Thursday, May 5, 2011

Welcome to Velocipedean


I was never a cyclist. Sure, I tooled around on an old foot brake bicycle when I was a kid, one of the ones where you had to pedal backwards to stop. No gears, no levers, just pedal your feet to go or stop. It was red and white, and I thought it looked pretty sharp. But I do not have a pristine memory of childhood glee experienced on a bike, which I hear others cite to so frequently as their motivation for riding. And other than that old kid's bike, I never really rode a bike until recently.

About 10 years ago my wife and I picked up some cheap department store bikes, thinking we might try riding together to see if we liked it. Mine was a Schwinn Ranger mountain bike with 21 speeds and hand brakes, and even though it was inexpensive, it seemed pretty fancy to me. I had no idea how to even ride it. What were these odd contraptions on the handlebar? You had to shift gears? You had to brake using your hands? It was fun playing with at first, but of course we never rode much, and they ended up mostly just sitting in storage. A common story. How many Americans have a couple of old, barely used bikes sitting in their garage collecting dust?

At this point you may be scratching your head. Why am I writing a blog about bicycles if I do not know much experience with them? Because what I have been talking about involves recreational cycling, and the point of this blog is transportation cycling. The transportation cyclist is a rare bird in America. Most bikes in this country are sold for either recreation or sport. Few stores even have another definition. Bicycles were never one of my recreational hobbies. Yet I now ride almost every day.

The Scope of this Blog: Cycling as Basic Transportation

The point of this blog is that anyone, anywhere, can start using a bicycle for basic transportation. Two months ago I was biking to work in negative 5 degree weather in a blizzard. If I can do it, anyone can. Really - I grew up in Florida, and winter is definitely not my natural environment. The wonder is that it is actually not that hard. People look at me askance in the elevator, and mutter disbelieving platitudes like I am crazy, or hard core, or insanely tough.  In truth I am not any of those things. Well, ok, at least not because I bike to work.

The simple truth, which few expect, is that bike commuting is generally easy, safe and enjoyable. More to the point, it makes sense, in a way that the automobile simply cannot. This blog makes the case for transportation cycling, discusses some of the issues facing us in modern America's autocentric built environment, and relates some of my experiences, as a novice learning the hard way by trial and error, with minimal monetary investment. Hopefully, it will be of some use, and maybe even of some inspiration. If not, perhaps my trials and errors can at least provide some entertainment.

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