Monday, November 2, 2009

Beyond the car



Beyond the obvious benefits of our location in regards to gardening we are also lucky enough to be in a great place for bicycling. Yeah, hopping on the cruiser and going for a slow ride to take in the weather is great but I'm talking about a different and no less enjoyable type of bicycling. Practical bicycling - the bike as a primary mode of transportation.

Having lived in Los Angeles for my pretty much my entire life I would not be living here if I had a daily commute from some impossibly far-flung bedroom community to some rat turd of a job in some rat turd of an office. The stress is the first thing that comes to mind but of more importance is the impact to our environment. I'm not speaking about the carbon footprint or C02 emissions type of environment of which we could have thousands of worthwhile discussions. I'm speaking about the environment that one creates to live, work and play in. A quality of life both physical and mental.

I've always loved riding and have been through many phases with it. From mountain biking in the Santa Monica mountains to commuting to Yvette's house in the valley from my old place in downtown to cruising the bike path at the beach. Then, about 3 years ago I heard or read something, I can't remember what/who/where telling about a self-imposed rule: a three mile rule. The rule being that if at all possible he/she would ride a bike (or walk) if the destination was within three miles of home. "Great idea!" I thought and I started to live by this rule the very next day. At that time my mountain bike was in a sad state of neglect as I had been enjoying the slow ride that my beach cruiser offered. The cruiser served me well for the first year or so but the more adventurous I became the more apparent its limitations as a work bike became. So I have since upgraded to and an 8-speed city/commuter bike perfectly suited for my purposes. Fear not though, the cruiser is still in commission and does get its share of quality Fred-butt-time. The transition from driving to riding was not a difficult one nor did I intend it as a political statement. Purely practical. But you would be amazed at the reactions I would and still get from people. Be they strangers, friends, or family some folks seem to think of biking as a novelty best left for children and the poor and nothing more. "Did you ride your bicycle here?" was something I heard a lot and it was usually accompanied by a wry, sarcastic smile. As if my means of transportation has somehow made me less there. The other thing I hear a lot is "Oh, that's sooooo great, I'd love to ride more but (insert excuse consciously or subconsciously meant to justify not doing it)." Mind you, I'm not proselytizing to anyone or passing judgment. I don't even bring it up anymore. It has simply become part of my everyday life, like breathing or walking.

So after three years of living with this simple rule my life hasn't changed much. I still have a car and I do drive it, albeit about 85% less. I'm not the movement poster boy that's going to tell you that you'll lose 20 or 30 pounds, transform the urban environment, and end wars for oil. But I will tell you that if you decide to try something like this you will feel a difference immediately. By simply slowing down a little your neighborhood will open up and show you things you never knew were there. You will have a great excuse to get away from your computer and get outside. You will find yourself looking for reasons to go take a ride. You will notice that you can often get to the store/post office/lunch in about the same time as it would take you to drive and park plus you'll feel great once you get there. Try it. Even if you don't think you're up for it, try it. I think you'll find that you are.

- Fred



Yvette joins me for ride to the nursery.

6 comments:

celeste kellerhouse said...

nicely said, Fred!

Rowan said...

I just bought Pearl a "big girl" bike and we have gone for a ride everyday since we got it, despite the 40° temps and high winds. A whole new world of possibilities has opened up as Pearl can now keep up with me. I'm seeing rides to the library and river and even to school which is about 5 miles away, but on a bike it's an easy ride. Good for you bucking the city trend. Slower is gooder!

rzashida said...

I just bought a bike and I love it. Learning how to take down those Georgia Hills!

Kristine and Michael said...

We feel the same way about the bikes. In the summer the car rarely moves as we bike everywhere. We love your blog.

Matilda said...

Hello from Sweden - where biking is extremely popular and never seen as a problem. Lots of dedicated bike roads everywhere! I´m riding to my office every day (20 km), because I really enjoy it (although it saves a lot of gas too). Visiting LA in December and hope for lots of rides in the California sun...
Ride on USA! :)

Amosmoose said...

My family doesn't own a car. We have 2 wonderful children ages 9 and ten, and have managed to get anywhere on bicycles for 10 years. We love the lifestyle along with all of the bicycle gadgets that come along with it! Happy riding! Love your blog,by the way! :-)