Friday Group Ride #281

Friday Group Ride #281

Forget jetpacks. Humans do a crappy enough job navigating in 2D space. Add another dimension and it would just be carnage raining from sky. When the future arrives, I sincerely hope crappy jetpackers aren’t careening down on my head while I eat astronaut ice cream. That’s not my idea of progress.

What I really see is pretty good. A day approaches when we won’t drive our cars anymore. We’ll be part of a generation able to say, “Oh, I knew how to drive. It was awful,” and young people will look at us incredulously as they eat astronaut ice cream and ponder a time when a liberal arts degree still seemed like a good idea.

When cars drive themselves a few big benefits will come our way. First, we’ll be safer. The mood or attention of the occupants of the vehicle will no longer play games of capricious chance with our mortality. And they’ll be quiet. I’ve heard smart people argue that cars need to be loud, so that pedestrians and cyclists can hear them coming. Imagine a world devoid of car sounds.

Look, I’m not trying to vilify the automobile or perpetuate the oppositional dichotomy of car vs. bike. I’m a driver, too, and I realize how integral independent movement is to our decentralized ways of life. We will always need to move around and transport our stuff, but there has to be a brighter future as technology advances and fossil fuels retreat.

Affordable eBikes, which are already surgingly popular in Europe, could reduce the number of vehicles on the road as drivers, currently disinclined to arrive sweaty, to their next destination, find an economical solution that gets them out of the flow of traffic.

I’m no futurist, a profession I can scarcely believe exists, but somehow in my mind the bicycle is a major player in our future days, one of man’s more perfect inventions, a vehicle that cleverly multiplies our power without requiring outside input. Maybe I’m just a romantic or a steam punk. Has anyone seen my top hat and monocle?

I do have one of those liberal arts degrees. So…

This week’s Group Ride asks what your future looks like? Is the scene I painted completely unrealistic? Why? Let’s not get hung up on the scarier consequences of global warming. Those will come. We’ll adapt. But how will we adapt? How will we get around?

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  1. Jan

    I see a strong future for people with liberal arts degrees, whether we’re on bikes or flying with jetpacks. And the folks who study such things and who talk to employers will tell you the same, and better! Here’s a link to the AAC&U (American Association of Colleges and Universities) website:

    I’m not affiliated officially with them in any way, but as someone with roots in both the sciences (BS, zoology) and liberal arts (PhD, English), I find their work helpful!

    (I really don’t look forward to automatic cars. But then, maybe I’ve just had too many problems with computers trying to enforce some default that isn’t what I’m trying to do? And besides, I want to be able to pull over and stop to offer assistance to a biker who’s got a flat! Or, more likely, to have another driver stop to help me when I flat.)

  2. Greg

    My future is riding a new road bike that looks like a steel road bike but it is in fact carbon fiber and stupidly lightweight & stiff. It will have an onboard computer that will house all my ride stats and my music for the ride too. The main frame tubes will be impregnated with solar panels to keep the computer charged up. It will have inset lights that will go on automatically when the computer senses twilight coming on. It will also be impervious to any change in standards that will come along in the near future. I hope.

  3. Pat O'Brien

    I hope the driverless vehicles don’t talk on the cellphone or text when they drive. Take the fanciest carbon fiber wonder road racing 10 pounds when soaking wet $10K bike and show it to someone 110 years old. They say, “nice bike”. Same thing would happen 50 years from now.

  4. winky

    People will never go for self driving cars. The problem is that the cars will of course be programmed to stop at stop signs, obey the speed limit, stop at red lights, keep a safe distance from other users etc. It will drive motorists nuts! Millions will be late!

  5. Les.B.

    A bike frame of carbon nanotubes, weighing a few ounces, and virtually unbreakable.
    ABS brakes for bikes.

    For cyclists Self Driving Cars will mean much safer, friendlier roads.
    For safety in general, 10000 lives a year will be saved by eliminating DUI.
    The driving age will be reduced to 12.

  6. Scott G.

    Imagine the future you go to your Google car, get in
    and the following message appears, “Google is running
    NexusCar update, installing update 4 of 102”
    Your car will be available for driving in 3 hours,
    would you like to shop the Google store while waiting?

  7. Michael

    I am SO looking forward to self-driving cars. I hate driving, I hate drivers. I would love to sit in a car that is driven for me and I can read. Like riding a train – I would rather ride a train any day than drive. So, my ideal future has no drivers. Then, we have bikes all over for the folks who want their own control and also like the movement. That means there will be jerks on bikes, and on e-bikes, probably playing chicken with the self-driving cars. I hope it is a better world.

  8. Johnny White

    I see a future filled with a system of bicycle roads/lanes, mass transits that can transport with us our bikes, and establishment parking slots for our bikes.

    I totally agree that while cars are for now a necessity, especially for those with big families, we should come up with alternatives, since we’ve already damaged the environment enough. And not to mention the accidents that have happened and are waiting to happen.

    I believe bicycles are the way to go!

  9. John Kopp

    Disclosure: BS in Physics, studied Mining Engineering, registered Civil Engineer.

    I started serious bike riding in the late ’70’s with a group in Minneapolis. A lot of weekend rides when the snow wasn’t flying. Some members of the group considered it training for the day when cars would no longer be available. I agreed with them, but thought they were 30 years early. (Mining Economics textbook, Park, C. F.,” Affluence in Jeopardy, Minerals and the Political Economy,” Freeman, Cooper & Company, San Francisco, 1968) Peak oil wasn’t due till end of the century, about 15 years ago. So, for the future, I see high speed rail for long distance travel, commuter rail and electric cars for local and regional trips. And of course a lot more bicycles on local roads and walking to close destinations.

    I do not see driverless cars because of security concerns. A 2014 Jeep Cherokee was hacked through the wifi and forced off the road. The hackers took control of transmission, engine and brakes. Fiat fixed the breech with a software update, as did Tesla, Ford, and I believe BMW on some of their models. Kind of like viruses and PC’s for the last 35 years.

    If I were pessimistic (Club of Rome: Meadows, D. H., “The limits to Growth,” Universal Books, 1972) we would still be riding bikes, but using steam trains fueled by wood, and horses.

    Have a nice day.

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