Ride with me

The world is going to hell, but stop, get out of your car and ride with me. On a bike . Or if you can afford it, something with green power.

I'm a glass half-full kind 'a guy who's kind of scrappy, but also tries to offer solutions to current challenges. This is a story about how energy efficient cars are essentially for the wealthy and the CO2 bomb of a car is relegated to us middle class bums. Fight back, become a bicycle commuter (if you can, that is)!

We Love our Big Cars

In my opinion, one of the epic challenges of our times has to do with simply driving our cars. How can anything so innocent be so awful for the planet? If you're like me, you're tired of hearing about it, and just want to get in a big 1950's convertible and go away somewhere fun. Don't get me wrong, I love cars, and my all-time favorite is the 1959 Cadillac, the one with the huge fins.


I think it's cool what Neil Young did with his team of engineers to make this Linc-Volt one of the greenest 1950's cars on the planet. Part of what drove him (besides the cool wheels that is) is the notion that there had to be a guilt-free energy efficient way of driving his favorite car. Well, they pulled it off. It demonstrates to the car manufacturers that the technology exists to make a dramatically greener car than exists today.

Anyway, one of the realities about the Linc-Volt was that it's currently cost-prohibitive to convert your car to go green. You have to be a millionaire in order to drive responsibly. How stupid is that? Anyway, it's at times like these that I just want to go to Detroit and kick some auto-executive's dumb asses back to the 1950's. Dang.

Auto manufacturers need to build an affordable car like Neil's. There is a void where a car like this should be dominant. If I were Obama, I'd make it mandatory that all cars have a carbon footprint smaller than Neil's Linc-Volt; it's not something that should be voted or debated, we're pretty much out of time for niceties like that.

Becoming a Bicycle Commuter

If you're a poor boy like me, you have fewer options of going green. I sure can't afford to convert my existing car to green fuel consumption. It seems that the only people driving green powered cars are the wealthy. February marked my third year of bicycle commuting. I like avoiding the vultures at the gas station. I always get the feeling that the oil companies are the worst drug dealers of all time and I'm there to score my fix. Shut up and do me up, man. Don't mess with that low octane stuff, gimme the real goods.

It's pretty clear that not everyone can bicycle commute either, especially if you live somewhere only accessible via the freeway, or in a state where winter makes it oppressively hard to get around. Or if you have kids who need rides across town nearly every day. I had to give my son a ride nearly 20 miles across town for him to play sports, and I definitely drive my car when we have bad blizzards or if I'm sick. I'm clearly not a purist when it comes to bicycle commuting, but do pedal to work most of the year.

I decided that since I was going to become a bicycle commuter, I deserved to buy myself a high-quality commuter bike that was up for the task. You can buy a good used commuter bike for the price of two tanks of gasoline. Or if bicycle commuting is going to be serious for you, there are some really cool high-tech electric versions out there that can speed up your trip dramatically, or assist with pulling a load (bike trailers). I notice that some of these are over $1,000.00, but this is dirt cheap compared to the expense of a car and the rising cost of gasoline. I'd say that these are bargains that are also good for the planet with reducing the CO2 in the atmosphere, not to mention getting you healthier with the daily workouts.

I'd emphasize getting a helmet for the chance encounter with any of those idiot drivers out there. Cars still pull right in front of me when I have the right-of way all the time, many times missing me by mere inches. Get the helmet, even if it messes up your purty hair. I'm still surprised at how many people I see bicycling without a helmet.

It does feel pretty sweet to be clean. No track marks, I'm off the Bozo gasoline. Well, almost.

Pointers for getting the stuff to bicycle commute

Whichever bike you get or use should be checked out by a bike mechanic or yourself if you're good at it. You want something efficient and there's nothing as self-defeating as a crummy bike that breaks down or is hard to pedal. Do your research for finding the best bike for yourself, including making sure it's a good physical fit. Mountain bikes are sometimes a literal drag for road commutes, but the main thing is to just get moving with it and find something that fits your budget and works well.

Be safe, know the rules of the road and follow them. Some bike riders are a bit on the rude side and make a bad name for all of us. As mentioned above, wear a helmet.

Get a bike with all the gizmos you need to make the commute practical, like saddle bags, extra inner tubes, tools to change a flat tire, compact tire pump, water bottle, headlight, bike clothing for the weather where you live, etc.

Have fun.

Get a bike and have fun with it! Ride with me...

PS: Part of my Arts and Humanities Fellowship has to do with Bicycle Commuters and I'll post more information about it soon.

Story by Larry McNeil, Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved

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