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Monday, April 18, 2011

the slow bicycle movement and what it can do for you

I keep hearing about The Slow Bicycle Movement. The phrase seems to have been coined by the creator of Copenhagenize and Cycle Chic, also, two very catchy phrases/movements/sites. Copenhagen is a city where every body bikes. Not everyone, but something like almost half of the people ride bikes a lot. But it’s not like a bunch of Lance Armstrongs (sorry, he’s getting a little overused in this context but whatever). It’s like a bunch of grandmas and bakers and candlestick makers and whatnot and so such. Copenhagen is like the bicycle friendly streets advocate’s Mecca. They’re the role model for the world.

And the Slow Bicycle Movement is spreading the concept of what riding there is like and applying it to individuals and cities around the globe. It’s basically a big Whoa, Nellie! What’s everybody in such a freakin’ panic about out there on the streets. And, in our lives, too.

I assume the Slow Food Movement was first. And that’s where the name came from. Slow Food being the opposite of Fast Food. Words like local, quality, real, wholesome, organic, and community might be applied to the Slow Food Movement. Not the same words most people would apply to Fast Food.

On some level the same applies to the bicycle movement. There’s no such thing as Fast Bicycle or the Fast Bicycle Movement but there is the Roadie crowd that pretend to be pro cyclists and dress up in Team Kits and ride 16 pound bicycles. And that’s great. That’s fine. I wore my tights just yesterday. It was a nice ride. I don’t choose to wear clothing with unpaid sponsorship or advertisements on them but to each his own. I’m not against the Roadies. And I don’t think, at it’s core, The Slow Bicycle Movement is either, although it tends to sort of pivot off and away from the idea of lycra and carbon fiber as the devil’s realm. If anything, the Roadie Movement, we’ll call it, is something separate and irrelevant.

The Slow Bicycle Movement is about getting around with ease and simplicity and awareness. It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you ride but it should be capable of allowing you to carry some extra weight around on it. Maybe it has a basket or some panniers. It should be durable and functional. It can be heavy. It can be light. You don’t need special clothes. You don’t need a helmet. You’ll probably want a sweater at night though. The SBM is a guiding reminder that a bicycle works pretty darn well for more than you think.

But in addition to all that, I found that the philosophy of the SBM also gets into your head and makes you a safer rider. When you’re in the SBM mindset you’re not competing with cars or trying to get through that yellow traffic light. You’re just moving along and merging with other people in various other forms of transportation that they’ve deemed appropriate for their tasks for that day. It’s very mellow.

And a mellow rider is a safe rider. Mellow creates a force field. A mellow bubble. Try it and I think you’ll see what I mean.

On the SBM website they’ve got a bunch of video links of people riding really slow. Slow racing I suppose it is. They, the SBM, seem to be a little stuck on this theme. I see how it could be sort of fun, once or twice to race real slow. I think the idea is whoever crossed the finish line last, of like a hundred foot race, wins – and probably you can’t touch the ground. These slow races are not, in my view, the SBM. They’re more like a promotional tool. An event. Or maybe like practice. A group of people getting together occasionally to strengthen the community. Afterwards the individual cyclists ride away with renewed hope and calm. As if they’d just been to a meditation circle and were now out in the world with a little clearer mind.

The SBM is something. It is something remarkably powerful. If it spreads. Or if it doesn’t. I was in the grocery store this morning and those places can be an excellent place to observe the need in our society for slowing down. And an excellent place to practice slowing down. There was a moment when I was coming to a corner of an isle and there were a couple other people kind of freaking out and changing direction and grabbing things off the shelf and trying to pass each other and I found myself walking very very slowly as I read all that was happening in front of me. I noticed each foot placement and the rocking forward down over the arch of the foot and the slow lift up again of the heel and lingering stretch of the toes. I had entered the slow life movement while searching for slow food because of my practice on a slow bicycle. It all slowly adds up to a lot of time and space and calm.


A Midnight Rider said...

I have unintentionally been a member of this movement for about 5 years. I guess I was ahead of the times. Or as some call it. A prophet. 8>)

mindful mule said...

A Midnight Prophet.

SuperLarge said...

I have to say that cyclists in Copenhagen can get right pissy if you're slow-bikin' in the fast lane. Seriously, they have slow and fast bike lanes, and they're not afraid to tink their bell at you in an irritated manner if you're in the wrong one.

mindful mule said...

Thanks for the comment SuperLarge! That’s an amazing concept: a fast lane for bicycles – hadn’t heard about that. I hope we’ll be so lucky to have such bicycle traffic related issues here some day too.