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Ifm locking my bike in front of the local home-improvement center when a stranger approaches me. Though hefs just bought a sizable bucket of spackling compound, hefs got a slightly disheveled look that makes me wonder if hefs trying to bum money for bus fare. Instead, he wants to know about my basket bike. He hoists his bucket up to get a better idea of how much stuff the Wald 157B can hold, and asks me if I think itfs strong enough. I offer him the chance to give it a try, but hefs seemingly sold on the idea.

But then he starts to complain about how much bikes cost. He tells me he doesnft want to spend $40 on a basket for a $50 bike. I scratch my head and wonder where hefs seen $50 bikes for sale.

Still, I suggest that he go to Kraynickfs Bike Shop and look in the back where the used stuff lives. His eyes light up a bit at the notion of bargain bike parts. He thanks me in a gruff, but notably sincere manner and walks away.
I begin to reflect on the interaction while Ifm in the store. Why is the average American is so reluctant to spend money on a bicycle? I canft count how many of my friends and coworkers have asked me for bike buying advice, only to balk at the notion of spending $500 on a decent entry-level bicycle.

Whatfs more, I canft believe how many people donft already have a bicycle at their disposal, especially the kids I teach. When I was their age and wanted to go somewhere I just hopped on my bike. I didnft need bus fare. With the economy taking a downturn, a lot of my students are afraid their parents canft afford to buy them a summer bus pass, and only now are they considering bicycles as a source of transportation...

A half hour later Ifm riding home, my basket bouncing ever so slightly under the weight of a 40-pound bag of potting soil. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and Ifve got the song Low Rider playing in my head. From half a block away I see the guy from the home-improvement center, hefs anxiously pacing at the bus stop. He sees me, reads the expression on my face, and shouts out loud, gThatfs it! Ifve gotta get a bike!h


Urban Velo issue #14, July 2009. Dead tree print run: 5000 copies. Issue #13 online readership: 45,000+