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Home > Magazine > City > Lansing Bike Culture in Full Swing!

Lansing Bike Culture in Full Swing!
September 18, 2013

[bump from 6/7] We're trying to do something here in Lansing. The rural areas have long been well organized in terms of group rides. The city hasn't had much. Each year we have a bright-point with a cause-ride, "Ride of Silence," but otherwise it's been quiet. Until recently. We've also hosted a Friday Bike Party for a few years, but it's been just a few folks, peaking at a dozen for a few special outings. Only a couple of us have lifted a finger to help spread the word about Lansing bike fun. Until now! We recently saw 30 riders come out for a Full Moon party ride. It seems like Facebook Events can help us get over the hump. We'll see! We're starting to use them for our Friday Party. We'll see what happens! I'm also going to put out a Press Release to the local media. ...I swear!

Right now we have a line-up of several rides in the wings. We're merging with other orgs as well. *Brewpub Ride -- tonight! *Urban Farm Ride; *Icecream Shop "Get a Rack!" Ride; *Music Ride; *Lost Spaces Museum Ride.

The whole thing is interesting to observe. What will happen? For one, it's not about the bike. It's about civic space. Quite a few cities have seen uplift and revival thanks to folks getting out in groups on bikes for fun. Bikes are just a handy tool for easily crisscrossing a city in the fresh air and for combining several sustainable cultural experiences into one. You see landscape, visit some neighborhoods, check out a pub, meet some new people. None of this is possible in a car -- whups, you can go to some place in a car, so there's that. It's just that you do it in isolation from everything else, and to everything else's detriment. Sure, it's the only option sometimes, but we need to be realistic. A place built around cars will tend to struggle and die.

And, sure, you can have fun by yourself on a bike or with a tiny group of friends. Public group rides have their place, too. They're about synergy and focused attention and conviviality. A destination that wants attention can get a one-stop hit from a positive-vibe group -- if they want or need that. (Kinda like a Groupon Coupon.)

It may well flop. Lansing is famous for not being sociable. And for social-segregation, of all kinds. Each little group does its own thing. We've been having fun on Fri Rides for years now, and trying to spread the word, and nobody bites, nobody really spreads the word. We do rides, we all have fun, nobody tells anyone else and we stay at 4-6 riders. Which is fine. Pals are pals. A pal ride is a great thing. (It's funny, though, how our Facebook Group has over 200 members.)

A city has its style. Probably not coincidentally Lansing is dying. Dead. All culture happens in secret, in people's houses, small scenes, word of mouth. It's a potluck town. The businesses close, the schools close, the parks are sold off, the streets fall apart, a casino moves in, developers take the tax money. Land is vacant. Hey, we have our style! ...It has its pros'n'cons.

This dynamic is probably not unique to Lansing. Dead cities and towns abound. But many cities ARE making comebacks today. Towns probably aren't so lucky. ...And the cities that ARE coming back seem to all have a fun social bike thing happening. I've seen data that shows causation! ...But who knows. Seems to be worth a shot. Our efforts don't cost a penny. They're all about making-do. Could they help kickstart a town?

I do kinda consider the rival vision to be ... the casino. Which will it be? Where's the future? Bike fun or ... the exception on indoor smoking?

Lansing is "centrally located." I used to consider that a good thing and it may well be. But it seems like many locals live their social lives largely in specialized out of town events. Hence the doom of the home base. (For quite a few years the near-Capitol blocks didn't have a restaurant. The ones it has now have "marketing plans." It's hard to have a heart in such a scene.)

Lots of exurban riders probably mostly do one kind of riding -- fitness or commuting. A group urban social ride helps folks expand their range of experience. Such rides tend to be slower, for one thing. Fitness riders get into the trap of always riding "pretty hard." And wearing lycra. Also, to be really fit, you gotta ride slow once a week!


2013 Lansing Tweed Ride with capitol lawn bocci ball.

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