Bicycle Commuting: Mainstream Mode or Extraordinary Endeavor?

Could a recent article in The New York Times that profiled extreme bicycle commutes of up to 40 miles (one way) be harmful to the advancement of bicycle use among ordinary individuals?
January 29, 2013, 2pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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In her response to the Times piece that profiled the commuting habits of "Lycra-clad suburbanites" such as Christian Edstrom, who bicycles 80 miles round trip twice a week to his job at JP Morgan, Sarah Goodyear agrees with photographer Dmitry Gudkov's assessment that the story is "completely alienating to 98 percent of people who might want to ride to work."

"Gudkov is right that the image of the road warrior in space-age gear, pedaling a custom-built bike worth thousands of dollars over icy predawn roads, is off-putting to most ordinary folks," argues Goodyear. "And it’s ordinary folks who make up 98 percent of New Yorkers who use bicycles for transportation in New York City."

So, in addition to being alienating, could such portrayals actually be harmful to expanding bike infrastructure?

All bike riders, from the "Type-A strivers on their carbon-fiber steeds" to "the 82-year-old photographer on his cruiser", "benefit from an increased recognition that bicycles are a legitimate way to get from one place to another, and that you don’t have to be some kind of a freak to use them," says Goodyear.

"That recognition is not merely symbolic. It becomes very tangible in the form of protected bicycle infrastructure, such as the trails cited in the Times article, and in pro-bicycle regulations -- such as the Bicycle Access to Office Buildings Law, instituted in 2009, which requires many office buildings to grant access to bikes."

Of note: look for Edstrom's thoughts in the comments section of the article.

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Published on Monday, January 28, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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