I think about a future without cars. Mainly I think about it as I’m being squeezed into the narrowest, graveliest part of the shoulder by some four-wheeled behemoth whose pilot is happily chirping away on the phone. My desire for fewer (or zero) cars is selfish, about my own safety and convenience, and it disregards the great conveniences that come to me by automobile. For example, I always take the car grocery shopping.
Wanting cars to go away is just my infantile reaction to hating pollution and crowding and the constant threat to my safety. Too many folks need to move their families around. Too many folks live in decentralized living situations. The car is too useful to go away. I am not sure I really want to live in a world without them, but I think about it.
Obviously, the car is going to change, as it has already started doing, as the bike continues to change. Perhaps it (again, like the bike) will become increasingly electric. Perhaps solar electric. I see cargo bikes in the city now, some two-wheeled, some three. I have seen them with electric assist. I see more and more people dropping their kids off at school with trailers and other multi-person pedal craft. Are cars and bikes already converging?
We are mainly road cyclists here. Many of us commute by bike. Many of us use the bike for errands. Regardless we are cyclists. We have talked a little lately about the soft edge of the cycling population, those who might not feel all the way comfortable in lycra and tippy-tappy shoes, and I tend to think this is precisely where the future lies for both car and bike. These are the people who will be driving/riding future vehicles.
With oil going away and the atmosphere warming, the cycling population has to grow. It has to, right?
This week’s Group Ride asks, what does the future look like? Are there really more people on bikes? How many more, orders of magnitude, or just a few? How does it change how we cyclists get around? Will things get better or worse? Does anyone even have a clue?
Image: The Big Dog
I tell my kids, on the rare occasion that we pass an accident on the highway, not to crane their necks and press their small noses against the window to gawk at the mayhem. You’ll blind yourselves staring into the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles, I tell them, and your attention won’t help the injured. Be grateful that the road still hums under our tires, and that we are still, mercifully, on our way.
When I parted the blinds this morning, the sun was just splitting the clouds on the east side of Boston, the Hancock and Prudential Towers silhouetted beneath a purple and white cloud line. It reflected off the crust of still-white snow in the front yard and bathed the kitchen in brightness. The radio said it was cold out, but this is one of those sunny, crisp winter days that hints at Spring’s rebirth.
I stood on the shop floor yesterday and talked with Mike about the rides to come this year. Registration is open for a couple of the big gravel rides that cash in on end-of-summer fitness, and we talked about riding them together. He clued me into another private ride over some of that same terrain, 60 miles of New Hampshire hill climbing, and we made the kind of plans you make when it’s cold out and the summer is just an approaching dot on the horizon. It felt good.
This week’s Group Ride is about the good days to come. What events do you plan to ride? What trips are you going to take (with your bike)? Who will you ride with this year that you didn’t ride with last?
I sincerely hope to meet more of YOU this year. Padraig and I have spoken about connecting for any number of the larger fondos and off-road rides that have become highlights of the casual, US cycling season. When we know where we’ll be, we have every intention to connect with readers who will also be there.
Image: Matt O’Keefe
With the Mayan apocalypse now firmly behind us, it feels a little safer to come up out of the RKP survival shelter into the rain-swept, gray-light of a new day. And as these trying times slouch toward the New Year, I find myself looking for new sources of hope.
From the Lancepocalypse, which now strikes me as tantamount to a teenage acne problem, to the divisiveness of our national election, the unstoppable force of Hurricane Sandy and then to the reality-warping attack in Connecticut and the “fiscal cliff,” it feels easy, just lately, to sit and wonder what the hell is wrong with us collectively.
To quote Marvin Gaye, “What’s going on?”
As a bike person, I take great comfort in the sure knowledge that, no matter what happens out in the larger world, I can mostly pedal my way to a better (mental) place. And so when I’ve cast about in search of some sign that the apocalypse isn’t actually nigh and come up empty, I look to my garage for evidence that things will get better.
I guess I do it like anyone fortunate enough to have a thing called a garage. I hang my bikes from hooks, rear wheel up and evenly spaced, right in a line down one wall, and just seeing them dangling there stirs something warm in my chest.
Hung there (and carefully aligned, if only after the garage’s quarterly cleaning) they seem so perfect. In their inert state, I am not yet riding them badly. Striving and straining and second-guessing aren’t happening. Their energy accrues potentially, each bike limning the happiness still to come.
The kids’ bikes hang in between mine, their shorter wheel-bases making them perfect for space-filling. And there too I see deep wells of potential energy, future me on my road bike slowly slaloming behind one or both of my boys as they thrash away at their plastic platform pedals. This is idealized familial bliss, the making of memories to be cherished in advance. I find I need this theoretical future positive when the careening present seems at its most chaotic and dark.
Phrases like “stay in the moment” and “be here now” have all kinds of new-agey currency at the moment, and certainly as a general rule, it seems best not to dwell too long on the past nor to obsess too much about a theoretical future. But what is hope made of if not the notion of a better tomorrow, and what image conveys the feeling of that incipient change in our fortunes quite as well as a bicycle, cleaned and ready to roll?
Image: Matt O’Keefe