Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Higher gas = more bikes

Perennial local columnist Tim Woodward believes that more people on bicycles is a good thing. His column in today's edition, "Maybe expensive gas isn't such a bad thing," can be read HERE.

I feel compelled to comment on a couple of his comments.

Woodward: "The new bike is a cruiser. It isn't as fast as my old bike, but it has a comfortable seat and you can sit upright on it instead of being in a constant crouch. Serious cyclists will snicker at this, but I don't care. A time comes in every life when comfort is more important than speed. If I'm comfortable and my butt doesn't hurt, I'll ride more."

It's interesting how casual cyclists, and non-cyclists, equate a fat padded saddle and upright riding position with "comfort."

And that may be true, if your cycling is limited to infrequent rides of 5 miles or less.

But if you ride every day, and go on longer rides, you discover:
- A narrow saddle (that fits you well - it's all in the "sit bones") is more comfortable because there's less "rubbing surface"
- The dreaded "crouching" position lets your arms and shoulders take part of the load that would otherwise be perched on your saddle, and enables your leg muscles to work much more efficiently as you pedal.
All of that results in MORE, not less, comfort in the long run.

Woodward: "For decades, the conventional wisdom has been that nothing would get Americans out of their cars. So much for conventional wisdom."

My own "conventional wisdom" has been that Americans would only get out of their cars when driving was more painful than the alternatives. $4 gas, combined with rush-hour traffic, has resulted in the tipping point for many local Americans. If gas dropped back to $3 (which seems highly unlikely), most would be right back in their cars with A/C blasting, and back to buying new Hummers and Yukon XLs.

Woodward: "Some pedestrians seem only dimly aware that they're sharing the Greenbelt with people on machines going faster than they are. They hold hands while dreamily walking at the speed of congressional reform, effectively blocking a lane. They stroll three and four abreast, partially or completely blocking both lanes. They stand in the middle of the path and chat in groups of five or six. And that doesn't include the dogs on expandable leashes stretching across the path like trip wires."

Amen, brother!

Woodward: "Strategically located air pumps along the Greenbelt would be a wonderful public service."

Is he talking about bicycle TRANSPORTATION or RECREATION? He seems to be assuming - as do so many non-cyclists - that all cycling destinations are along the Greenbelt. The Greenbelt is a fantastic resource, particularly for idyllic recreational riding. But if you're using your bike for transportation, unless you are extremely lucky, most of your riding will be on city streets, and you better just carry your own pump (and patch kit, etc., and know how to use them). Part of the beauty of bicycle transportation is the independence it provides from gas stations, repair shops, and perhaps community pumping stations.

All in all, an excellent column that helps to get the word out.

My favorite paragraph: "Riding a bike or walking to work makes you feel better, sleep better, look better. I hate to exercise, but I've actually come to miss the ride on days when the bike stays home because I need the car for work."

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