Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #5

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement
Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation
Reason #6 - A Feast for the Senses

Reason #5 – Independence and Self-Reliance

Motorists frequently cite "freedom" as a primary reason for their choice of transportation.

I guess the perceived ability to get in and go any where, any time they want, gives the impression of "freedom."

Respected automotive columnist Brock Yates put it this way:

"As the urban highway glut increases and average speeds on major intra-city freeways dip toward the single digits, Americans still choose to drive …
"The reason is obvious. It is called freedom. It is called mobility. It is called privacy. It is called flexibility. It is called being American."

So, what is freedom? Are you free, just because you have the ability to choose a life of confinement? Was Howard Hughes "free" during those years he locked himself away in a hermetically-sealed hotel room? After all, he was there by his own choice.

For me, freedom and independence and self-reliance are closely-related concepts.

As a person who has experienced both:
- You are NOT independent or self-reliant, if you rely on a motor vehicle for 100% of your transportation.
- A bicycle, and the ability to use it for a major portion of your typical daily transportation needs, can grant you substantially more independence and self reliance.

By choosing a bicycle, I have cast off the shackles of:
- fuel prices (which fluctuate wildly, and which motorists have essentially no control over)
- insurance, registration, car payments, big-ticket repair and maintenance expenses, parking fees, and numerous other nickel-and-dime transportation expenses
- dependence on all other people using the "grid" to do so successfully. (If somebody crashes on the freeway, a motorist 5 miles back is likely to be affected. By contrast, on my bicycle I never have an obstacle I can't ride around, or carry my bike over.)

My great-great grandma, Margaret McNeil, walked across the plains from Omaha, Nebraska to Ogden, Utah, when she was 13 years old! She crossed rivers by clinging to her jersey-cow's tail and swimming! What would she think if her sissy-boy descendent couldn't go 2 blocks to the convenience store, without firing up the family truckster?

Here is more of Brock Yates' definition of "freedom." (Although I enjoy his writing talents, he scoffs at the notion of bicycles-as-transportation, so my opinions are far different from his. But he helps me make my point for "independence and self-reliance.")

" … Being bottled up in gridlock is, in the end, our choice, for better or worse.
"To be sure, trapped in a crush of steaming iron on a stretch of asphalt is not exactly dream street, but at least it offers the victim the option to tune to whatever he or she chooses on the radio, to scratch bodily parts in privacy, to yammer on the cell phone in high decibels, [and] to choose departure times at random …"

Some freedom!

(Brock Yates' words are from an article, "Hit the Road, Jack," published on TCS in September 2002.)

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