The bicycle is the simplest, most efficient, and elegant machine ever invented to move people over land at the local level. Biking is the predominant mode to transport people in the world. It can get you where you want to go, bring home the groceries, keep you in great shape, provide a lot of fun, and, in our case, cut your carbon footprint way down.
350.org, a group working to bring the carbon content in our atmosphere back to 350 ppm (parts per million), the amount that would have maintained the climate we’ve enjoyed for the last 10,000 years, is setting aside September 24 this year for people all over the world to make a commitment to curb climate change by getting out of their cars and onto their bikes. For those of you still in the contemplation stages, or maybe not even there, the outset of summer is a great time to experiment with bike riding.
A bike can be had for as little as $5 at Granny’s or as little as $40 or so for a functional used bike at the Bike Shop. Jeff at the Bike Shop is a very understanding and pleasant guy to deal with and will get you what you need and want. He can also refurbish that Granny’s bike (be sure to have him check it out). You may want to get a bike with electric power assist ($1400), The important thing, for a good first experience, is to have a good workable bike.
Having been an on and off bike rider for 30 years, I believe I understand the tortuous inner struggle with the resolve to ride the bike. Riding for the first time in your adult life, or at least after many years, can be hard. As you make your way gasping, with leaden legs, up those hills, you look for excuses never to do this again. However, along with an intimate awareness of slopes, you will experience the Vashon roadscape that you never noticed before: the birds, trees, water views, and…. things! If you wait another six months before trying it again, you will be back to the arduous square one. However, if you stick with it, you find fairly soon that it becomes easier. Before long, you won’t have so much trouble on those hills and you will realize that you can go anyplace on this island with impunity. This is a truly empowering feeling, not only physically but also to know that you have an option and don’t have to depend on gasoline. Ride with friends; working up hills is a lot easier with company. Take your time. If it is too hard, get off and walk. Form a riding group and try to ride once or twice a week.
Alert: biking provides you with a whole new world of …accessorizing! If you are planning on bringing something home, you will need a way of carrying it. I have plastic bucket panniers that clip on to my bike rack that are really convenient and easy to use. There are all kinds of baskets and panniers. Some folks use a back pack, but I think it is easier to let the bike carry the load. Besides carriers, there are helmets, mirrors, lights, toolkits, dingalings, bikewear (I don’t go in for that myself), and god knows what else.
Starting to use your bike in lieu of your car is another stumbling block. Sliding into that comfortable car seat, turning the key, turning on the radio, and cruising to your destination is hard to pass up. Try to start becoming conscious of the amount of money you are spending on gas. Remember those times that your car broke down? Instead of a moving pleasure palace, you now had a one ton pile of you-know-what, and, whatever you were planning on doing was now superceded by the task of getting the car(cass) off the road and to a repair shop? That should help you to start putting things into perspective.
Then, you don’t have to completely forsake your car. Pick a nice day for your bike expedition. Try out your accessories. Strut into Cafe Luna with your bike helmet and have a good visit with friends (Save that stop at the tavern for when you are a little more seasoned). After you get your moves down and your accessories fine tuned, you can ride in for your errands more often. SPECIAL TIP: The Strawberry Festival is a great time to ride into town. There is something about gliding serenely into town past all those people hiking in with all their gear from far off parking spots….
Get into biking: you’ll be glad you did!
Another reminder to be sure to catch the Wisenergy Fair, “Caulk The Rock”, June 18, 10-4 in the parking lot just north of the Village Green. A whole host of local businesses and consultants will be there to help you be more sustainable, stay warm, and save money!