How Bikes Can Save the World

In September 2010 I participated in the first-ever Ignite Spokane (“Enlighten us–but make it quick”), which had the theme “Ideas that Will Save the World.” For those not familiar with the format, you have 5 minutes and can show 20 slides that must advance automatically. No losing your place!

And yes, I biked to the event in the dress and heels I’m wearing in the video.


So you’re expecting the talk with the data and the graphs and the guilt and you want that? See me afterwards.

I’m going to take a different direction on this inspired by Portland blogger Dana Putnam.

Why I Bike: I Am Cheap

First of all, show of hands—how many of you know what gas costs?

I have no idea. I bike because I am cheap. I don’t pay for parking, I don’t worry about insurance. My daughter who’s here tonight had a blow-out on her tire the other day at a stoplight. One hundred and ten bucks. Except those things have four of them and you have to replace them all. I don’t like that part.

How many people would like a raise of over $7,000 a year? Okay, don’t talk to your boss, that’s how much it costs you to run your car. That’s according to AAA and that’s when gas cost about $2.30 a gallon.

I understand it’s more now? I’m not sure, of course.  [Added info: Found a different AAA source with more current data and the cost of operating a vehicle is actually over $9,500 a year.]

Why I Bike:  I Am Lazy

I also bike because I am lazy. How many of you had to walk to the parking lot to get your car and then drive here, find a parking spot, walk to the building…. Do you hear all that walking?

Barb wearing a red suit and black patent leather high heels with her bike in the offices of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.

Indoor bike parking: The ultimate in bike-enabled laziness.

I pretty much bike point to point. I am so lazy that sometimes I actually take my bike inside. This redefines indoor parking, I believe. My ride to work is also mostly downhill so I coast.

It’s a little counterintuitive but you can bike if you’re lazy.

Why I Bike:  I Am Impatient

There are many reasons—my mom might call these character flaws, I think—to bike.

I bike because I’m impatient. I always hated waiting at stoplights. There really isn’t time to finish reading the article before the light changes for one thing; you can’t do your nails. But when I’m on my bike and I get to the stoplight it’s really just a chance to catch my breath.

So I’ve got a new attitude about stoplights: They’re a good thing. I bet you don’t share that.

Another thing for you—even if you’re never going to get out of your car, if all of us on our bikes and all the people on the bus do get back in our cars, look what we do to the street. We’re in front of you now at the stoplight. So if you’re impatient you want us to keep riding (or riding the bus).

Car, Bus, or Bicycle? Poster from a German campaign comparing how much street space each form of transportation requires to move the same number of people.

How much space would it require if everyone riding a bike got back into their cars? Believe me, you don't want us to do that.

I also hate one-ways because there’s no point to going like this and like this and like this [gesturing to draw three sides of the block].

I get off my bike and I walk a block, get back in the lane and keep going. I am continuing to move towards my destination while you’re stuck at the light. So if you’re impatient biking is great for you.

Why I Bike:  I Am a Control Freak

I’m also a little bit of a control freak although I thought of titling this “mechanically inept.” And for the men in the room you don’t have to fess up. But when I take my car to the shop and they tell me a lot of things I don’t understand and I have to pay them a lot of money—remember, I’m cheap and I’m impatient—I don’t like that part.

But I can actually fix my own flat on the bike. The technology has not changed that much since the Wright Brothers. I get to feel like I’m in control at this point. It’s a great feeling.

These are other reasons to ride. I’m not saying this is about you, it’s about me—

Additional Reasons to Ride a Bike: Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem—or, flip side, big ego—

When I’m pedaling and I feel the wind and I’m making the wind myself because I’m going so fast? Awesome. I’m not going that fast—it’s like 17 miles an hour and you’re going to pass me—but I feel great about it.

Additional Reasons to Ride a Bike:  Desperate (but Successful!) Attempt to Appear Cool/Hip/Trend-Setting

If you think about what’s cool right now it is not you in your SUV on the way to Costco to pick up a gallon of ranch dressing and five pounds of Tater Tots. You’re not going to be on the tourism brochure cover or the magazine cover.

You know what picture is going to be on the tourism brochure cover, don’t you? This is a total set-up. You know what it takes to be cool.

Cute woman riding a bike with a basket.The only thing missing from this shot is the farmers’ market vegetables. So, you can be hip and cool and urban just by getting on a bike. Who knew it was so simple? I thought it cost a lot more, actually, and shopping at better stores as well.

Additional Reasons to Ride a Bike: Excuse to Shop

There are other sorts of character issues. This is an excuse to shop for men as well as women. If you like buying something and then bragging to your friends about how yours is better than theirs biking is totally for you. There’s more than one rider here tonight so I know you know what I’m talking about. Technical fabrics, special food—it’s basically sugar in a pouch but it’s still special food.

Additional Reasons to Ride a Bike: Huge Rush that Comes from Saving the World

You knew I was going to do a little bit of this piece. If you like knowing what’s good for other people and telling them about it, biking is totally your thing.

When people are talking about the problems of the world—it’s air pollution, it’s peak oil, it’s urban sprawl, it’s diabetes and obesity—if you ride a bike you’re not responsible for any of that! How cool is that?

