After revisiting winter as a metaphor with my last post, I’m feeling a bit poetic. My first attempt at poetry (in this blog — I wrote plenty of sappy rhymes in my school days) was a tribute to nature titled Poem: Word to Your Mother (Earth). The second one was called Verisimilitude: Leap Day Twenty Twenty Poem; it dealt with a day in the life and went a little into politics including the environment. In case you missed them, or have forgotten, enjoy. As for today’s words, they’re about the longest period of subfreezing weather in Texas for a long time and the third heaviest snowstorm ever, resulting in power outages and water line breaks for millions across the state and many here in Austin. In fact, there’s an Austin water crew digging up the street to fix a leak as I write. This poem is also about life, politics and nature; I’m beginning to see a theme.
What does nature and political poetry have to do with pedaling a bike? As always, I think the best weapon against climate change is the bicycle. It was warm enough today I went out for a 10-mile ride. If it’s cold where you are but you’re brave and layered up enough, be safe out there. Or if you have one, get on your stationery bike or put your bike on a home trainer like I did the last few days. And if you’re amongst the hoi polloi, well, I doubt you’re reading this dude’s blog, but if so, have fun on your Peloton. We don’t judge. But before your pedaling, or after, here’s my poem. I don’t claim to be a good poet, but it’s like art: I don’t know much about it, but I know what I like. Hey, I’m no Ralph Waldo Emersonor Mary Oliver. I hope you like it.
Recently I was reading something that suggested the reason most people are not wealthy was really our own damn fault for having negative subconscious thoughts about money, usually from growing up. Change your thinking about money, the mantra goes, and you’ll magically remove those obstacles. Of course that’s just pure illogical bunk and New Age hooey, right? There are real world factors like education, disability, corporate capitalism, class, sex, racial and other forms of discrimination, lack of access to resources and connections and more that all work to keep most of the 99% of people down.
Attracting abundance is an idea that’s not new to popular culture and the self-help world. Remember The Secret? Even though just wishing for more loot and stuff and having it show up seems ridiculous, I decided I would give it a try. What do I have to lose, right? Well, within 30 minutes of telling a friend about it, I had a half-day paying gig watching a TV show. Just for watching three episodes of a show that I hadn’t heard of but would like to see, I was going to be paid the tidy sum of $100. It was the best job I ever had. Did I get it because I had already signed up on the mailing list with the market research study? Or because I was intentionally telling the universe I was available? Who knows? But it isn’t the only time. It keeps happening!
The philosophy of yoga as handed down over thousands of years continues to be valuable and available to those who wish to study it. It may be lost on some if not most modern-day, lycra-clad, booty-tightening students and teachers alike. Yours truly does not often crack open the ancient texts for some light reading. But I did spend a summer at a yoga center, and after over five years of daily (well, nightly) practice, I still consider myself essentially a beginner. Lately, I find myself struggling with one of the branches of the practice in particular. Surely I’m not alone, so here’s a little post about brahmacharya.
Official Earth Day is later this month, but in Austin, Texas the 2019 edition is celebrated April 13. The promotional materials encourage people to not drive (even a Prius?), but rather to, scoot, walk, take public transit, carpool if they must take a car, and of course, bike. They even have a bike valet area. A Dude went last year and enjoyed hanging with other ecologically-minded folks. Because whether you bike 10 miles a week or 100, you’re doing something to save the planet. Every bicyclist is an environmentalist. You know what they say, Love Your Mother (Earth)! (Or else!)
Biking Definitely Reduces Your Carbon Footprint
I definitely identify as a tree-hugging, air-breathing, water- drinking, carbon-based life form. But after 14 Years Not a Slave to Cars, I don’t think about it much. So I got to wondering, how much have I reduced my carbon footprint? Probably quite a bit.
One general calculation comes from the European Cyclist Federation in Brussels, Belgium. They claim that for each passenger who travels a kilometer in a car, they are producing 271 grams of CO2. A cyclist uses 21 grams. Add that up, and especially given that cars go alot faster and farther than bikes, it is substantial. That’s significant, but only one measurement.
