“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” ― H.G. Wells
By Brian Nadon
What is it that gets a grown person riding a bike? After all, most people think of bikes as a 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 Biking
There’s a lot I love about bicycling. I love the engineering and machines themselves – so elegant, so efficient, so dynamic. 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 outdoors, into nature and the countryside. I love it for the wandering and exploring of new roads, for getting lost, and for the new places. I love it for the people – for the many friends it’s brought me. I love it for the independence – because I can actually ride my bike across the country, carrying all I need, and not rely on Esso. I love the excitement of pushing myself to climb a steep hill or to go fast down a hill, 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 nature 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 North 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 kilometres? 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 Canada as a country where the isolated, insulated, glass-enclosed mobility of the automobile is severely damaging society. Neighbours don’t know the family two or three doors down because they never pass them at less than 50 kilometres 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 centre, 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 neighbours 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.