I love Bike Portland. The site, while Portland-focused, brings to light many of the issues that face cyclists nation-wide.
One thing that bike commuters are fond of touting is how their actions help to reduce traffic congestion and that drivers should view us not as hindrances to their daily commute, but rather as a boon. By riding our bikes, we give drivers more road space in which to do their driving.
I think that this Bike Portland article does an excellent job of laying this myth to rest. In most cities if every bike commuter were to drive one day it wouldn’t make that much of a difference in the overall traffic. Heck, most people wouldn’t notice it at all. I mean, it’s not like most folks see us cyclists when we are out there riding. Why would they notice if we were gone?
So, the idea of a day without bikes is pretty pointless. And many organizations have recognized this and flipped it on its head with annual bike to work days. You know, those days where everyone gets to celebrate their awesomeness at being a bike commuter.
I do wonder if drivers notice a reduction in traffic even then?
The point of the article is to simply show that what the world needs now, besides love sweet love, is more people motivating under their own power. I think we all know this. We all inherently understand on some vague level that our current lifestyle is not sustainable. There is a finite number of resources available on this planet and as those resources get harder to come by, the cost will go up and the gap between the haves and have-nots will widen. Every aspect of our daily existence will change.
Think about how dependent all of us are on petrol and the petrol infrastructure. I love eating an orange in the morning. Last I checked, oranges don’t grow in Alaska. Yet I am able to go to the store and for a somewhat reasonable price can purchase nearly any fresh fruit or vegetable I wish. Any time of the year. Same for any other product. In Alaska we are already used to higher prices for these items, but imagine if the price for a pound of oranges went from a buck or a buck and a half to three, three and a half, or even higher? Essentially, imagine if prices in the urban centers went to village pricing and village pricing going to Oh-My-God-I’m-Going-to-Starve pricing (some would rightly argue it already is…). What would that do to those who are currently on the threshold of poverty? Those who are just barely scraping by?
I envision a lot more people living on the streets. And that frightens me. I’ve been there and can tell you that living homeless, even temporarily, is not fun and it is a hard trap to get out of.
How does this relate to bikes and getting more people to motivate under their own power? Well, in my utopia, people realize before it is too late that gas is going away and they start making choices to carpool, use mass transit, use bikes or their own feet to get to places, they make the choice to live more densely. And through this we slow the use of finite resources.
This coming from the guy who moved his family 40 miles from his work to a place where it feels crowded if your neighbor is closer than a half acre away. I know. I know.
Yet, it was a bit of an experiment, as well. It was a chance for me to see if I could make things work using public transport and the bike and use it as a way to prove that most anyone can make the choice to change their personal paradigm if they only try.
After over a year living in the Valley, I think it is safe to say that it is possible to function quite well in society without using a car on a daily basis. If I can do it, anyone can. We can all be part of a day with bikes, buses, and feet if we want. Every day. We just have to make that choice and go for it. The drivers will thank you for it. I promise.
Next time we’ll dive into the nitty gritty and try to dispel some myths about commuting by bike and the excuses people give for not being “able” to commute by bike.