A friend linked to this essay on Facebook the other day. It’s a beautiful little piece that mulls over Roanoke’s history – the good and the bad – framed by a bike ride up Mill Mountain.
This Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of Roanoke’s first Starbomb, recognized through a multidisciplinary approach: Pirates, ninjas, and dinosaurs (somehow) combine for this month’s theme. So, mount up your tiny bicycle, grab $2 for bus fare to the top of Mill Mountain, and join the intrepid Starbombers (in costume) at Sharebike/Cyclo-Ward at 9:00 pm Thursday evening to join the fun.
So what, then, does a brief group ride down a mountain on inappropriately-sized bicycles have to do with transportation demand management? Well, nothing, not directly at least. Indirectly, though, the existence and persistence of something like Starbombing shows how bicycling is taking root in the Roanoke region, how different groups are taking hold of it in different ways. No longer the province of weekend warriors climbing UP Mill Mountain, or the target of exhortations by utilitarian bicycle advocates, bicycling is claiming a home in a broad swath of people and activities. More importantly, perhaps, it continues to be something people do for fun. I’ve always maintained that this is an oft-overlooked aspect of bicycling for transportation, that commuting by bike is not only clean, healthy, green, cheap, etc., it’s also a lot more fun than the alternatives. Starbombing (and bike polo, and art bikes..) all reinforce this.
Of course, the growth of bicycling for transportation is directly connected to the tireless work of recreational cyclists advocating for more education, for more facilities, for safer roads, etc. As Starboming and other creative bike endeavors introduce (or bring back fond memories of) cycling to a wider audience, the number of people riding, for whatever reason, grows. This cannot help but to improve conditions for all users. After all, a big part of bicycle safety is simply being visible and training drivers to look for cyclists no matter where they drive.
I’m glad Starbomb has successfully survived its first year. I think that says a lot about Roanoke, and a lot about the people who live here, and I hope we continue to have as much fun as possible.