Morbidly obese man trying to fasten seatbelt.

You can have this.*

Cool young guy wearing jeans, sunglasses, denim jacket on a bicycle.

Or you can have this. He totally brings us back to the cool urban trend-setting piece.

We do have a lot of problems in the world. I do think that biking is the only thing that solves a lot of these problems all at once. You do get to be healthier and save money and all of that. But also, it’s so simple a child can do it and it’s fun.

Little girl on a bicycle wearing a helmet.Remember when you learned to ride a bike and you had that sense of freedom and “I don’t have to wait for Mom or Dad to get in the car”–which was the limitation in your life at that point—you could ride your bike.

If you have any of these character flaws you don’t have to admit it out loud. Or maybe it’s psychological issues and therapy costs a lot. You could take a little bit of that money and you could ride a bike.

This post originally appeared on my personal blog, BiketoWork Barb.

*With lots of apologies to people who really struggle with their weight, that image still vividly demonstrates the challenges we face as a society with the growing epidemic of obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes, fostered and enabled by a society designed to move people using car power, not people power. If that person got out of that car and walked or biked just a few blocks every day, it would make a difference.

(On the video when I mention skipping it’s a reference to the talk earlier that evening by Patty Sanders about the virtues of skipping to make the world a better place. I wanted this to read as a stand-alone essay.)

Your Turn

  • What are your reasons for riding a bike?
  • What’s your favorite on my list of reasons?
  • Can bikes really save the world?
Sharing is karma--pass it along!

Tags: , ,

20 Comments to "How Bikes Can Save the World"

  1. Antigone says:

    Favorite reasons for riding a bike:
    Sunshine and Fresh air! :) Even rain, snow, hail and fresh air…
    (ANY day on the bike is better than the best day on the bus.)

    “Getting Somewhere” for my workout energy (versus running, swimming, walking, even biking around and around to go a long way just to end up in the same spot.)

    Yeah, saving the earth! :)

    Staying fit even though I am an “old woman.” ~ “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple…” purple LYCRA and ride a little red bike. Hey, wait a second! LOL

    Favorite of the list reasons:
    Cool urban boy sitting on bike and cool urban biking chick. :)

    People riding bikes CAN save the world. :)

    Work to eat. Eat to live. Live to Bike. Bike to Work.
    Hoo-ah!

  2. […] Walk at brisk pace back to meeting, avoiding sprint because I now need to cool down. Yes, it’s possible to get sweatier using a car than using a bike and one of the reasons I bike is because I’m lazy. […]

  3. […] Bike Style Spokane (there I go again): How Bikes Can Save the World […]

  4. […] And Panties! Bike Style Event June 29The Search for the Perfect Purse: It May Just Be a Bike Bag How Bikes Can Save the WorldSweaty Betty: The Blogspedition Looks for Answers to that Special Glow Sharing in Twitterville […]

  5. […] the signal. But if I do hit a red light it doesn’t trigger teeth-gnashing; instead, I take it as a chance to catch my breath. It’s welcome, not resented, and that makes a lot of difference in my trip to work, or through […]

  6. […] Bike Blogs: The Comprehensive ListThe Search for the Perfect Purse: It May Just Be a Bike Bag How Bikes Can Save the WorldHow to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free Nice Rack, LadyThe Quest for the Perfect Pants […]

  7. […] Hand Dryers Were BikesHassle Factor: Biking vs. DrivingWomen's Bike Blogs: The Comprehensive ListHow Bikes Can Save the WorldThe Search for the Perfect Purse: It May Just Be a Bike Bag How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, […]

  8. […] Hand Dryers Were BikesHassle Factor: Biking vs. DrivingWomen's Bike Blogs: The Comprehensive ListHow Bikes Can Save the WorldThe Search for the Perfect Purse: It May Just Be a Bike Bag How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, […]

  9. […] Believe me, at Rosauers (which has a bike rack near the front door) or any other grocery store I can be in and out much more quickly than someone who circles the parking lot for 10 minutes trying to find the spot closest to the door to minimize that exhausting walk. […]

  10. […] Streets!Women's Bike Blogs: The Comprehensive ListA Trunk for Your Bike: Donkey Boxx ReviewHow Bikes Can Save the WorldAbout the QuestHassle Factor: Biking vs. DrivingBicycling Rites of Passage, Spokane StyleHappy […]

  11. Cell Bikes says:

    I agree. It really is! Bikes can be agents of self improvement and a great help in preserving nature.Reduce carbon emission rather than riding cars.

  12. […] How Bikes Can Save the World: Some semi-joking–but real–reasons I ride […]

  13. […] truth is that I bike because I’m lazy. A pedometer proves that in no uncertain terms, which is why I need to wear […]

  14. […] Trunk for Your Bike: Donkey Boxx ReviewThe Search for the Perfect Purse: It May Just Be a Bike BagHow Bikes Can Save the World Sharing in Twitterville […]

  15. […] for the energy expended. Easier and five times more efficient than walking (remember, I bike because I’m lazy), no petroleum fuel consumption or CO2 emissions (presumably I would breathe even if I […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

The quest for the intersection of Style and Comfort