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Community Building

by Melanie Colavito

At, we think that the potential for using your bike is quite vast. Of course, you can use a bike for transportation, you can use a bike to make deliveries, you can use a bike to provide a wide variety of services. All of the aforementioned types of uses are relatively straightforward and tangible as they all produce or provide some sort of concrete outcome – ie. you get to work, or you receive a package, or you are ticketed by a bike cop (for being excessively awesome, perhaps). But the next category of utility cycling, to which we will now turn our attention, produces outcomes that are somewhat less tangible, though certainly not less meaningful or important.

The next category is community building. We don’t expect you to take the term community building too seriously, because quite honestly, we don’t even know exactly what it means. But the idea we are trying to express with the category of community building is that bicycles have a way of bringing people together, and we see a great deal of utility in that. It is by riding a bicycle that I have met a whole cast and crew of unique and incredible individuals in my life that I would have never had the chance to meet otherwise. These people come in many different shapes and sizes, and they have different backgrounds and perspectives on life, but we have been brought together at some point or another through riding. And I have found that it is the friends and acquaintances I make through riding that tend to stick with me most.

Now this is not to say that one cannot build community and meet people in other ways, but there is something special about the experience of riding a bicycle that any cyclist can relate to. Maybe it is the exhilaration, the wind in one’s face, the sweat on the small of one’s back (and everywhere else, for that matter), or the secure embrace of one’s wheels with the ground, but bicycles have the ability to unite people and create strong bonds. So that is what we are trying to express with the idea of community building, but if you see it in a different light, tell us about it. What kinds of “community” have you developed by bike?

Under the category of community building, we have come up with the following subcategories. As usual, if you think of any we have missed, let us know if the comments section below.

    • Cycling for a Cause: Rides organized to raise money and promote charity organizations or in support of a particular cause are very popular for cyclists of all types, but the events always have a very important utility of supporting socially conscious causes and organizations.
    • Social Gatherings & Festivals: Riding a bicycle can be a great way to meet new people and make new friends. Social gatherings organized around the bicycle, from scavenger hunts to picnics to full-out, crazy, wild festivals, are a good fun for all.
    • Group Rides: Group rides (such as small, local group rides or larger national-scale group rides)are popular among sport, recreational, and utility cyclists, but there is an important utility to the opportunity to build a community of like-minded individuals and cycling enthusiastsduring group rides, be they psuedo-races or coffee shop cruises or even naked bike rides.
    • Political Protest: One can’t talk about utility cycling without talking about the utility of using the bicycle as a form of or vehicle for political protest. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is critical mass, but the bicycle has been appropriated by activist groups of all sorts throughout its history.
    • Social Action: Although somewhat similar to political protest, social action is another important category of utility cycling. Social action rides – for example The Ride of Silence – help bring important cycling related issues to light, using the bicycle as a vehicle for action.
    • Personal Mobility: Personal mobility is one of the most important subcategories of utility cycling, as the bicycle is very effective at providing mobility to marginalized groups. The bicycle has been a vehicle for liberation since its introduction.
    • Self Expression: A bicycle can be more than just a vehicle; for some, it can serve as a form of self-expression.

I figure the best way to elaborate on the idea of community building as a form of utility cycling is visually. So enjoy the trip.

Cycling for a Cause


El Tour de Tucson charity ride

Social Gatherings


Bike Bazaar in Flagstaff, AZ


Human-powered fair in Tucson, AZ

Urban Open Cruiser Slalom 030

Cruiser bike slalom race in Flagstaff, AZ

Political Protest


Critical Mass

Social Action

Ride of Silence (from BikePortland)

Ride of Silence (from BikePortland)

World Naked Bike Ride (from Treehugger)

World Naked Bike Ride (from Treehugger)

Personal Mobility


A good part of the women's lib movement was undertaken by bike

Self Expression

The Dia de los Muertos parade in Tucson, AZ

The Dia de los Muertos parade in Tucson, AZ

More bikes at Dia de los Muertos

More bikes at Dia de los Muertos

BOB Trailer Sale

One Response to “Community Building”

  1. Yesterday my 12 year old sin and I rode from Holland, MI to Vicksburg, MI (76.80 miles) on the tandem. It was great engaging in conversation with folks who couldn’t believe that a kid would do such a thing. It opened up conversations and drew people together. Bikes (and kids on bikes) even draw drivers into the community!

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