Friday, April 22, 2011

Top Ten Reasons to Bike

OK, actually I’ve only got five reasons. Somehow though, “Top Five Reasons to Bike” doesn’t have the same ring to it. We are slaves to the base-ten number system. So, I admit, I just wrote “ten” to suck you in and it clearly worked.

Go by the paper, drink your coffee, it's all good...

If you want, I could easily pad it out to ten, or more; you can go as fast as you want, free parking, nice muscle tone, you will pick-up chicks/guys, you will look cool, you're more at one with the world around you, it gets cars off the road, you will meet people, etc. I even read this as a reason; 'Primary school students will think you are "cool" or "hip" or "neat" or "rad" or whatever the current term is.' Ignoring the fact that this is not true, I personally haven’t felt a need to be perceived as cool, hip, neat or rad by 12-year olds since I was…well, 12. But hey, if that’s your goal in life then there’s another reason for you (if you ignore the fact that it actually isn’t a reason since it’s not true. If you want to be perceived as cool by primary school students, listen to Justin Bieber, get down with ‘casual gaming’ on your iPhone and read books about vampires).

So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Five Reasons to Bike;

1. It’s just as fast as other forms of transport and times are predictable. Obviously this depends on where you live, but for most people time is not a reason not to ride. I also value the predictability of travel time; if I drive, it can take me 20 minutes or an hour. When I ride, it always takes 35 minutes. And there are few things in life more satisfying than pedalling past stationary traffic.

Here I am getting some satisfaction:

2. Exercise – yes, this may surprise you but cycling does count as exercise. What's more, it's exercise that doesn't take any time out of your day since one way or another you have to use that time to commute anyway. How good is that? Very good.

3. It’s cheap – almost free (no petrol, tickets, car servicing, rego, parking). That said, I must admit that the more I ride, the more I eat. So, you might need to factor in a bit of money for some extra food.

Ivan Illich wrote a famous paper in 1972 called Energy and Equity. highlighted an insightful insight from this paper; "The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man’s metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well." That's right; the bicycle is the perfect machine (or at least as close as we've got so far).

4. It’s good for the environment - yes, it's true, cars are bad for the environment. I don't want to get too sanctimonious here, I don't have the right, so I'll just leave it at that.

5. It's good for your brain. Cycling is my psychologist. I do my best thinking while riding (I'm not saying I do good thinking but there's bad and then there's less bad (nothing cooler than self-deprecation (except highlighting when you are being self-deprecating (and multiple brackets)))) . I arrive at work with a functioning brain and I get home debriefed and over whatever has annoyed me during the day.

And there you have it. My top five reasons to bike. So, it's obvious; if everyone reads this, then everyone will start riding, right? Obviously, this is the first time anyone has ever offered reasons to go by bike. This, this and this simply don't exist. Don't bother clicking on them. There's no point. There's nothing there.

Sarcasm aside (sorry sarcasm, I love you but it's time to get real), what's the problem with offering reasons to ride? Well, nothing but I'd also argue there's not much point either. The reasons are pretty obvious. I reckon a cool primary school student could come up with a similar list. Ask anyone on the street, be they cyclist, driver, walker, whatever, and they'll be able to rattle off the advantages of cycling.

What would be more productive would be to look at why people don't ride. I've touched on some potential reasons here, here and here. And so, this "Top Five" has prompted me to write "Top Ten (or five or eleven or something) Reasons Not to Bike" or perhaps "Top Ten Reasons Why People Don't Bike". My feeling is that to successfully encourage people to do something you first need to understand why people don't do it. Coming soon...

Meanwhile, why do you ride? Or why don't you ride?

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