Bells vs. a hearty shout of “on your left”. I haven’t bothered to look up the derivation of “on your left” but I think I have a pretty good grasp of where it came from. For those who don’t know it is a phrase uttered by Lycra suited leg jocks as they blister past grandma on her Schwinn 3 speed indicating to her that she is going to be passed on the left by a Greek demi-god, or so the ego of the would-be passer’s ego leads one to believe. I prefer a good old fashion bell as a more civilized approach to passing granny, or runners, or dog walkers, etc.
I have struggled with the idea of transportation and the environment most of my adult life. It is very easy for a celebrity to run out and purchase an in-fashion hybrid or electric car for $50K and claim it is for the environment, and that they are doing their part. I don’t think it is that simple. There are issues with the disposal of the old means of transportation, if you ever bother to fly by commercial jet, or private you are doing more damage in that single trip than driving an average year in your Hyundai Sonata. The lines in this case are very grey. When I examine the idea of smugness on a smaller more realistic level it appears that the thought process and logic are still solid. Purchase an electric bicycle, sell or store my other vehicle until needed due to weather etc, and tell everyone what a great guy I am with a smug look of how much better I am than you because I have chosen a more efficient means to transport my fat ass to work. Work where I drink water from plastic bottles and enjoy a comfortable 70 degrees all year long, all the while waiting for the new iPhone hit the shelves so I can enjoy more of the rare earth elements that are stripped from the earth and put into circulation.
I fancy myself an authority on tools and the idea of tools being part of a minimalists inventory. Tools of course come in many different shapes and sizes. For example a computer mouse is a tool to input information to a computer, my iPhone is a tool to contact people, etc. I have a set of sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, and other items in my garage that I use for my electric bicycle, but I often don’t use them for years at a stretch, does that mean I am hoarding them? Possibly it does. Do I really need all of these tools? Where I live the bicycle shop is piss poor at best, and is really not set up for either electric bicycles or processing work orders on bicycles for those who use them for transportation. They are more interested in taking 24 hours to fix a flat, and 2 weeks to true a wheel. I have taken it upon myself to own tools and make repairs myself. Regrettably the ownership of these tools in and of itself does make me a bit of a hoarder, and slaps the idea of minimalism in the face. Continue reading
Inattentive Blindness is a very interesting phenomenon that is only beginning to be understood. Have you ever been at a stop sign, looked left and right then left again and started negotiating your turn and a car shows up from the left seemingly out of nowhere? You likely have, and post-accident many people report that they “didn’t see the bicyclist” A more appropriate response would be my brain did not process the light and shadow as a bicyclist from the information in the back of my eyeball. Of course that would make you sound like a lunatic to most because let’s face it we don’t make mistakes, and what we see is what we see.
Take a look at this site http://www.ismp.org/Newsletters/acutecare/articles/20090226.asp They give a pretty detailed idea of what I am talking about and how it works.
I hesitate to bring up fitness on this blog simply because being fit is not a prerequisite to commuting by electric bicycle. What I have found is that most Americans, my personal friends and family included consider an adult on a bicycle a fitness oriented activity. This notion is pounded into our heads mostly through marketing. Marketing creates the demand; manufacturers create products to satisfy demand. We form our opinions about things that we don’t really think about based on marketing. Thus we are predetermined by Madison Avenue to have a belief that a bicycle is a fitness machine and that an electric bicycle is somehow cheating. I have ranted in the past regarding this idea and posited the question if my electric bicycle is cheating isn’t a motorcycle or car? I can attest that driving a delicious donut and coffee down my gut is not very easy on my electric bicycle.
I read an opinion peace recently regarding minimalism. It was a criticism that suggested those who voluntarily choose to consume less are doing so from a smug perspective. It further suggests that only those with something to give up can be minimalists. That clown doesn’t get it. The idea is not about giving anything other than pointless consumption up. One does not have to give up fish, or coffee, or liquor to be a minimalist. I think the writer must have been thinking of one of those religions that gives things up in a vain attempt to save themselves from the boogeyman. Consuming too much is not about your bank account, although it does grow when we don’t consume as much, it is about not spending our time pursuing things that cannot possibly make our lives better.
Pursuing what we are passionate about and not being driven by collecting items to impress those who we don’t know or who don’t matter is what minimalism and living deliberately is all about. Consider that feeling you get when you see an item that your neighbor has and you like it for any number of reasons. You are also passionate about helping feed hungry children. You now have a choice to make. Will the object of your affection cause you any happiness, or fulfill your life in any way? Will taking the money you were going to use to purchase the object of your desire and spend it on your other passion make any difference? BMW will still make cars if you spend the 80K on your local soup kitchen instead of one of their cars, and you will still find a way to work, and your neighbor will still feel as unfulfilled as they did before they made their purchase.
The idea of dedicated bicycle infrastructure is not new. The dutch have been very effective in the last 40 years of separating bicycles from cars. The concept is simple you take a finite amount of roadway and rather than figure out how to cram more cars into the finite resource you take a portion and dedicate it to cars and another portion to mass transit and another portion to bicycles. In areas where this has been accomplished, the Netherlands comes to mind, the bicycle becomes a viable means of transportation. Perhaps a bicycle takes a person from their home to the train station, the train station can hold a lot more bicycles than cars in the same amount of space. You begin to flex your resources in new ways and by doing so ease the burden on the taxpayer when it comes to upgrading infrastructure. Barriers between auto traffic and bicycle traffic give the would be cyclist a sense of safety and security. Fear of being struck by an auto is a often recited reason not to leave one’s commuter coffin. I suppose the idea of dying is much more palatable inside a minivan than on the sidewalk in the open, perhaps a bit more civilized way to be torn apart or crushed to death, keeps the brain safely contained in the car so cleanup is a bit simpler as well. Continue reading