The first time I went to Portland, Maine, many years ago, the city looked half dead. Today, the downtown and waterfront are thriving.
Along the docks, commerce, tourism and residential life blend together, a fresh catch coming in on working boats as whale-watching expeditions leave the pier and new condos overlook it all. The city has an unusually large number of restaurants, shops are busy and offices are full. All this means that parking on the old brick streets can be a hassle.
What does this have to do with motorcycles? Portland has wisely created free motorcycle-only parking areas all around downtown, thus encouraging people to ride when commuting to work or visiting downtown businesses and park for free while taking up a fraction of the space a car would.
And why am I telling you about this now? Monday is the annual Ride to Work Day, and the only way we get perks like free downtown parking or the use of HOV lanes on highways nationwide is to get out there and be visible and use them. The only way we'll be able to expand these perks and get things like the right to lane-split or filter to the front at stop lights is to show our numbers and demonstrate the benefits of replacing a car on the streets with a smaller, more efficient motorcycle.
That's the idea behind Ride to Work Day.
RTW Day can be traced back all the way back to when Andy Goldfine came into possession of some industrial sewing machines and was pondering how to use them in a business of his own. That led him to invent his Aerostich riding suits, which are perfect for commuters. Encouraging people to ride to work certainly could lead to more sales of commuter-friendly Roadcrafters, but Goldfine and his team are diehard riders anyway, regardless of business concerns. If you missed it, take a look at what they did with a Zero electric motorcycle this winter.
So get out and ride to work Monday. Every day, preferably, but Monday, at least.
You can learn more about RTW Day and download promotional materials at the Ride to Work website.
Meanwhile, here's how Zillans celebrated Ride to Work Day last year.