Bicycle Built for You
drive a vehicle that gets the equivalent of a thousand miles
to the gallon and runs on a transmission invented by Leonardo
Da Vinci. It has no gas tank and emits no greenhouse gases
or other pollutants. Its evolutionary roots stretch back to
strange machines of the early 19th century designed to increase
the efficiency of walking. My energy efficient vehicle is
Iíve been using a bicycle for getting around Albany for over
30 years. I use it mainly for commuting to work and for short
local trips around town, particularly in auto-congested areas
like Lark Street, Washington Park and the Center Square neighborhood.
While weather conditions, passenger accommodations, the size
of goods carried and distance all affect my biking choices
there still remains a lot of trips that Iím able to make with
two wheels. Iíd prefer to think of my car as my backup form
What I particularly like about getting around by bike is the
freedom it gives me to stop and check things out along the
way. It also makes it easier to get off the road. With the
wonder of spring blooms all about these days, I can easily
stop to sniff the temporal scents of the season often without
having to get off my bike. I have ridden down to Washington
Park on a few occasions lately with no parking problems, and
wandered the trails and closed roads checking out the views
and smells of the latest spring flowerings.
Bicycles make a lot of sense these days as gasoline prices
rapidly rise above $2 a gallon, greenhouse gases induce climate
change, air pollution eats away at the lungs of millions,
obesity thickens the national body and wars are waged over
the control of oil. The bicycle may just become a technological
savior for humans as the 21st century proceeds.
The recent race between a bicycle, car and bus from downtown
Albany to Stuyvesant Plaza showed the relative speed of cycling,
especially in heavily congested rush hour traffic. While most
media covered the relative times of the contestants, few dwelt
on the broader-ranging issues connecting oil dependence, health
and transportation. Mark Gaffneyís pedaling prowess involved
a lot more than getting the best time of the day.
Every mile ridden on a bike instead of in a car reduces the
demand for oil. Oil is a non-renewable resource and its supply
is quickly running dry. Itís been estimated that the food-energy
equivalent of one gallon of gas can fuel a cyclist for a thousand
miles. Ironically, U.S. auto manufacturers are helping to
spur car sales in China, a country where the bicycle has its
greatest following. This is resulting in a growing demand
for gasoline in China as cars displace bikes, facilitating
the draining away of world oil reserves at an even quicker
pace than previously predicted.
With the growing scarcity of oil in the world, there are two
things that can be easily predicted: 1) the cost of gasoline
will continue to rise, and so will 2) the likelihood of international
conflicts over available reserves. The extreme addiction of
this country to an oil-fueled economy that requires more and
more barrels of crude has made access to world oil reserves
a national security issue. Every mile ridden on a bike instead
of in a car may help reduce the prospects for future wars.
Every mile ridden on a bike instead of in a car cuts greenhouse-gas
emissions. The earth is warming. The more we ride bikes, the
less carbon dioxide and other gases heating up the planet
are released into the atmosphere. Itís been estimated that
for every thousand miles traveled using a bicycle instead
of a car, over 600 pounds of carbon dioxide is kept out of
the atmosphere. Every mile ridden on a bike helps reduce global
Traffic congestion compounds inefficient energy use and pollution
production. As the number of vehicles grows at a faster rate
than the roads to carry them, traffic jams will continue to
grow, burning away fuel at a slow crawl. The more bikes on
the road, the more cars kept off the road.
Cycling is a simple source of exercise that is good for your
health. While there are injury risks attached to bicycling,
there are great health benefits for those trying to shake
loose from the sedentary dangers of American culture. With
the growing problem of obesity in this country, the more bike
riding the better. In addition to being a good means to burn
calories, research has shown biking is particularly beneficial
for the heart, lungs and legs. The more miles we put on bicycles
the better our health. Such good health habits may ultimately
translate into lower health costs.
So, the race to Stuyvesant Plaza was a little more complex
than just who got there first. While the car came in a close
second, it probably caused far more environmental damage than
the bike or bus along the way. Though the car was faster than
the bus, the bus gave rides to dozens of people, keeping far
more cars off the road than the bike and probably consuming
far less fuel per rider than the car that beat it.
Well, it just so happens that May is National Bike Month.
Itís a good time to get your bike out and figure how best
to include it in your transportation options. There is a lot
of work to be done in the Capital Region to make the roadways
more bike-friendly, but donít let that keep you from riding.
To find out more about biking in the area and what you can
do to make the roads more bicycle-friendly in your community,
contact the NY Bicycling Coalition at 436-0889. You can also
check out their great Web site and its useful links at www.nybc.net.
So, what are you waiting for? Get biking!