Today we had our first real class (our class last week was safety training). I, and others I spoke to, were quite excited to start our rides! We first convened at the Linde Activities Center at Harvey Mudd College. Wearing a jersey myself and surrounded by others doing the same, I felt as if I were about start some race or long ride.
And then we were off. The ride wasn’t long or fast at all, but definitely felt empowering to be part of such a large group. When I ride by myself, especially on busy suburban roads, it can be scary to be close to so much fast moving traffic. In a large group, however, I certainly felt as if drivers must have noticed us.
We quickly arrived at our first stop, Claremont City Hall. After everyone found places to lock their bike, we entered a conference room. It turned out that the City Hall technically is closed on Fridays, but members of the local government still made time to meet with us. Thank you! We were privileged to meet with three people from the city government, and it was clear that they were supporters of biking. They explained to us some of innovative progress Claremont has made with regards to biking, from bike lanes and sharrows to unique bike racks and street cameras that turn the light green for a waiting cyclist.
From there, it was a fairly short ride to Claremont’s Joclyn Senior Center. The first thing we did there was observe the way children got home from the El Roble Intermediate School, as we got there just as the last bell rung. I was told it would be quite chaotic, with all of the parents picking their kids up from school.
Honestly, it wasn’t that chaotic compared to my own middle school. I went a middle school in the heart of low-density suburbia, and not only did my middle school have its own loop dedicated to pick-up and drop-off, but there would be huge backups on adjacent streets. I didn’t really observe that at El Roble. Instead, I saw many kids leaving the school by foot and some even leaving by bike! (NB: I was told it was more mellow Fridays because many kids leave the school by foot to hang out in the Claremont village. The fact that they have a place to go to by foot from school is still quite nice and unique compared many other schools.)
We next spoke with members of the Claremont Senior Bicycle Group. The work they have done with education is quite impressive: they ran bike education programs including every student in Claremont’s schools, and donated bikes to lower-income children! They did point out that the effectiveness of childrens’ bike education programs was limited if their parents still believed myths about bike safety, so they were trying to find way to reach parents as well.
I think that, for the seniors, cycling is a very good pasttime to have. They all seemed to be in incredible shape, especially considering some of them were in their 80s! There is no question as to why, as the Claremont Senior Bicycle Group has 20+ mile rides 5 times a week. It was also very interesting to hear perspectives on bicycling from someone who has done since since 1955.
Finally, they took us on a longer ride through Claremont. All things considered, Claremont’s bike infrastructure is definitely impressive. Most of suburban America’s roads have exactly zero provisions for cyclists, but Claremont seems to have a very healthy bike infrastructure: many streets have bike lanes, there are offroad paths (such as the Pacific Electric Trail), and there are even plans for a physically separated cycle path!
It is clear than infrastructure like this is uncommon in suburban America, and many of the people we met today were instrumental in making bike infrastructure happen.
– Danny Gorelik, HM ’18