Braking Away

One of the benefits of being at GW is that I get to talk to Dan Solove in person. When I saw him on Wednesday, he reminded me that blogging doesn’t always have to be about my past books or future projects. Thanks, Dan!Traffic Sign

Depending on where you live, today or tomorrow is “Bike to Work” Day.  Bicycles have been around the US since at least 1866, when Pierre Lallement received patent no. 59,915 for a velocipede.  I’ve been an avid year-round bike commuter for 8 years now (aside from my 2 years in Kinshasa, Congo, when I couldn’t walk around the block without an escort), and, like most zealots, I like to proselytize. Now that I’ve converted to a bike commuter, I extol the economic and environmental benefits of riding:  bicycles don’t use any fossil fuels to get you from one place to another; an 8-mile bicycle trip keeps out about 15 pounds of pollutants from the air we are breathing; and somewhere between 6-20 bikes can be parked in one car parking space (mine is parked as a piece of art in my office).  Just as importantly, however, bike commuting is really fun. It is fast: even at my pace on the bike of 10-15 mph, I breeze right past people in cars. And it’s wonderful for my mental health. One of my friends interviewed me for a story she wrote for Good Housekeeping magazine (!) about how people find serenity. I told her I find serenity through writing articles and blog posts, but she wasn’t convinced; not until I told her about my bike commuting did she put pen to paper. So, as one corporate sports giant might say, Just do it!

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2 Responses

  1. I happen to live in a climate highly conducive to bicycling, so there’s little or no excuse for most people not to bicycle year-round more often than they do (in fact, the foremost reason I fled the San Fernando Valley after high school was that it was not at all ‘biker-friendly,’ an assessment made all-too-intimate by several close calls with death).

    I’ve been bicycling for over forty years and I still very much enjoy it (although now I have a seat that is much softer than those on my earlier bikes!). I bicycle to school, weather permitting, and students seem to enjoy seeing an old fart like me pedaling a classic one speed Schwinn (with high-rise handle bars) around campus. Our son has grown up to be an avid cyclist (our daughter less so, although she does commute to university on bike) and takes pleasure in assembling all sorts of bicycles for himself and others. And when my neighbor (another academic) was diagnosed with diabetes, he took up cycling with his wife and is now in the best shape of his life, with no current symptoms of his illness.

    I think the bicycle is one of the most technologically exquisite and truly useful devices ever produced. Thanks for paying it, and those who use it, homage.

    By the way, I also have an inordinate fondness for the cycle-rickshaw (aka trishaw, sidecar, pedicab, cyclo, becak, etc.), and admit to envying those who make their living driving these taxicabs. The ideal coffee table book (well, next to Lonely Planet’s Buddhist Stupas in Asia: The Shape of Perfection, 2001) happens to be Chasing Rickshaws, written by Tony Wheeler (no joke), with glorious photographs by Richard I’Anson (also Lonely Planet, 1998).

  2. Jack S. says:

    Hurrah. I’m happy for every day I can ride my bike to work. Riding past the mass of drones stopped in a traffic jam or the mob waiting to get on the bus/tram is always a feeling a thanks that I’m on my bike.