I didn’t get a my drivers license or a car until I was 26. While in college I worked part time at RadioShack and road my bicycle to both (occasionally relying on public transit). It wasn’t necessarily I was against driving, but it didn’t make any sense at the time to waste money I didn’t have when I already had suitable (and superior) forms of transportation at my disposal. For city life, the bicycle is the superior form of transportation. Following the COVID19 pandemic, bicycle sales and usage have surged and that warms my heart.
Most people believe that they absolutely need to own a car to do many modern things. Going to the park? Drive. Need to pick up some groceries? Of course, drive. Need to get to work? Definitely drive – wasting time in traffic is as American as apple pie! Granted, a good case can be made to drive if your destination is more than 10 miles away, but the reality is that the majority of people live in urban areas and most places we need to visit are within reasonable distance.
Maybe the weather isn’t perfect, but most people don’t know how to dress appropriately. For the majority of my life, I’ve lived in Portland where the weather is less than tolerable 75% of the time. I’m currently living in Austin where 95% of the time, the weather is perfect to ride a bike. However, most people underestimate what they should be wearing outside because they go from a temperature controlled home to a temperature controlled car to a temperature controlled office.
There’s another hurdle to ditching or reducing your car habit. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, owning a car is also a status symbol. Going completely car-less might get you funny looks or hurt your chances on a date. But I’m going to assume you’re a strong and independent person who doesn’t care what people think. If that guy or girl loses interest in you because you don’t drive, you’re better off. Find another cyclist to date and marry, then reproduce to having cycling children.
Negative points aside, I’m going to argue that riding a bike should be considered the primary if not the superior method of traveling and that relying on a car should be used as a last resort for such things as driving across town or visiting another town. Here’s a few:
Biking is great for your wallet.
First and foremost, the costs of owning a vehicle is substantial and it’s extremely rare that the value of a car increases over time. You make monthly payments to pay off your auto loan, car insurance, gas, maintenance, and parking. Over the course of a year, this adds up to quite a bit of money. Why didn’t you just ride the bus? “Chuck, I’m too important and my time is too valuable to be wasting it on a bus or a bike ride.” Nonsense! When you calculate the annual costs of owning and maintaining a car vs owning and maintaining a bicycle (and maybe the cost of a bus pass), the difference is staggering. Additionally, think about all the time you’d be saving not having to take your car to get maintenance, gas, and trying to find parking.
Biking is great for your health.
This is probably the most obvious benefit. The majority of Americans live a sedentary lifestyle where their only physical activity is walking from their desk chair to the car seat to their couch (and I am guilty of this as well). There’s even a study done published in the Journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that shows participants that road a bike were 31 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure.
Biking is great for the environment.
Your bike doesn’t burn fossil fuels (except for maybe the fossil fuels burned to transport your bike to the store you purchased it from). Between riding a bike and driving a car, riding a bicycle is certainly the more ethically sound of the two options and it runs on calories (from you) to work instead of oil.
Biking is less stressful.
Biking can be stressful, don’t get me wrong (I speak from experience). This can be especially true if you have to bike on a busy street. I’ve had a couple instances where I was almost swiped by a car because the driver wasn’t paying attention (ie texting while driving), however nothing terrible has ever happened. Be alert and be cautious and you’ll be fine. I have had countless incidences where I’ve experienced road rage or been frustrated stuck in traffic, but I’ve never once in my life been stuck in a bicycle traffic jam.
I’m someone who values independence. Not necessarily being entirely independent of “the system”, but the less reliant on something like a car to get around the better. Being less dependent on my car means more money, better health, more freedom, and it’s better for the planet.
So, go ride a fucking bike!