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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Charity Rides aren't necessarily good for cycling

I recently rode Big Sur, along the beautiful section of coast left out by the AIDS Lifecycle ride. At first, I thought the AIDS Lifecycle riders aren't cyclists, which leads them to pick the flattest, straightest route from San Francisco to LA. Someone else, however told me it was because the CHP had denied the organization permission from riding Highway 1.

Now this is odd. For instance, if you led a car rally down Highway 1, the CHP can't deny you to use legitimate, public roads. But apparently bicycles need permission. Even that aside, AIDS Lifecycle could have made a stink out of this decision. They have thousands of cyclists, and thousands of donors, and the PR ability and the cause to make a big deal out of this and force the CHP to either change its mind or raise awareness that cyclists are being treated as second class citizens, even as they work to raise money for important causes.

But that's not the purpose of the AIDS ride. As long as they get their money for their cause, they don't really care about cycling per se as a endeavor in and of itself. Hence, they are content to accept their second class citizenship and use a flat, boring route to LA from San Francisco. This type of behavior from charities is all too common, unfortunately, thus as I get older and I ride more, I agree more and more with Sheldon Brown's position on charity rides.

In any case, I'm not so sure it's such a good thing to commingle charity with another activity. Just as an insurance scheme sold as an investment is ultimately suboptimal, I think that your giving to a cause is better done directly, not as part of a commingled activity. (A few years ago, there was a scandal about the AIDS Lifecycle's organizers siphoning off the monies for their own purposes. Who knows if that'll repeat itself) Similarly, if you wish to ride from San Francisco to LA, following the AIDS Lifecycle route is not optimal, and the selection of time is also not optimal. (Riding on the coast is optimal, and the right season is in late September/early October or in mid-April to mid-May).

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