Bicycle Bob and other early influences


…. I was a car guy.  At least part of the reason that was true was that it was the only reasonable way to get around in the area I grew up in (click the image below to go to the spot, but note the cul-de-sac hell).  The local mall is just out of the thumbnail to the lower right and when I was a kid it seemed like it was way far away.

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A few well-placed cut-throughs would have radically changed my sense of time and distance back then.  You can at least walk on a paved path through that large park near my ancestral home, though I don’t know if it’s plowed in the winter.  Even that has only been paved in the last 20-25 years (yes, I’m that old).

Oh.  And there are no sidewalks.  There are curbs and proper drainage (even if the subdivision was built without those things initially!).  The only sidewalk in my neighborhood was in front of the elementary school.  That’s since been extended, but for decades, the one in front of the school was it.

Bicycle Bob

Anyway, one day, when I was in a junior college chem class, the prof invited a local bike activist to speak to our class.  At a time when I was still rebuilding carburetors (cars used to have these – part of the fuel system – ask your Dad).  So I was skeptical of the fact that he rode his bike year-round and that he’d taken the train out to visit with us.  He was known locally as Bicycle Bob and he recently turned 80.  He wasn’t nearly that old then, of course.

Well, I didn’t really realize what he’d done … well, more like I had probably forgotten what he (and the groups he was involved in) had done.  Guerrilla bike lanes painted at night, outlandish press conferences, a “die in” on the streets protesting traffic deaths.  All this … um … a long time ago (in a galaxy …) long before it was in vogue in most places.  So that was an early influence, even though I haven’t been a cyclist since I became a licensed automobile driver.

I hate to admit it but I am actually old enough to have experienced privately-owned transit service.   It was on its last legs and was finally put out of its misery the about same year that Bicycle Bob visited visited with us.  In fact, I think it was the same semester.  After that point, the metropolitan transit service was extended to our area so you could reasonably get around without a car.  In another indication of how old I am, a monthly (student) transit was $7.  It was at least 4x that to fill the tank in the tank I drove at the time so I used the bus a lot.  Bicycle Bob would be proud, I think.

Sidewalk Ramps

In class the other day (week), we were talking about sidewalks.  Another area that my hometown (the center city, at least) was ahead of the game was wheelchair-accessible sidewalks.  The first attempt wasn’t so successful, however.

Instead of ramps at the corner — “within the arc” — they put them outside the arc for a variety of reasons that they try to explain in the article linked above.   Long story short, they ended up putting them where they belong several years later but I can’t find a relevant link in the google.   (Letter to the editor about their uselessness.)

I had another “early influence”, but I’ll save that one.

One thought on “Bicycle Bob and other early influences”

  1. I really liked this story (and the subsequent links) about Bicycle Bob. I ended up spending a substantial amount of time running various searches on Bicycle Bob and how substantial an influence he had on the biking scene in Montreal. I also particularly enjoyed learning about some of the guerilla tactics employed. One article I particularly liked, although obviously you are already very familiar with his story and the biking situation, was here:
    It’s from 2007 but gave a nice overview and specific examples of how the efforts of Bicycle Bob and others shaped cycling in that area.

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