Creating a rural bike community

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cooking in nevada city

Nevada City California: We woke up on a farm in the foothills of the Sierras to the sound of chickens and birds and the smell of vegan breakfast cooking.

Last night’s event was larger than anyone expected. People had to eat standing up, and we ran out of food, but more important, 54 people put their emails down on a list to be involved in the not-yet-formed Gold Country Bicycle Collective, which will be a free space where anyone can come and fix their bike or build themselves a new one. Tom Papp, a young farmer whose brainchild the collective is, had a triumphant grin on while we all cleaned up afterward. He thinks he’s found the right space for the collective, he said—and the person who’s donating it is throwing in a bike shop full of tools and equipment. It’s all coming together.

This is a beautiful part of the world, full of winding, narrow, hilly roads and well-preserved main streets. Last night during our presentation I asked “What’s the bike scene like in Nevada County?” There was a long pause and then a woman raised her hand and said “I bike down the street to the store and back.” The man behind her said “I commute by bike.” Another man talked about two local road races that are a big deal, and a mountain biking organization. A few members bike for transportation, he said, “but we lost one of our own last year.”

A few people talked about getting honked at and harassed regularly; one guy said that he has no problems and that 98% of drivers he encounters are friendly and give him plenty of space, maybe even too much space. The only really dangerous part of his ride, he says, “is when they overtake you going around a blind curve.”

It was like that—lots of individuals who get around by bike, usually on their own, but with increasing cohesion. Another Tom, Tom Grundy from the Alliance for People Powered Transportation (they sponsored the event and brought their bike-powered smoothie setup) said that 70 people signed up for this year’s Bike to Work Day in May. “Getting people together in this room tonight,” someone told me, “is going to make things happen.”

Tom invited us to meet with local city leaders in the morning. He’d read the Bikenomics articles here on Grist and was eager for the chance to start that discussion locally. There is a bike master plan, he said, but it isn’t funded. And APPT wants bike corrals. They’re on a bit of a mission, actually. I’ll have a post about that up on Grist tomorrow morning, if all goes as planned.

Tour dates and updates here, and I’m posting pics here as I take them.