I named my favorite bike "Dave," after David Ross Brower, the distinguished world renowned founder of the environmental movement. It's a full-suspension “mountain” bike, meaning both front and rear wheel have independent suspension to absorb the shocks of noticing this country's infrastructure of asphalt, based on cheap petroleum, is quickly turning into a war zone of busted, broken, missing or speed-bumped "paving." My intentions are good, so my ride to hell may not be paved, but I'll still have a smooth ride. I also named the front wheel "Enlightenment" and the rear wheel "Nirvana." Since a properly maintained bike can last a lifetime (far better than a car), I expect to spend the rest of my (biking) life suspended between Enlightenment and Nirvana.
Getting around town hauling 2-6,000 pounds of steel, plastic, chrome, and a fuel tank is becoming an endangered pastime. Is it really necessary to pay $3 a gallon to drive a 4,000 lb station wagon to the post office for a four-ounce package stuffed with Styrofoam peanuts?
I used to own 3 different purposed cars, paying insurance, taxes, maintenance, repair, storage, tolls, gas, cleaning, FINES, towing and assorted other bills on each one. Finally, when I was down to just one ultra-safe 1994 Lincoln Continental, a van rammed my parked car. The repairs took a month and $3,000. Since my insurance didn’t cover a loaner, I took to a bicycling much more. And some strange and positive things began to happen. Most notably, my health took a great leap forward (a bit of a miracle when, at the age of 50, you are taught to expect only decline and decay). By taking a bike everywhere I used to go by car, I was suddenly smiling more, building muscle mass, and experiencing clearer thinking.
I can't tell you how much freedom and independence I feel from having this modern high-tech bicycle between my legs. It’s fully equipped with savvy safety devices to insure visibility, to digitally read-out time, distance, and speed, and to record for “evidence,” any whacked drivers or texting-while-walking pedestrians about to enter my path. (Folks who step into the street without looking just because they don't hear a car or truck coming are a serious hazard for bikers and joggers. So are kids on flying around on those dangerously quiet hoverboards, roller skates, electric scooters etc). For accident avoidance – and fun- I can also play closed-circuit music with a rain-resistant Bluetooth speaker tuned to my own iPhone’s selection of tracks, mounted on the handlebar. Pump the pedals to the “beat” of your choice and let folks hear you coming!!! My front wheel has a no-drag 6V alternator built into the hub and I have patch cables to fire not only the headlight but also to charge every item of tech I bike with. Note this system means I won’t be subjected to ads for the latest SUV while bicycling.
The decision to leave my car in the garage quickly put the brakes on impulse buying and conspicuous consumption since there’s a happy limit to how much cargo a bike can carry. And I don’t have to spend hardly any time finding a parking space. Still, I can load my bike with four full sacks of groceries in about the same time it takes to load a car.
True, I sometimes have to ask the guy or gal at the grocery store to help hold open the waterproof saddlebags as I load my grocery sacks. This means that I occasionally have to talk to strangers – another endangered pastime.
Have you ever noticed that car owners are warned to “drive defensively” and to expect the worst from every other driver? Well, the opposite occurs in public transit or on a bike where you have to trust those around you – smiles and conversation with strangers is what it’s all about. The spread of the private automobile has eroded trust and civility, a conclusion enforced by sociologists who have found that cities with working streetcars have sharply lower rates of road rage.
Biking is an acquired taste. It takes time to get used to how much fun it is; how much safer it can be to doing 10 mph in fresh air then zero mpg in gridlock fumes. It takes some time, though, to recognize how well biking works to rebuild the strength your body has lost to remote controls, computer mice and the brake and accelerator pedals.
A primary misconception that folks have about bicycling is that it’s “too dangerous” (So they prefer to continue killing each other – and the planet – with tailpipes and oil wars.) Cars, of course are not dangerous, what with the super air bags & anti-lock brakes- like the Mercedes Princess Diana was riding in!?!) I have had dozens of mishaps in my 50 years of bicycling, but not one came close to causing a life-threatening injury. I often regard such mishaps as a free chiropractic or Rolfing session. As a precaution, however, I always wear a helmet – with reflectors!
While it is wonderful to see hi-tech vehicles getting terrific mileage, these “new, improved” autos only exacerbate the problems of car manufacturing, which include mining pollution, rubber, toxins, and old-car disposal. Since two-thirds of a car’s pollution is produced during its manufacture, getting 40% better mileage is a case of “too little, too late.” Two-door cars are particularly impractical (except for giving Grandpa a hernia trying to get out of the back seat and “dooring” passing bicyclists with an extra wide single door).
It was bad enough when our streets were crowded with uninsured, drunk, sleepy, distracted, dizzy, tipsy, stoned, medicated, eating, drinking, smoking, road-raged or just plain crazy drivers. But now, thanks to the advent of fold-out dashboard screens, drivers can watch those priceless “Hee-Haw” reruns while eating pizza, drinking a beverage, taking on the cell phone, smoking a cigarette and making a lane change.
Cars have become a primary tool for killing all life on Earth yet, society continues to descend into an Autogeddon with the auto industry building three new cars for every person born. But you can beat this system: Just stay healthy, trim, and smiling atop a bicycle. Sure, you may move at a tortoise-pace in a hare-brained world, but remember who won the race.