A Different Kind of Bike Overnight
On Monday, we boarded an Amtrak bus from Portland with our Bromptons – but this time we weren’t going bike camping. In fact, we left our well-worn camping gear at home, in exchange for shirts with collars and buttons and nice shoes. We were embarking on a completely different kind of bike overnight. We were going to Salem, Oregon’s capital, to the Oregon Active Transportation Summit, to give a presentation about our experience with the Otago Central Rail Trail in New Zealand to a roomful of some of the state’s brightest bike and active transportation advocates. Yes, we were a bit nervous.
We’ve been traveling more or less constantly for three years by bicycle. In that time, we have always viewed our trip through an advocacy lens. We love bikes. We love bike travel and we want more people to do it. To this end, we gave presentations across the country about the lessons we learned about bike touring. However, the more we traveled, we saw that the next logical step of the puzzle, after inspiring people to try bike touring, is to inspire businesses and rural communities to embrace bike travelers. So this week, we took our first step in the new role we hope to forge for ourselves. We are changing hats from being active bicycle tourists to advocates for bicycle travel. What this will look like, exactly, we are not quite sure. In many ways we are still winging it like we were while we were traveling. One thing we do know is that the voice of touring cyclists, especially the upcoming younger generation, has to be heard. What are their wants and needs? Is it different from the touring cyclists of 1970s? How can we make the experience better? How can we inspire communities to embrace bicycle touring? What other groups and organizations have to be engaged?
For our first public presentation with our new hats, we were in some pretty esteemed company. We shared a panel with long-time Oregon bike advocate Scott Bricker, Jerry Norquist from Cycle Oregon, and Kristin Dahl from Travel Oregon. We presented our findings from our New Zealand trip to a full room, focusing on what we thought were the successes and important lessons from the Otago Central Rail Trail.
Laura and the audience watch our video on the Otago Central Rail Trail on the big screen.
Our videos were a hit, and I think we gave everyone in the room a new vision of what bicycle travel could look like. It was stressful but it was fun and fulfilling. After the presentation, we got a chance to meet with advocates (a lot of whom were readers as well!) about our future plans. The personal highlight for me, was when I talked about the importance of transit and bicycle travel and questioned why it was so difficult to get from Portland (a super bikey city) to Bend (another bikey city) without driving. There are bus services, but they make it an absolute nightmare to take a bicycle on board. It was obvious by the crowd response that it was something that many people had thought about as well.
We’re updating from our hotel room in Salem, dead tired after two intense days of talking bikes, transit and active transportation. For those who are afraid our bike traveling days are behind us, don’t be. We still fully intend to continue to travel by bike, but now we are hoping to more fully engage the communities we are going to ride through. So stay tuned and we hope you join us on the next phase of our constantly evolving journey.