Bicycles in the American Tradition

“It’s completely clear to me that we’re in a midst of a total revolution in the way we get around…the street does not belong to the car, it has to be shared, get used to it.”
–Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, interview in 2012

The bicycle is the most common vehicle used in the world.  In America we are emerging from an era where “development of a transportation infrastructure focused almost exclusively on the private motor car” (from FHWA, A Recommended Approach for Accommodating Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel).  With movements such as New Mexico Complete Streets and multimodal transportation planning, we are seeing an unprecedented amount of collaboration across sectors and between disciplines and communities to change the built environment and diversify mobility culture.  The result is a disruption of the status quo and more equity in transportation, and the emergence of a bold movement toward active transportation and a culture of health.

Bicycles have been here all along, but are becoming more visible now.  To a lot of people seeing bicycles using the road looks different.  It reminds me of the acting cast of the Broadway Musical Hamilton which recasts Alexander Hamilton’s story with black and Latino actors.

In an interview on Charlie Rose, Ron Chernow, the musical’s historical advisor and popular author of American history, said:  ‘When I sat down to watch Hamilton, I thought my God all the actors are black and Latino.  What is the director doing?  But then watching the show I forgot what race or ethnicity they were.  The show is showing us who we are now.  Historically, people felt excluded from America.  This show is one of the greatest advertisements for diversity we’ve ever had.  It announces the arrival of a new generation in American life…this is the new face of America…and the beautiful thing is this new face of America, people who might have felt excluded before, have embraced American history.’  America’s inclusion and accommodation of diversity and expansion of our values is our greatest ongoing story propelling us forward toward a more perfect union.

For all Americans to have equal opportunity at a healthy life, it is important that we include active transportation choices in our everyday roads for routine travel to work, school and extracurricular activities.  To embrace diversity of travel modes on our roads is to help usher in positive change.  Health is a palpable kind of wealth that can easily be shared and there is no limit for how much of it there is to go around.  We are redefining life on the road.  It feels good.

Daveed Digs, who plays Thomas Jefferson in the theatrical musical production Hamilton, says about his experience on the show.  ‘This is the only time I’ve ever felt particularly American…it gives value to whoever you are…This show says you are part of the history of this country, what you are doing is leading up to the next moment.’–on Charlie Rose, The Cast of Hamilton (worth listening to!)

picture setting

view of Salinas Pueblo Missions monument, a place that stirs the imagination

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