After joining the snowbirds in Palm Springs, CA, I get it: the weather is perfect; and even though it’s like visiting the suburbs for a vacation, that mid-century modernism was the height of the California Dream. Sitting on the patio next to a kidney-shaped swimming pool on a warm starlit evening in November certainly has its charms.
What I don’t get is the absence of bikes just to get around.
The place is flat, the weather is ideal for much of the year, most trips are under 10 K, and there’s lots of room to lay out the infrastructure.
And yet I saw more bikes on the Canada Line car coming in from YVR than I did on their Class 1 cycling trail (above).
‘Old’ Palm Springs is one of about a dozen communities that make up the urban region of the Coachella Valley. It’s only about 50,000 residents on a 6×10-km grid of arterial roads, each typically six lanes wide, that make access to everywhere so easy. In between are the classic subdivisions of one-storey homes straight out of Sunset Magazine – celebrated every year during Modernism Week.
Of course Palm Springs was laid out for the car, the roads are wide, there’s seemingly an utter lack of congestion, parking is everywhere and it’s free – so why wouldn’t everyone drive? So they do.
But it is also an outdoorsy community, attracting active retirees, gay and straight, who come for a more laid-back lifestyle. One would think cycling had particular appeal for the knee-challenged – and, indeed, there are plenty of MAMIL sightings and pelatons of the grey-haired and lycra-clad on their carbon-fibre steeds. Just not a lot of them in the grocery-store parking lots or on racks out front of gyms.
Bike share? Forget it.
But apparently that’s not enough. Something is missing – and my bet is that it’s culture. Here’s a place that has all the advantages and reasons to cycle, and yet they don’t. We northern people, on the other hand, here and in Europe, have a lot of seeming disadvantages, and yet we do.
Maybe there’s more to it. Think I’ll go back to do more research.
See you in a week.