4/26/07 – The simple cure for our complex woes

This morning I spent 24 minutes watching the President of Trek Bicycle Corporation, John Burke’s presentation at the recently completed Taipei Bicycle Trade Show in Taiwan. ( To see it yourself, go to youtube.com and search for John Burke – then select the video that is titled John Burke – the Al Gore of the Bicycle Industry). Now, those of you who have heard John speak before know that it wasn’t easy – but as usual, while John isn’t the greatest public speaker, he had a lot of good things to say. Most of which inspired what I have to say here.

Think what you will about Global Warming; I won’t go into all of my thoughts here. But if Al Gore were correct, the bicycle is a great solution to our problems. I don’t think it stops there though. Obesity is possibly the greatest sociological and physiological problem of our time. There are many great epidemics – but obesity is by far the most transcendent and is the root cause of many other health problems facing many of our friends and neighbors. While thyroid disorders can account for a small percentage of obesity in our time, a far greater number of the cases are due simply to the lifestyle of “westernized” society in which we live in a manner that is fully dependent upon the automobile and almost necessitates a poor diet based on processed, “fast” foods
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The average American makes fewer than 1-half of one percent of all their trips by bicycle. Over half of all trips made by car in America are 2 miles or less. The average American burns 5-20 calories an hour while driving. The average human will burn 700-900 calories an hour while cycling. In London, the average car trip of 4 miles takes over 40 minutes. By bicycle, that 4 mile trip would take 20 minutes. You can fit 9-12 bicycles in a single automobile parking spot and as many as six bicycles in the space of one car driving down the road. The 1 mile trip to the video store takes me 2 minutes in my car. On my bike it takes me 3.5 minutes – if I’m not in a hurry.

If we will take the time, spend the money, and make the effort to make our cities more cycling friendly, more people will ride their bikes, more families will spend time together and I would venture to say that we could almost watch our world-wide obesity epidemic vanish along with our shrinking waistlines. With reduced weight and improved health we’ll also watch such problems as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis recede from the general population.

Rising energy costs is also a great concern in modern times. Many people have become more energy conscious. In fact, NBC’s Today Show ran a story this morning which went so far as to blame rising energy costs for the increasing wealth-gap in America – the rich getting richer while the middle-class fight to stay on top of the increasing cost of living. While bicycles require a little more time to use as transportation (My 9.5 mile drive to work takes me 20-25 minutes while my 12 mile ride takes 38-43 minutes – I take different routes, obviously), the reduced dependence upon energy sources such as gasoline, diesel, and electricity are huge. The last time I checked, I didn’t consume any gas or diesel the last time I rode my bike; and I’ve had the same AA batteries in the headlight and taillight on my commuter bike for months now – using an incredibly small amount of electricity. The benefits of reduced energy use are almost more plentiful (but arguably less beneficial) than a decline in obesity. Lower energy use would result in lower energy costs, fewer emissions from the use and creation of energy, better air quality due to less pollution, and less CO2 in the air – whatever that means.

I can’t think of any downsides to increased use of bicycles – because even though they’re not as fast as cars…you’ll generally arrive at your destination in a better mood!

May is National Bike Month in the United States. There will be all kinds of great cycling oriented events held across the country, including the Tour de Nash and Edgar Soto Memorial Stage Race here in Middle Tennessee. The third week of May (14th-18th) is National Bike to Work Week with Thursday the 17th being Bike to Work Day. There’s no better time to begin to make a difference – whether you do it for yourself, your family, the environment, or Al. I plan to increase my bicycle usage for the month (from 1-2 trips to work a week) and as many days as possible on Bike to Work Week. I challenge you to change your transportation or bicycle-use habits at least for May 14-18 if not the entire month. With some of the great products that the bicycle companies are creating now, few of us actually have good excuses not to use bicycles for some of our transportation needs. If you have any questions or would like advice as to how to make this possible, feel free to contact me and I’ll give you some tips.

Thanks for reading.

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