Auburn Wins with 2.89 Miles Per Capita

In the mythos of California cycling cities, the little burg of Davis has long held an enviable position near the top of the list of bike-able places. They are the only city within the state to have earned League of American Bicyclists Platinum-level recognition for bicycle friendliness. When other cities have searched for an example around which to raise their own bicycle friendliness quotient they, for years, might very well have looked toward Davis.

May's Bike Month festivities, a way to challenge ourselves to get out and ride, are now over for another year. Bike Month is also a way for cities to challenge one another. During May, twenty seven cities in the Sacramento area competed against one another to see who's citizenry could accumulate the greatest mileage per capita. We might be forgiven for holding the preconception that Davis would be the hands-down champion. As it turns out, the foothill city of Auburn with all its lack of level roadway has, none-the-less, bested its more bicycle-savy rival for a second consecutive year.

Let me share some statistics with you, get them out of the way: During May riders in Davis tallied a total of 91,032 miles ridden, which works out to 2.47 miles per capita. The city of Auburn in the Sierra foothills tallied a total of 38,507 miles, or 2.89 miles per capita. Across a six-county area it is estimated that 9900 residents, 300 schools, and 1300 employers participated in the competition, with youths and adults logging some 1.98 million miles, a total that is up from 1.75 million the previous year. We see numbers approaching two-million and see stars, that number sounds pretty impressive. But then look closer and realize that ten thousand participants is not a whole lot, a small fraction of the regional population. 

In fact we may realize that the numbers are pretty dismal, wouldn't you say. I mean, most of the people reading this blog probably ride that much in the first few minutes of a single day. Of course what we have to remember is that it is unlikely any of the people who participated rode those paltry distances over an entire month; those numbers were brought low by the millions of people across the region who did not participate. It seems to me that we have come to accept small gains as the best we can expect. Does it have to be this way? What would it take to double those number, triple them, even more? Or is this the best we can expect short of complete economic and social collapse?

If you didn't know, Auburn has become quite the recreational bicycling mecca, and in fact bills itself as the Endurance Capital with numerous distance events taking place there during the year. I have to think that a goodly portion of those miles tallied during May were recreational miles. And while there is nothing wrong with that (the vast majority of my own mileage count are recreational), health benefits accrue no matter the type of riding, and one less car is indeed one less car, it seems to me that wider use of the bicycle is what we should strive for, but are not seeing.

I read the paper version of the article (Bragging rights for riding bikes, by Gus Thomson, in the Auburn Journal, Friday June 13, 2014) while visiting Auburn and Nevada City recently. You can still read it online here