Bicycles: An essential industry

Someone posted on Facebook a picture of a wartime newspaper page, reporting that bicycles were an essential industry, and preferred form of transportation, because the metal needed to make one car could instead be used to make 150 bicycles.

This prompted me to write a bit about my choice to get around mainly by bicycle and foot rather than own a car.

I live in a place where bicycles are not seen as a legitimate mode of transport. Same with walking.

(As I point out in my book DEEP GREEN, in USA society nobody questions it when you pay money to drive to a gym in order to walk on the treadmill or ride a stationary bicycle. But if you do those same activities outdoors, and it also serves as your transportation to run errands and get to meetings and such, you’re considered some kind of a wacko! Go figure!)

People who actually choose to not own a car are marginalized and looked down upon, treated like some kind of sideshow exhibit or someone who needs looking after. It is very exhausting sometimes. But at the end of the day, I’m OK with being treated like some kind of extremely rare zoo animal <laugh-hysterical emoticon x 3>, because what I do is for a larger purpose of conducting research, raising awareness, AND (take note!!) for many reasons related to my own personal preference and self-interest as well!

A very important thing to be aware of is that not everyone in our car-centered USA culture has the choice to not own a car. Some people are forced to incur the expense of a car just to get to their job and get their basic everyday needs met. And the expense of the car, including constant worry of breakdowns etc., eats into their household budget to the point where they are not getting adequate nutrition and are struggling to be able to afford a place to live!

It’s by no means so extremely car-chauvinistic everywhere I’ve lived, but this is the place I fell in love with and adopted as my hometown, so I will continue my transportation activism and keep pushing for the infrastructure to become more friendly to all people, not just people who drive and can afford cars. Look at how our current society keeps children and many elders dependent on someone else to drive them around! This is no way to live and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

This is kind of getting long, but I do have many personal reasons for choosing not to own a car. First, I will ALWAYS have better ways to spend that money. ALWAYS. Books, online courses, eating at my favorite restaurants, contributing what I can to essential causes including mental health, local indie cinema & other local arts, literacy, mutual aid in my community. The list goes on and on, of better things I have to do with my money then use it for a car.

I am happy to pay a neighbor to be my occasional taxi for those rare times I just can’t get somewhere I need to be without a car. Would rather pay that money to my friend, a young single mom, than have my own whole entire car to deal with.

And yes I do have my driver’s license and a perfect record, I even have my motorcycle endorsement, but I just choose not to own a motor vehicle.

Second, I need plenty of exercise to stay healthy. I’m talking about mental health as much as physical.

Also, I just feel kind of trapped when I’m inside a car, I feel separated from things and people, and it’s not safe or easy to just stop and look at something interesting while one is behind the wheel.

If I ever become not able to walk or ride a bicycle, I would want to get a nice rugged little mobility scooter. Our infrastructure needs to be 100% friendly to people on mobility scooters and wheelchairs.

Also, another reason I prefer not to own a car is that the things are a pain to park. It would be great if at one’s destination a car could be folded up into a compact size about the size of a handbag and be carried over one’s shoulder until one was ready to drive home. But under the current laws of physics, it doesn’t work that way. Having to look for parking is a tedious chore. And parking chews up so much land and turns our once-lively downtowns into vacant wastelands of asphalt.

Also, when I’m driving, I never meet anybody. Funny how that works. Whereas on the bus or train, or on foot or bicycle, I meet so many interesting people! Even if I am in total introvert mode. I can totally be quiet and not have to talk and still get to hear so many wonderful stories. And find out so much community info that I would not find out otherwise.

OK, and let’s be honest, I really really really like FOOD, and if I were to suddenly start getting around by car instead of human-powered transport, I’m pretty sure my blood sugar and cholesterol and all that would just go through the roof! I’m in my 60s, and have to deal with paying much more attention to my health than I used to when I was young!

And there is the environmental footprint of course too.

(Eco good news note — regarding the figure of 150 bicycles shown in the post — I am copying someone’s comment from the original post: Bikes can be made mostly of wood or bamboo with steel required only for moving parts. Hence, the ratio could be even better.)

You can see my post on Facebook, with the original meme, here.