"I ride a bike because I'm lazy and pampered"

Can the Bicycle Save Civilization? It’s a rhetorical question in these here parts, and preaching to the choir. But the article makes one point I seldom encounter: biking is really easy, easier than driving. That’s certainly not true for everyone everywhere, all the time, but once you’ve cut the car culture cord and made certain logistical arrangements, then biking does indeed become easier than driving ever was, a daily pleasure, an indulgence that leaves you with more time and energy for the rest of life. And as much as I and other car-free people talk about it, still it feels like a secret. This sense of participation in occult knowledge contributes, no doubt, to the popular conception of car-free bikers as, well, some kind of cult.

13 thoughts on “"I ride a bike because I'm lazy and pampered"”

  • fred

    I share your view that bicycling could be considered as a means to “save our civilization.” The interaction with other people I see, walking or riding, is far superior to that when one uses a motor vehicle for transportation. I tend to wave to anyone who appears to be looking in my direction and I often get a wave or a “hello” in response.

    I also find it easier to ride than to drive. Parking is far more convenient when I can nearly pull up to the door of the merchant, rather than to hope to find a suitable parking space. I’ve discovered a few of my regular places have parking not specifically for bikes (velomobiles) but they work great as such.

    What about endorphins, the naturally occuring stimulants resulting from exercise? It’s possible that I’ve become addicted to my daily fix, even though I can go a day or two without cycling.

    Somewhere out here in the world, someone wiser than me said “The United States has the greatest network of bicycle paths in the world, if only we can get the cars off them!”

    fred

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  • Murray

    For the bicycle to save civilisation, civilisation must first want to be saved. It does not. While the bicycle holds the ‘potentail’ to ‘help’ save civilisation we have a long hill to climb first, before that potentail can begin to be realised. I hope we’ll make it, but I think civilisation will be crumbling before we do.

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  • fred

    I agree with you there, Murray. Civilization must want to be saved and it must recognize that it needs to be saved, before
    anything can be done to save it. I see discussions all over the internet forums regarding electric automobiles, hybrid
    automobiles, hydrogen automobiles, but rarely or never do I see anyone suggest that a big part of the solution is NO
    automobile.

    fred

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  • Bill Manewal

    The parking issue is a big one for me. I do house-to-house visits all day long in San Francisco, where driving a car, much less parking one, is a nightmare. The ironic thing is that I ususally end up locking my bike to a pole in the sidewalk that supports a parking regulation sign.

    During the rare times that both my bicycle and my motorcycle are being serviced, I’ve had to take my (rarely used) minivan into work. I spend an extra hour a day looking for parking and those wonderful endorphins are quickly replaced with cortisol, adrenaline, and bad language. Inevitably, if I have to drive as much as a week, I’ll end up getting a parking ticket, even when I’m trying to be good.

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  • Erik Sandblom

    Bill, why do you have only one bike?

    Fred and Murray, I just saw Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth”. It’s based on his slideshow which he says he must have done a thousand times. That’s easily 100 000 people who have seen his slideshow. And how many have seen the movie? How many people vote for green parties all around the world?

    I think discussions about hybrid cars are a natural place to start. It identifies cars as a big emitter of carbon dioxide. I think most people will progress from that to planning their trips to eliminate excess driving, and perhaps also replace some of their trips with bicycles and other zero-emission ways of running one’s life.

    Maybe that’s also why Al Gore talks about low-energy lightbulbs. The technical solution itself is less important than getting people to think and feel empowered to do something. If people just start taking the problem seriously, and stop feeling a sense of despair, everything else will fall into place.

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  • Murray

    Erik,
    I think a huge part of the problem is political and cultural inertia. We have been traveling along this road of endless growth for centuries now. We need to literally turn it around. We keep looking for solutions that will enable our culture to continue in the same direction without destroying our lifestyles or our planet. Barring the discovery of some miraculos new source of truly clean energy that we haven’t thought of before (zero-point energy?) the only real solutions involve reducing and reusing. We need to scale down everything we do. As well as looking for new forms of transport we need to also think about travelling less. As well as thinking of new ways to recycle materials, we need to think about just using less in the first instance.
    Instead of buying a hybrid to be able to continue commuting 25 miles to work we could move closer to work or work closer to home. Trouble is that’s a big leap for most people. Naturally they will look at the ‘easy’ options first. The ones which require the least lifestyle changes.

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  • Bill Manewal

    Erik, I don’t have one bike.

