Tomyamaguchi’s Weblog

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Happy Bike Month

I’ve been a bicycle advocate for a long time now, even before I knew about global warming. I started during the first gas shortage in the early seventies. I bought a ten-speed bike and committed myself to finding a job that did not require me to drive to work. Learning how to ride again as an adult showed me how much out of shape I was. Fortunately, I was still young and, through persistence, was able to attain that goal. By the late seventies, I was riding almost 10 miles one way from my home in Ocean Beach in San Diego to my job in Kearny Mesa, much of it uphill. When I moved to the Bay Area, I was able to maintain that commitment to bicycle commuting, first from Berkeley to Point Richmond and later to jobs within Berkeley. I still ride to work today. In addition, I have made a new commitment to never own another car for the rest of my life. I sold my pickup truck a few years after moving to Berkeley. 

Today, if I need a car, I use City CarShare. Most of the time, I can get around on bike and public transit. I am much happier that way. I don’t envy those who are stuck in their cars on crowded freeways. People express fear for my safety on a bike, but I feel much safer than in a car. I have more visibility on a bike, especially when I’m riding in the rain. I usually ride on residential streets where there is less traffic. Yes, I’ve had a few accidents. Fortunately, the injuries have been minor. I know more people who have gotten more messed up in car accidents than by bikes. The exercise I get on a bike keeps me healthy, both physically and mentally. I call it bicycle therapy, and I am thankful to be able to do it every day.

Sitting in long gas lines during the first gas crisis got me realizing the damage that car culture was doing to the environment and society. Our dependence on cars had led to suburban sprawl. Those who could afford to own cars were able to move out of cities. Jobs followed with them. The poor left behind in the cities were stuck with underfunded public transit systems. Without cars, good jobs and housing were out of their reach. 

Today, we see a rebirth of our cities. Cars, freeways, and suburbs have lost their charm. I see more people getting on bikes and have more bike lanes to accommodate them. Public transit has improved as ridership has increased. The challenge now is allow more growth in cities without forcing poor people out through gentrification. 

Global warming continues to be a challenge, too. Bicycles alone won’t solve the problem, but bicycles can help a lot. A lot more people could ride that are not riding now. They would ride if they felt safe on the road with other traffic. They would ride if the places they want or need to go are close enough to get to by bike. And they would ride if they realized how fun it is, as well as being a lot cheaper for getting exercise than a yearly gym membership. I would still be a bike advocate, even if there was no global warming. Global warming adds another reason to the list. 

This Thursday will be the twentieth annual Bike to Work Day in the Bay Area. I will celebrate by volunteering at the North Berkeley BART station. Maybe, we’ll see you there, 7:00 am to 9:00 am. Have a happy Bike Month.

May 6, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment