• Posted Nov 9, 2001

O.K., here's five reasons to ride a bicycle that you've never before heard of.

You probably think that you've heard all the arguments for riding a bicycle. Sure, the bicycle doesn't use non-renewable resources or pollute (including noise pollution), is inexpensive both for ownership and in terms of public infrastructure to support it, can be parked anywhere, and is a healthy activity. "Blah, blah, blah. Tell me something new," you say. O.K., here's five reasons to ride a bicycle that you've never before heard of. Not in your wildest dream. And if you don't already ride a bicycle for fun, fitness, or transportation, this will surely convince you to get your gears spinning. 1. Bicycles are more technologically advanced than motor vehicles. Don't let the shiny, complicated looking engine on that Ecstasy S.U.V. fool you. A bicycle is in certain ways the most intelligent vehicle ever created. It has the world's most advanced "engine" controlled with the most wondrous and sophisticated "computer." The engine often knows what's wrong with itself and usually fixes itself. A bicycle is also the world's most energy efficient mode of travel, using just 35 calories per passenger mile versus 1860 for an average automobile with one occupant. And the engine can run on all kinds of strange fuels, like broccoli. Affordable bicycles are manufactured with exotic materials such as titanium, carbon fiber, incredible aluminum alloys, and high strength alloy steel. If you've never ridden a high quality modern bicycle, you're in for a treat. In comparison, cars are dinosaurs. Actually, they burn decomposed dinosaurs in an internal combustion engine that, evolutionarily speaking, is about at the Paleozoic era. We've had rocket ships that go to the moon and back since 1969. We have limitless solar energy and enough nuclear technology to atomize the earth, but our motor vehicles still use fossil fuel. Cars are made with steel, iron, and plastic. You can't pick them up. And try to fix one! 2. Bicycle manufacturing is not controlled by special interests. Well, special interests are EVERYWHERE, but relatively speaking, this is true. Bicycle manufacturers could have invented the Army recruiting slogan "Be All That You Can Be." Their goal is to produce the best vehicle possible. Bicycles are the perfect synthesis of body and machine. Be a cyborg. Cars on the other hand, are the epitome of special interest controlled products. The oil industry wants cars to get the worst gas mileage possible. The steel industry wants cars to be big and heavy, ostensibly in order to be safe. So, reject the greed of huge multinational corporations. Tread lightly and ride a bicycle. 3. Bicycles are faster than cars. In urban areas, this is sometimes literally true. Congestion, traffic signals, parking-space-search time, and walking-to-final-destination time all conspire to reduce the speed of even the highest powered motor vehicle to about that of a bicycle. However, if you consider that the time cost of travel also includes the amount of time spent working to pay for the vehicle, bicycles come roaring ahead. Also, why spend loads of time working to pay for the car to get to work to pay for the car? Since exercise is mandatory for optimal health, and riding a bicycle to some necessary destination incorporates exercise which would otherwise take time in the gym, pedaling to someplace can be considered as taking zero time. Therefore, bicycles are infinitely fast. That's faster than light, which, according to Einstein shouldn't be possible, but nonetheless reverses time. Riding a bicycle makes you younger. Be a kid again! 4. You can be part of a cutting edge movement. According to the 1990 Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, only 0.7% of all transportation trips are made by bicycle. Ninety percent of trips are taken in a personal automobile with the remainder via transit, walking, or other modes. Lets face it, bicyclists are a minority. But, by the same token, we're unique. So why be normal? Be different, ride a bicycle. 5. Someday you'll wish you had. Helen Hayes, the much beloved "First Lady of American theater" who died at the age of 92 was asked in an interview if she regretted anything. She said she had only one regret. "I never rode a bicycle. I wish I had. That's all." While few of us can hope to achieve the stature of Ms. Hayes, we certainly can fulfill a dream that she never did. The simple pleasure of riding a bicycle — effortless motion at one moment, challenging yet empowering hill climbing the next, followed by the thrill of the decent. Bicycling is the wind in your face and your senses on hyperdrive. It's life at its best. Try it. Ultimately there will come a time when you won't be able to. By Wayne Peine

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