has been against them. It’s a dangerous way to get around in the U.S. While the infrastructure is struggling to catch up with perceived desire and demand, it’s mostly not there yet. There’s a degree to which bikers are taking their lives in their handlebars when they set out. Many have stories of being “doored” by cars, flipping over potholes and other roadway hazards, and worse. The mainstream media hasn’t exactly been friendly either. In some cases it’s been downright trollish. So fight the good fight, millennials. Clearly no one will ever support your efforts.
3) Biking allows millennials to demand an outsized share of resources
Speaking of infrastructure demands … More and more cities are putting in dedicated bike lanes or other kinds of infrastructure meant to make biking safer and more pleasant. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s sustainable and good for cities, and might help local businesses and lead to healthier living. But it’s a lot of roadway for not that many people. Roads are made for cars, after all. Why should we have to share them? Once they get to work, bikers want enclosed, safe spaces to put their bikes (free, of course) and showers at the office. Sure, having better infrastructure might have a build-it-and-they-will-come effect. But if not, that’s a lot of demanding for what still isn’t much demand.
4) It’s the only form of commuting that encourages accessories
If you drive or take the subway to work, you just get in your car or on your train and you’re done. But if you bike to work, you have to look the part. So put your keys on your carabineer, roll up that one pant leg and get shopping. You’ll need helmets, lights, baskets for your dumb little dogs, pricey messenger bags, locks (and pouches to put them in), and a GoPro camera so you can make twee little videos of how great your commute is. The bikes themselves can be cheap secondhand rides or you can go more, um, bespoke. What could be better for a generation that consumes bejeweled cellphone cases?
5) It’s the right mode of transit for their current hipster look
Really, with all the crazy facial hair that millennials are sporting, why not take a turn-of-the-last-century look and pair it with a turn-of-the-last-century mode of transit? In the end, what’s the difference between these two groups of dudes except one lives in a car-centric world with electric razors and business-casual offices?