Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #5

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement
Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation
Reason #6 - A Feast for the Senses

Reason #5 – Independence and Self-Reliance

Motorists frequently cite "freedom" as a primary reason for their choice of transportation.

I guess the perceived ability to get in and go any where, any time they want, gives the impression of "freedom."

Respected automotive columnist Brock Yates put it this way:

"As the urban highway glut increases and average speeds on major intra-city freeways dip toward the single digits, Americans still choose to drive …
"The reason is obvious. It is called freedom. It is called mobility. It is called privacy. It is called flexibility. It is called being American."

So, what is freedom? Are you free, just because you have the ability to choose a life of confinement? Was Howard Hughes "free" during those years he locked himself away in a hermetically-sealed hotel room? After all, he was there by his own choice.

For me, freedom and independence and self-reliance are closely-related concepts.

As a person who has experienced both:
- You are NOT independent or self-reliant, if you rely on a motor vehicle for 100% of your transportation.
- A bicycle, and the ability to use it for a major portion of your typical daily transportation needs, can grant you substantially more independence and self reliance.

By choosing a bicycle, I have cast off the shackles of:
- fuel prices (which fluctuate wildly, and which motorists have essentially no control over)
- insurance, registration, car payments, big-ticket repair and maintenance expenses, parking fees, and numerous other nickel-and-dime transportation expenses
- dependence on all other people using the "grid" to do so successfully. (If somebody crashes on the freeway, a motorist 5 miles back is likely to be affected. By contrast, on my bicycle I never have an obstacle I can't ride around, or carry my bike over.)

My great-great grandma, Margaret McNeil, walked across the plains from Omaha, Nebraska to Ogden, Utah, when she was 13 years old! She crossed rivers by clinging to her jersey-cow's tail and swimming! What would she think if her sissy-boy descendent couldn't go 2 blocks to the convenience store, without firing up the family truckster?

Here is more of Brock Yates' definition of "freedom." (Although I enjoy his writing talents, he scoffs at the notion of bicycles-as-transportation, so my opinions are far different from his. But he helps me make my point for "independence and self-reliance.")

" … Being bottled up in gridlock is, in the end, our choice, for better or worse.
"To be sure, trapped in a crush of steaming iron on a stretch of asphalt is not exactly dream street, but at least it offers the victim the option to tune to whatever he or she chooses on the radio, to scratch bodily parts in privacy, to yammer on the cell phone in high decibels, [and] to choose departure times at random …"

Some freedom!

(Brock Yates' words are from an article, "Hit the Road, Jack," published on TCS in September 2002.)


Anonymous said...

About a week ago, I was sitting outside at night downtown with my best girl. She is an all-the-time pedestrian, and I an all-the-time cyclist. As we watched the "cruise" traffic on Main Street, we ended up talking about the very topic of transportational freedom. We chuckled to think that if one of those cars broke down, there would be a person stranded, unable to get themselves home. We laughed, reviewing how many options there are for getting around, and how that poor sad sucker still thinks his car equates to "freedom." From a metal box one second to panic on the roadside the next, there's nothing but self-imposed slavery there, and I'm glad to be free of it.

Cheers to the freedom of cycling!

Anonymous said...

"What happens when gas goes to $5?" I posed that question in the office, and no real good answers. People are not looking ahead and developing options for when that day comes. They will be slaves to their cars until they start looking at options.

That being said, I am not perfect. But I choose to drive sometimes for those optional trips and not my primary trips.

Bikeboy said...

Clancy - it would be TOUGH to go 100% car-free, at least out here in the Wild West with our open spaces (as opposed to a densely-urban setting with numerous public-transit options).

It could be done. I know some people who do it, including my virtual friend Danielo.

Although I question my wife's need for 100% car-transportation (and she tries to minimize her trips and save gas), occasionally it's very convenient to have that car readily available to run errands in. (Tomorrow we're going on a family jaunt to the Emu-Z-um. I'll have to report back on that.)

Once you surrender to 100% car transportation, whether your destination is a block or a continent away, you've lost some freedom, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Yeh I know. I drove downtown last night for a movie and I am driving to the dump/landfill afterwork. I too question my wife's need for 100% driving. I even told her I would drive the kids around a couple days a week so she could ride her bike to work to get into the habit.

That will all be fixed with the Xtracycle. By the way the wood bike is up and running.

Bikeboy said...

Clancy... I thought about the WOOD BIKE yesterday, during the big blow. As I was riding along, leaning diagonally into a side wind, I thought... "This could be TOUGH on the wood bike, since it's got so much side-surface!" (That may be the ultimate downfall of your design. In a 40mph wind, you might go flying away like the Wicked Witch of the West!)

May I post the photo of your wood-bike on this blog? (I've got a couple photos of a bamboo-frame bike, too. Titanium? "Exotic"? HA!)

Anonymous said...

Yes you can post the pics. It will give a free article to post. Not that you will ever run out of ideas.

Anonymous said...

The thing about going 100% car-less, and the reason I did it abruptly, is that it forces you adjust your life to fit your transportation options. At first, I felt limited by the loss of my addiction. However, I gradually learned to find the things I need closer to me, and it opened a new world of comprehension for me. There really is much more available to me, close-at-hand, than I every realized. I could never have learned that without forcing myself into it. Necessity is the mother of invention, indeed.

Wood bike? Now I'm intrigued! Bring forth the pictures!