One of the big things with this year’s Earth Day is going car-free and finding other ways of getting people to wean themselves away from the oil-drunk vampire which is our modern economy.
Not that labeling one day per year in honour of the planet we live on is going to change attitudes or the misguided policies which lock most of us into the most inefficient mode of transport.
Change has to come on a personal level. If you really want to do something that counts, you have to vote with your feet, and the best way to do that is to stick both of them on pedals and get moving.
It’s really not that hard to do.
All you have to do is buy a bike, seven pairs of bike shorts, three pairs of bike gloves, two pairs of bike shoes, a pair of bike paniers, a water bottle, helmet, front and back lights and a small tool kit and you’re on your way. For an average commuter, that means for the price of a year or two worth of gas you can be cycling to work for the next five or ten years almost for free.
It won’t be easy. Most drivers are cool but there is a solid base of jerks out there waiting to honk their horns and scream at you for the slightest perceived provocation, so be prepared to turn the other cheek a lot. I think they hate the fact you get to work quicker than they do and pay no taxes, but I could be wrong.
The weather’s improving and on nice days the sun will warm your face as you discover the freedom of not having to sit in traffic jams, but come late fall and winter, you’ll get out of bed and shake your head thinking: there’s no way in hell I’m going to bike through that and arrive soaking wet to work.
Well, I do it all year round and sometimes arrive at the office drenched to the bone, but it’s really no big deal.
Before you leave, carefully roll up the clothes you plan to wear so they won’t wrinkle too much, stick them along with a decent towel in a sturdy plastic bag and carry it all with you in one of the paniers. Shoes go in a separate bag. Carry an extra t-shirt, bike shorts and socks for the ride home in case your stuff doesn’t dry during the day, and you can at least start the ride home again with clean and dry cycling clothes.
Our family does own one car. Based on the the city mileage it gets and current gas prices in Germany I save around €35 a month on gas alone by riding a total of 12km to the office and back every workday. If it’s true what they say that an average car costs 50 cents per km once you add in all the other costs such as annual registration tax, maintenance, insurance and the like, I’m saving about €125 a month, or €1600 a year. Wow, more than €10,000 over the past eight years. Not bad.
But beyond the financial, it’s how I feel when I arrive in the morning that keeps me on the bike through all types of wind and weather. On rare occasions when I absolutely have to drive because I’m running an errand after work, I have a lousy day. Why? Not because I’m expecting it to be so, it’s just that the pedal to work in the morning wakes me up and gets the blood moving more than three cups of coffee ever could, and the ride back home again squeezes out any stress I might have built up over the day.
But I won’t advise you to cycle to save the planet. I forget where I read this or I’d provide the link, but apparently those who commute to work by bicycle benefit so much from the exercise, they add an average of nine years onto their lives compared to their car-bound cousins.
That means that instead of kicking the bucket on cue, I’ll be hanging around another nine years. So simply by living in one of the world’s most highly industrialised societies that much longer, I’ll be consuming the equivalent of as many of the earth’s resources as I’ll have saved in all my years of bike commuting.
Piss on it. I’m going SUV shopping.
© 2008 lettershometoyou