It’s Always Earth Day for Bicyclists, but We Need More Butts on Bikes

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

This footprint stinks! One of the sponsors, Applied Materials, is a computer company, and they sure waste a lot of water.

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.

Notice the bike lane ending, but the cyclists continuing to exist? THIS MAKES ME VERY ANGRY! CONNECT THE LANES ALREADY, DAMMIT! Source: Timelynx on Pixabay

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.

More Butts on Bikes: How?

Bike commuting is in trouble. According to a January 2, 2019 article in USA Today, “Fewer in USA bike to work despite new trails, lanes and bicycle share programs,” from 2016 to 2017, 3.2% less people biked to their jobs. That number comes from the US Census Bureau which does an ongoing American Community Survey. That’s from a high of
904,463 in 2014 to 836,569.

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.

Source: USA Today, Ibid.

Let’s Get to Educating and Agitating

Master LCI Instructor Preston Tyree demonstrating a drill.

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.

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© 2019 A Dude Abikes. All rights reserved.

The Science of Exercise: Sugar, H.I.T.T. & Stuff

This is not a scientific post. I’m not dropping any science on you. It’s a topic of interest to A Dude and probably to many. Tonight on the way home from an errand, I ran into another bicyclist (he’s OK). Turns out he’s a student at the University of Texas. He was a super nice guy who had just come from a soccer game and wasn’t wearing a bike helmet. He was stopped at the sign near where Anthony Diaz was killed by a bus driver, and I asked him what happened to the ghost bike. He didn’t know, but guessed it was an upcoming marathon.

That mystery unsolved, the conversation shifted to him talking about his work in kinesiology. Which if you don’t know is the study of kinesi (whatever the heck that is). But seriously, he works on measuring oxygen in the blood, studies how horrible sitting is for your metabolism, what is more efficient for muscle-building, and so on. I learned some stuff in layperson’s terms since I frequently am fighting gravity and aging and other sciencey things. I figured I’d share with all 12 of you who might actually read this. Because he’s getting a master’s Degree… in SCIENCE, he actually blinded me with …. SCIENCE! Or maybe that was his bike light, I’m not sure.

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14 Years Not a Slave to Cars

In what’s become an annual post, now for the fourth year in a row, I am obligated contractually (by Mother Earth) to inform you that I am still carless.  Losing my car on January 25, 2005 was not my choice.  Continuing to do without one has been.  What does it all mean?  Well, I mostly bike (4,554 miles in 2018, to be exact).  I also walk to get around, though that’s more for exercise, 30′ a day.  I have also used the bus, ridden in friends’ cars, and twice last year I borrowed cars for extended periods.  So while I’m not 100% internal combustion engine-free, I still do not own a car.  I don’t want a medal, but I do think it’s an important accomplishment worth blogging about.  Thanks for reading.

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Addicted to Biking (and Sugar) or Just Committed to Goals (and Earning a Reward)?

I’ve been reflecting alot about my third mega-mileage year in a row, since I’m seeming to continue a daily amount of bicycling and walking.  5,143 Miles in 2018: 4,554 Biking + 589 Walking. Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good for A Dude! I haven’t added or subtracted any New Year’s Resolutions, so I’m wondering if it’s still healthy for me.  Especially since I’m generally sleep-deprived and tired if not downright exhausted.  Also having a regular if not daily or more encounter with chocolately goodness going into my grocery hole.  Then I saw a National Geographic article about addiction and this post about exercise addiction from follower A Better Man 21.  It’s as good a topic as any so I’m going to address it, hopefully briefly.

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I Exercise and Write 24+ Hours Every Week: An A Dude Abikes Round-Up

Today in Austin, Texas, there was some rain, so it was a good day to relax and reflect.  This blog post is one of my occasional round-ups of thoughts and things about your sometimes somewhat humble blogger.  Although in 10 days we’ll be at the mid-point of 2018, and I’ll be taking a closer look at my data from the walking, writing (blog and book), yoga and of course, bicycling, I wanted to update faithful readers, family and friends of just what is up with A Dude Abikes. Continue reading

Un-Fat Is Not All That:  Being Overweight May Have Some Health Benefits

Survey Says:  Fat Could Help You Live Longer

According to an article in the May 25, 2018 Austin American-Statesman a new study finds obese patients are more likely to survive certain conditions and illnesses when hospitalized.  It originally appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and is by by Najja Parker.  It says that while of course being fat is bad for your heart, blood sugar and more, “the extra fat could have some benefits, according to a new report.” Continue reading

Wowza! A 40-Mile Ride Makes My 4th 100-Mile Week in a Row

It was a very lazy Sunday.  I hadn’t done anything much save read Sue Grafton’s penultimate novel, X, and lounge around listening to classical music.  I wanted to see a movie, but it was a hot 18-mile round trip, and I could just stay home in the safety and comfort of my little rented casita.  Pages were read and turned, the phrases “page-turner” and “couldn’t put it down,” both applied.  Meals were eaten.  Time ticked by.   “What was I going to have to blog about Monday?” crossed my mind more than once.  It was 6:00 pm.  The temperature had gone down, and the light was turning softer.  I was 10 hours too late for the group rides.  But like a cat starved for food or affection or both…  Continue reading