Why i bike

Mah Way says the street sign... "Or the highway" implies the bicyclist.

I get asked this a lot, and it's not always by external voices. So here's my manifesto, a title scribed in the immutable pixels of a video monitor (ahem) to explain this curious habit of mine.

Bicycling is a surprisingly polarizing activity. Oh sure, recreational cycling isn't that bad. At worst it's an activity for children, a quaint throwback to days of training wheels, school lunches, and sunny summer vacations before the driver's license. However, it's when you become a utility cyclist that you might as well turn in your passport, your gonads, and break out Das Kapital or maybe the hookah. The notion of bicycling somewhere to do something challenges the unconscious symbol of US status, prosperity, and independence: the automobile. Furthermore, it requires physical exertion, something that some seem to feel should be done only in the socially acceptable environment of a gym.

On top of that there's that special class of Darwinian experiment one sees riding around town at breakneck speed, running lights and cutting off pedestrian, automobile, and cyclist alike with complete disregard for the traffic code. These baboons do nothing to improve the image of cyclists, especially when their obituary makes the front page as a triumphant exposé of the hazards of cycling. And don't get me started on the sidewalk riders...

Okay, i could go on and on about the classes of bicyclist, but i digress. Anyway, to use the biking parlance, i'm a fred, a biking amateur in the most pejorative sense: i have both excessive and inadequate gear for my level of dedication. I seem "hard core" to the majority, who haven't made the cognitive leap that biking somewhere is like driving there, but more fun and healthy. On the other hand, to "real" bikers, i'm un poseur, a hack: i'm a fred.

People find even this level of cycling eccentric, of course. Friends have offered (and i've declined) a ride home so many times that i begin to wonder, myself, the reasons why i do it. Here are some reasons:

  • it's stimulating
  • it's inexpensive
  • it's invigorating
  • it's different
  • it's independence
  • it's freedom
  • it's fun
  • it's efficient
  • it's adventurous
  • it's not subject to traffic jams
  • it's exercise
  • it employs elegant machinery
  • it burns no fossil fuels
  • i can

The last point, in particular, is meaningful. The ability to say "I'm think i'll bike to the next state."—and then do so—is inestimable.