In the last five years I’ve become more and more interested in cycling. When I first moved to the city from the suburbs, I would ride my bike to work a couple of days a week. It was an old, cheap, heavy mountain bike so it wasn’t a very smooth or easy ride, but I enjoyed it enough. Three years ago, my now wife bought me a nice commuter bike for my birthday. That made all the difference.
Right from the start, I felt like a kid when we went on leisure rides. It was fun. It was exhausting. I was getting great exercise without even trying to get great exercise. I hate running. It’s boring. I hate going to the gym. It’s boring. Exercise for the sake of exercise holds no appeal for me.
I used to love playing rugby. But after a few concussions and 2 shoulder surgeries, I decided it was enough. Refereeing was good, but it ate up my Saturdays in the Fall, Spring, and much of the Summer. Bicycling is something I can do any time I have a little free time. Daytime, nighttime, morning, afternoon, whenever. I don’t have to plan the rest of my life around IT, but can do the other way ‘round. And it makes me feel like a kid.
Two years ago I moved to a new city and got a job that was an hour’s commute, in a car, each way. I was miserable. Not only was the job NOT what I was hired to do, the commute was killing me. “Trapped like lemmings into shiny metal boxes, contestants in a suicidal race.”
That lasted almost a year and I vowed (although I hate the word “never”) that I would never have a commute like that again.
Now I have a job that is 3.4 miles from my house. I bike to work every day. And this brings me to the point of the piece. I truly believe bicycles could save the planet.
We have an obesity epidemic in this country. When I combine my normal daily movements with ~7 miles on a bike, I’m burning somewhere on the order of 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day for the four days a week I’m in the office. I haven’t changed my diet much, although I make certain to eat breakfast every day and drink plenty of water. I’m not likely to get fat with this lifestyle.
We have an anger epidemic in this country. Everybody’s angry at everybody else. And usually for pretty petty reasons. Granted, a lot of it has to do with politics and the crap spewing from our televisions and computers, but I’m convinced a lot of it is just pent up road rage. It’s frustrating as hell.
Somewhere around 90% of people think they’re better than average drivers. That’s impossible. And while I believe most drivers are adequate, the small number of jackasses can really throw a spanner in the works. And that makes everyone else angry.
Sometimes I get angry on my bicycle. Sometimes pedestrians are idiots and think the bike lane isn’t really part of the road so it’s okay to stand in it. Sometimes those few jackass drivers don’t look before they turn, or before they open their doors into traffic. Sometimes it’s a jackass biker who thinks he owns the road (note to jackass bikers, you can get hurt real bad that way).
But after a few seconds, when I’m on my way again, I forget about it. I’m getting exercise and fresh air, and I have other things going on around me that I need to pay attention to. In a car, you’re just stuck there to let that anger fester.
Whether you believe in global climate change or not, you have to know that fossil fuels are a finite resource. The WILL run out one day. And they DO cause pollution. The earth might be fine, after she shakes us off like dust. But we might choke ourselves to death.
Don't get me wrong, I love to drive. My car is a manual and a little sporty. I love the feel of the road, taking curves a little faster than I should, down-shifting for extra torque to pass slower drivers. But that's joyriding or road trips. For my daily commute, I'd rather be doing a hundred other things.
When I was commuting to work, I drove a clean diesel. I was getting around 40 miles per gallon, on average. That’s really good. But now I don’t use any fuel at all. I use a synthetic lubricant to oil my chain about once a month. So far a 3 ounce bottle has lasted me almost 3 years. And I have plenty left. That’s efficient.
I don’t know what goes into building a bike. Mine’s made mostly of aluminum, with some steel and some plastic parts. Along the way I’ve added plastic fenders, a steel saddle bag rack, an aluminum bell, plastic lights, and an aluminum air horn. These are all things that go on cars, too, so I would have to guess the footprint of my bicycle is considerably less than even the TaTa car that runs on compressed air.
Public transit is great, but it’s often gross, and dangerous. I love the convenience of the subway when I need to go someplace a little farther away, or if I need to be dressed a certain way and don’t have the ability to change when I get there. But some of the stations are filthy. Some of the cars are filthy. Some buses are filthy. And public transit for short hops takes MUCH longer than a bike ride.
Just for giggles one time, I timed my drive in traffic to where my office is now. It took about the same amount of time as the bike ride. However, I was only timing point A to point B. That time didn’t account for finding parking once I arrived, and the walk from the parking space to the building. These are important considerations because on a bike, once I get to point B, I’m there.
I work in a building that must accommodate at least a couple thousand people. But the bike rack, on a full day, only has about 30 bikes locked to it. I have a hard time believing that only 1% of the population of the building lives close enough to bike. My commute is about to double, but I’ll still bike to work. And I’m 46 years old. Washington DC is a very young city. I just don’t believe all those young folks can’t jump on a bike rather than in a car or on a bus.
I understand not everyone has the luxury to bike to work. Because of distance or disability, or perhaps it just isn’t practical - I have to change clothes in my office every day and maybe that option isn’t available to everyone. But if all those who COULD ride a bike to work DID so, for even just one day a week, think of the change. Now multiply that change by every city in every country around the world.