But is that all there is to the story? No, but in a short blog I can’t delve into all the science. Here’s a great link from People for Bikes, citing numerous statistics on the subject, if you want to geek out on more studies. A number of the stats imagine what would happen if commuters increased their trips by bike and the savings that would accrue, assuming the commuter was previously driving their car. It’s pretty much a no-brainer. Biking is better for the planet. But so what? There’s a lot more to getting people’s butts out of their cars and onto bikes than telling people it’s good for the environment, or even healthy them.
Bike Infrastructure Has to Be Safe and Convenient
Today I met a bus driver who commutes to work by bicycle. He’s doing his part personally and professionally to reduce pollution. For him and others to do that on a regular basis, there have to be safe routes to get there, and those pathways need to be convenient. Even in Austin, as in many less fortunate cities, bike lanes are insufficient, unprotected, not connected, or just non-existent. And of course, two stripes of paint on the road won’t protect you from a shitty driver who’s distracted and runs into you. Some sort of barrier like plastic bollards, street turtles (aka city titties) or even curbs provide more safety.
That’s a larger, complicated, costly policy issue. Fortunately, we are starting to see the benefits of two bond elections that added millions of dollars to the coffers for bike lanes, sidewalks, and other traffic improvements. But once that money is all spent, there will still be vast room for improvement to finish the job. It will never be 100% safe to drive a car, ride a bike, or use a sidewalk in Austin. But one can work toward this by advocating individually and collectively.
But back to Earth Day being every day for bicyclists. Right now, the population of US workers who commutes is small. The more people who bike, the more other people will see it as a “normal” activity. A large part of getting bikes on butts is education. Currently, there is a huge gap between those who need that education — both new bike riders, especially kids, and car drivers and the reality, that it’s hard to connect educators with students. Especially given the question of funding and finding available insturctors.
However, according to the League of American Cyclists, which grants the League Cycling Instructor (LCI) designation, there may be more to those numbers. While big cities like the Bay Area and Seattle lost some riders, other cities like Philly and DC gained them. Explanations could include the rise of ride-sharing, weather, increased car traffic, the low cost of gas, and the lack of significant infrastructure improvements.
“It shows that while we have made investments over the last 20 years” in bicycle infrastructure, “we are still far from having safe and connected networks that make people feel safe biking to work,” said Ken McLeod, the League’s policy director.
When I became an LCI last year, I had hoped to find older students who wanted to get on their bikes but were afraid. So far, I have not pursued that as a side business. Nor have I been invited to help teach any classes. Part of that is on me for not marketing myself, but some of it is having the right connections to the institutions and funders that can provide grants and students. It’s my hope that this is something to which I can contribute. Because an educated cyclist is a confident, smart and safe cyclist who is going to be a model for others. And the more cyclists, the better. There is safety in numbers.
Aside from education, the other ingredient is agitation. I’ve done a good bit of that, being awarded Bike Austin‘s Advocacy Ambassador of the year in 2017. As that group rebuilds as an all-volunteer organization, events like Bike to Work Day (May 17, 2019), can help. But there are far more cyclists than members. Everyone who bikes needs to speak truth to power to get more protections for cyclists. Bike Texas is doing that at the state level; I was fortunate to attend their Cyclists in Suits Lobby Day.
But until a massive amount of bike riders learn the rules of the road — and follow them — and band together to be a political force for good, we are likely to remain targets, in the shadows, and an afterthought on the roads. So if you’re reading this here are some questions to mull over:
If you cycle, do you belong to your local bike group?
If not, why not?
If there isn’t one, can you start one?
And if you are not a cyclist, or don’t commute because you don’t feel confident or safe doing so, what would it take for you to be comfortable?
If you’re in Austin and want to learn more about getting educated and active, my email is on the About page.
Thank you for visiting me on WordPress or at https://ADudeAbikes.com. Feel free to add your Likes and Comments and to Follow the blog through WordPress if you have it, or by email. Contact me on the About page with any questions. Please feel free to Re-blog and Share as long as you give credit and the permalink to this post.