Saturday, October 31, 2009

Transform

Bicycles are transformational tools to a sustainable future. To demonstrate how bicycles solve problems, let's look at four of the most pressing issues of our time.

  1. Global Climate Change
  2. The Horror of War
  3. National Health Crisis
  4. Economic Collapse

In the USA, personal automobiles are the leading source of greenhouse gases. In fact, cars are the main cause of pollution of air, water, and soil, as well as primary sources of noise and light pollution.

Even if we could retool quickly enough to immediately convert to alternative fuels, we would still have a problem. There is no known method for generating as much energy as cars consume without creating massive pollution. The key is to improve efficiency. The most efficient method known for transporting human beings – more efficient than walking, riding a horse, or a mag-lev train – is the bicycle. A healthy person can travel anywhere on land with cargo equal to his own weight by bicycle. If you can walk, you can cycle. In fact, people without legs can use hand powered cycles.

Wars are fought over resources. Right now the USA is engaged in two wars that are predominantly about who controls the most petroleum rich portion of the planet. Do you think there would be as much incentive to fight if we all stopped buying gasoline?

Furthermore, bicycling fosters a spirit of independence. People who know they can go wherever they want without paying an arm and a leg are harder to manipulate into becoming soldiers. War is an obsolete method of resolving conflicts and someday they're going to give a war which we all refuse to attend.

The diseases which plague the USA today are those of excess consumption. Americans get too little exercise. Next to swimming, there is no better exercise than bicycling. Riding a bike gives you a great aerobic workout without stressing your joints too much.

Converting to bicycles would reduce pollution and stress, thus curbing the rates of several diseases. Most importantly the rate of accidents would be significantly lowered. Today more Americans are killed and maimed on our nation's highways than the total loss of US soldiers in the Vietnam War. Where is our outrage?

The root of the economic crisis is that Americans consume more than we produce. Before the US national debt crossed the one trillion dollar line, it was the largest debt ever amassed in the history of humankind. At this writing it is approaching twelve times that and growing at an insane rate. And the national debt is dwarfed by the combined personal debts and business debts.

Bicycles are a remarkably affordable mode of transport. The average American, who has been spending about half his working hours earning cars, licenses, insurance, gas, etc., can easily afford the time and money to get around on the nicest of bicycles. It is a very comfortable lifestyle transition for most.

The question is not whether Americans will give up automobiles, but when. The world will not continue to loan us unlimited funds so we can kill thousands to control a resource that is becoming increasingly limited. There is no technofix big enough to cover the gross inefficiencies of the personal automobile.

Positive change is not forthcoming from the US government, no matter how loudly we demand it. The change agent you're waiting for is you and your vehicle is a bicycle. You can improve your economy and your health while doing your part for the environment and to resist supporting war. Get on your bicycle and ride!

2 Comments:

Blogger Strayer said...

I'm afraid to ride anymore, been hit three times by cars. Can't seem to get myself to do it again. I applaud your courage to ride amongst the cars.

Monday, February 22, 2010 at 4:45:00 AM PST  
Blogger Vernon Huffman said...

I calculate I've bicycled at least 20,000 miles, much of it in very heavy traffic, and have never yet been hit by a car (knock on wood). Besides good fortune, I credit certain practices I've learned.
* Visibility. I wear bright clothes, have reflective stuff all over my gear and have lights front and rear on my bike and on my helmet.
* Predictability. I hold my line where I can ride steadily without obstructions, taking the lane where there's no room to pass. I point where I intend to go if there's any doubt.
* Eye Contact. If I can't see the eyes of the driver of a car whose path I intend to cross, I yell out a friendly "Hello!"
* Awareness. My vehicle keeps me alert. That's an advantage. I also study the facts about how bikes get hit. Therefore I stay off sidewalks, give parallel parked cars wide berth, and watch for right turning vehicles.
* Maneuverability. Another advantage of my vehicle is the ability to change course quickly and go almost anywhere. I maintain momentum by running stop signs and jumping lights where indicated for safety.
* Priority. I know cars kill. My priority is my survival. I don't give a damn if I make drivers mad, as long as they see me.

I hope you dare to ride again, Strayer, and learn to survive by developing safe habits.

Friday, March 26, 2010 at 10:34:00 AM PDT  

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