What is it that gets a grown person riding a bike? After all, most Americans think of
bikes as child's toys. Those few that don't worry about the supposed dangers seem to worry
about just looking silly. So why bother with bicycling? Well, here's my answer - my
philosophy of bicycling.
There's a lot I love about bicycling. I love the machines themselves - so elegant, so
efficient. I love the exercise - keeping me in good health, and keeping me able to be
active and enjoy life. I love biking for getting me out of doors, into nature and the
countryside. I love it for the wandering and exploring of new roads, new places. I love it
for the people - for the many, many friends it's brought me. I love it because it's a
family activity, and I love doing things with my family. I love it for the independence -
because I can actually ride my bike across the state, carrying all I need, and not rely on
Exxon. I love the excitement of pushing myself to climb a steep hill, or to go fast, and
the friendly competition with someone trying to go faster. I love relaxed cruising, too,
and the great conversation that always seems to go with bike riding.
But one thing I love most about bicycling is: I think bicycling does something positive
for the world. I love the earth that God has created, and I feel we have a moral
obligation to care for it. It's a concept of stewardship. And I think bicycling helps.
It's good for the earth.
In particular, anytime a person uses a bicycle instead of a car, it's good for the
earth. Think about this: Isn't it strange that we Americans use twice as much energy per
person as the British, or the Japanese, or the West Germans? And isn't it strange that
we'll use a belching machine that weighs more than a ton, with the power of over 100
horses (and fuel consumption to match), to move a person and a briefcase a couple miles?
It's like using a 100 pound bag to carry 10 pounds of groceries. It's like using a cannon
to swat a fly. It's a clumsy use of technology.
The bicycle can be appropriate transportation - at least, much of the time. And in many
countries, everybody (not just poor people or weird college professors, but everybody)
knows this, and rides one all the time. So it can be done. And so I like to promote it -
for the good of the earth.
But there's more. I think the bicycle is good for society as well. I see America as a
country where the isolated, insulated, glass-enclosed mobility of the automobile is
severely damaging society. Neighbors don't know the family two or three doors down,
because they never pass them at less than 30 miles per hour. Impatient drivers, anonymous
in their cars, curse or cut off drivers that somehow offend them. Middle class families
abandon the cities to decay, using their mobility to move further and further into the
countryside, which quickly becomes flattened and paved. More and more of the world becomes
ugly and commercialized. In many fashionable areas, a 14 year old kid - who really should
be out kicking around the woods, exploring the world - literally can't get anywhere
without begging a ride in a car. Nobody plans or allows for anybody to travel any way but
by car. So, nobody travels except by car!
I would like to see a society where transportation alternatives exist. More important,
I'd like to see "development" take human beings, not just cars, into account. A
person should be able to walk or bicycle to every shopping center, without feeling
threatened with assault by automobiles. A kid should be able to bike out to get a loaf of
bread for Mom. There should be enough neighbors out and about that parents would know
their kids are safe and behaving.
I like to think bicyclists can help bring about this kind of world. If we use our bikes
more often, maybe we'll begin regaining the streets. Maybe more folks will see us enjoying
the outdoors, and be inspired to walk or bike on short trips. If we can make it popular
enough, maybe they'll help us ask for more rational development plans. Maybe it will
actually get to the point where the average suburbanite can bike to the mall without being
terrified by traffic!
And of course, maybe it's all a fantasy. But in the meantime, I enjoy biking anyway. I
enjoy it so much, for so many reasons, that I'm willing to keep on doing it, and keep on
promoting it. If, ultimately, it does some good for society, and some good for the earth,
so much the better.
- Frank Krygowski