    I have a Surly/Stokemonkey, a touring bike, a folder, and a tandem. But only the Stokemonkey can carry me and the gear necessary for my job up and down the hills of San Francisco and back home again (25 to 40 miles) on a daily basis and leave my 62 yr. old body with enough energy to type messages at night!

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  • Erik Sandblom

    Murray, there’s a saying, maybe it’s even an ancient Asian one: Every trek across a continent starts with one step. I think the hybrid car is just the first step. As you say there’s a lot of cultural intertia.

    In the long run I don’t think it’s the action that counts. I think it’s the thought. I think Al Gore is trying to make people feel empowered. Now even if I think hybrid cars are dorky, I’m sure they make a lot of people feel empowered. And that’s when they’ll start engaging their brains. Eventually they’ll stop using the hybrid car and start biking instead.

    Even if it feels slow, things can be happening quickly. Assume that half the people driving hybrids today will stop driving altogether within five years. I think it could happen, and it would be a big deal.

    I was about to buy a car a few years ago but couldn’t justify the cost. And the hybrid cars weren’t green enough. Eventually I got a Brompton folding bike, and that was the last nail in the car coffin.

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  • [...] customers are extending the trend lines and seeing a near future in which utility biking is less a lifestyle preference than a key element of their own economic well-being. Others are awakening to an ethical [...]

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  • Zaphod

    While there are some days where biking requires just a bit more effort, most of the time it is indeed an easy pleasure. Even on days where others shudder to think about being out in the weather, I'm usually warm and dry (ish) because I'm outfitted in the appropriate clothing. There is no bad weather, only bad gear.

    Often people will come up with a thousand reasons why they avoid riding.

    "It's too far"
    "I have to carry a bunch of stuff"
    "I'm out of shape"
    "I'm in a hurry"

    These can be legitimate but often it's a function of not willing to give it a try and simply planning ahead. Fitness impacts speed more than distance. Nearly anyone can roll at 10mph all day long on a comfortable bike. And if you are rolling around inner PDX, each segment on your itinerary is probably under three miles which equates to under twenty minutes.

    The more I don't drive the more I really can't stand being in the thing, unless it's a big fun road trip into the mountains. I'm always excited to find a local source for something where I've avoided a drive. And these days, unless it's a big capital investment, the cost offset by not driving is huge. There have been situations where I'm paying a higher price buying from some small indy shop but my total expense is lower because I've not driven. Nevermind the secondary benefits to my health, my sanity, the environment and the local economy.

    It's amazing how bicycles can do so much.

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  • Dave

    57% of Copenhageners say they ride bicycles because it's quick and easy. Something like 1% do it for environmental concerns (and Denmark is one of the more environmentally conscious countries in the world, it seems). This is a lot of where the infrastructure and legal issues come into play - if you put in place infrastructure and law to make people feel safe and to make it convenient for them to go by bike, they will. Not that you absolutely need infrastructure to go ride a bike, but it's shown true in many places around the world that if you build the infrastructure, (a lot) more people will ride bicycles.

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  • Wendy

    I'm a Californian living in Amsterdam, and just returned from Copenhagen, (yesterday.)
    It IS a small, flat and picturesque town... and like Amsterdam, quite fun to ride a bike around in. There are more stretches of street where cyclists share the roadway with cars than in Amsterdam, however, which I found a little disconcerting.

    A woman with Green Agenda of Copenhagen told me only 40% of Copenhageners possess drivers' licenses. *Not having the option of driving* definitely contributes to the convenience of bike riding.

    I can say from driving in Amsterdam, the fear of hitting a bicyclist, ( which, as a driver, I would by law be more than 50% responsible for) detracts from whatever small pleasure there might be in driving a car around town... unless one's primary purpose in driving is showing off one's (expensive car), which is beyond the scope of this discussion..

    Sorry to say, there's a bit of THAT going on in Amsterdam, just like there was when I lived in Oakland.

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  • Erik Sandblom

    Wendy, towns like Copenhagen might come across as smaller than they really are. For instance, 115 000 people travel along Nørrebrogade every day, even though it looks almost like a back alley. That's 65 000 people by bus, 33 000 people by bike and 17 000 by car.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/16nine/2967783904/in/set-72157608356981701/
    http://politiken.dk/indland/article574239.ece

    According to my calculation, that's about equivalent to a six-lane highway with car traffic. I'm assuming sixteen hours of operation per day, one car every three seconds in each lane of the highway, and one person in each car. Someone please check my math:

    1200 cars per lane per hour
    7200 cars per hour on the six-lane highway
    115 200 cars per sixteen hours

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