Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bike to Work Week, May 31-June 4 2010

The bicycle is one of the greatest human inventions. It is the most efficient self-powered human mode of transportation on the planet. It is eminently practical, with baskets, paniers, and trailers available to carry extra loads. At the same time bicycles afford a qualitatively better form of physical exercise- than most other kinds because cycling is fun, it's low impact and achievable even by people who are overweight.

In the sixties schoolyards were full of bikes. It was a major way of getting to school and university. They were affordable for everyone. They still are. There are twice as many bicycles as cars on this planet right now. However, bicycles are underutilized at this moment whereas cars are overutilized. Think BP and TarSands.

The idea behind bike to work week, is that if you get out and try biking to work during the first week of June, you might take it to the next level, and bike to work all summer. And then who knows. These things can snowball and influence other people's behaviour.

The first bicycles were invented in the the early part of the nineteenth century. The standard looking bicycle as we know it – the kind with equal size wheels and a chain and sprocket - was developed around 1885.

Bicycles were one of the first mass produced consumer goods. The same principles that were first used in manufacturing bicycles: machine standardization of parts, assembly lines, mass marketing and advertising were later put to use in the development of the automobile and aviation industries. The Wright brothers were originally bicycle mechanics.

The very best thing about bicycles is that they are fun to ride. And they are fun to ride for a wide range of ages and abilities. Bicycles come in all shapes and sizes. The kind with tassels on the handlebars that girls like to ride. BMX trick riding. Mountain bikes. Commuter bikes. Racing bikes (we used to call them 10 speeds). Recumbants, and tricycles for the elderly.
There's a bike for everyone, and, in general, bikes are still pretty affordable.

Bicycling is such an elegant way to travel. It's silent, but it's social. It allows you to feel the wind through your hair, breathe the fresh air, and splash through big puddles, if you feel like it.

Bicycles are not as big and dangerous as cars. You don't need insurance to ride one. Once you learn the rules and learn how to balance they are safe.

By riding to work each day your body will be in better shape. Riding up the hills will make your leg muscles stronger and your heart fitter over time.

One of the things that stops some people from biking to work is the issue of sweat. There is several things you can do about this problem. Taking a shower at work is great if you have the option. Otherwise you can dress in layers and shed layers progressively before you warm up so that you never get to the point of sweating. Make sure that your windbreaker, or rainjacket has underarm zippers and leave them open all the time. Or you can follow the lead of hundreds of millions of Chinese and ride an electric bicycle – no sweat.

The more bicycles on the road the more room there is for everybody and the quieter the traffic. Bicycles improve the quality and atmosphere of a city. Just look at Vancouver and Victoria.

Next week is Bike to Work Week. Some organizations such as Northern savings credit union have consistantly put out the riders year after year. Forestry is being seriously downsized so they're not a contender this year (and that's a whole other story worth telling isn't it?)

Perhaps you or someone else in your organization would like to bike to work next week. Please check out the website www.biketowork.ca for information and inspiration.

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