Eco-friendlier bicycling

Mankind has invested more than four million years of evolution in the attempt to avoid physical exertion. Now a group of backward-thinking atavists mounted on foot-powered pairs of Hula-Hoops would have us pumping our legs, gritting our teeth, and searing our lungs as though we were being chased across the Pleistocene savanna by saber-toothed tigers. Think of the hopes, the dreams, the effort, the brilliance, the pure force of will that, over the eons, has gone into the creation of the Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Bicycle riders would have us throw all this on the ash heap of history.
~P.J. O’Rourke

Sure, bicycling is green. Even if you’re a horrible horrible anthropogenic climate change skeptic like me you have to admit it doesn’t release a lot of nasty crap into the air and that’s always nice. And they’re quieter. At least if you’re not in particular sections of Portland, from what I hear. My bike-right nuttiness ends at yelling at cars who drive in bike lanes and stop in crosswalks.

But biking can be greener. And cheaper, too. Yep. That tired old “get it used” line.

Think about it. How much does your daily commute to work cost you in gas? If it’s anything like mine (and not like Dargon’s), it’s not a whole hell of a lot. I live a few miles from work. If you’re considering commuting to work by bike, you’re probably in much the same boat. Use your daily cost of gas to figure how long it would take you to make a brand new bike pay for itself. Now add in all the gear you need/want. Ouchies.

And it’s not like used bikes are hard to come by. I posted a want ad on Freecycle and got my pick of two free bicycles. I see nice bikes for sale cheap on Craigslist all the time. Your gear you may still have to buy new.

Now don’t make excuses to buy a new bike. Unless you’ve been a seasoned cyclist in the past, you don’t know for sure if biking is something you’re going to keep up with. And I doubt a fancy-ass road bike is going to make you a better cyclist. Or faster, for that matter, and speed doesn’t. You’re not going to be the next Lance Armstrong, and that’s not the point, anyway. The point is to get from Point A to Point B. Considering I bike in my off hours, the amount of time I spend is fairly irrelevant.

If you’re going to tell me crap about the value of exercise and fresh air and less traffic and global warming and the hidden costs of vehicle maintenance, yeah, I know about all that. Especially the vehicle maintenance part. But that’s all much harder to quantify and add into your daily gas savings unless you’re giving up your gym membership in favor of a bicycle. And if you’re going to mention global warming to me, you’d damn well better buy used.

But on to the gear. Oh, it’s tempting. I’ve been wanting a rear-mounted bike rack. I don’t have one. I can’t justify the purchase. With the rare exception, I get along quite happily with my little backpack that I owned anyway. If I found a bike rack at the thrift shop, you’d bet I’d buy it. But until that glorious day it’s just me and my ridiculous little kitty backpack. I’ve added a mirror, a helmet (at the insistence of my boss, but it’s a good idea anyway) and a set of lights (another good idea). I only added the lights when I started biking before dawn. Before then, they were something relegated to the table of “Want, do not need.” Most any other type of gear I can think of (aside from a bike pump, another something easily procured used), is just unnecessary for the casual commuter cyclist.

And if you still don’t believe me? I’ve been biking off and on to work once a week for over a year now. While I’ve taken some substantial hiatuses due to weather and busting my wrist, (don’t bike with a busted wrist. BAD IDEA.), I think by now if I were a permanent resident I’d have the excuse to buy a new bike. But I like my old beat up roach bike. Sure the brakes suck, and the gear shift is completely shot and it’s rusted everywhere, but that’s a security feature. Why steal my bike when you can jack the brand new fixie parked right next to it? Besides, it was free. Sure, it takes more effort to get up that hill, but that’s just more exercise.

This week I’m actually biking to work twice. I’ll probably drop back to once a week and finally not at all once the weather gets to the point where I don’t really want to be out in it, but until then I’ll keep biking along, so long as it’s not 102 Fahrenheit, either. That also sucks. I know, I did it once.

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2 Responses to “Eco-friendlier bicycling”

  1. I biked to campus a couple times while I was there. Both times, it left my knees barely functional and my ass more sore than from a good ol’ fashioned dick-in-the-butt. And then I had to ride home.
    Between biking and walking, I’ll take the footwork any day. Sure it might take twice as long to get there, but I won’t feel like I’ve been kneecapped by my loan shark (*cough*salliemae*cough*). And that other thing they do so well.

  2. Hey Fox! I am back to reading your blog whenever you post!

    Since August, I’ve been biking everyday, 7 miles total, sometimes up to 12, to and from school. Not only is it from my live-with-less philosophy (or, general disgust with our bad habits, of taking a car for a block, rather than walking it) and my small budget (gas means money), but also as a way to try to understand the built environment more directly.

    So far the weather has been inconvenient at some points (biking through monsoon. biking through 110 degrees and get to class….well, let’s just call it, “hippie mode”) but generally fine. The rule has been: no car during the weekdays. One doesn’t need more cars during those days anyway.

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