Getting Free

One of the most thoughtful blog posts I’ve read in a while comes from Ezra Goldman at http://onourowntwowheels.com. I set to writing a lengthy response in his comments section. Before I pressed the submit button, I took a look back at the comment and decided to be a little greedy instead and post it to waterloobikes.ca instead. Hopefully he comes by and reads it here.

The Environment is not a big factor in my decision to bike. I don’t usually bring it up when I talk to people about biking either because it’s too low on people’s list of priorities. People like to save the environment on weekends, but not if it turns their lives upside down. Except Graham. He’s fairly green I’d say.

You get a bit more mileage out of talking up the health benefits. It appeals to people’s ego. Can’t go wrong there.

He’s hit the nail on the head when categorizes cars as shackles though. Payments, insurance, parking, traffic, fuel, maintenance, it plain sucks. But why is it so hard for the public to view them that light?

I read that Ford has a 1 billion dollar advertising budget. I would say that the great majority of it is spent on making the car appear to be the opposite of a shackle. That’s probably a major reason that cars have the reputation of personal freedom machines. And that’s just one manufacturer.

But check this out: were it not for the office water cooler, I’d have no idea how much fuel costs. I’ve zipped past countless traffic snarls. I usually get better parking than even the disabled. I pay nothing for insurance. My bikes cost me nothing and yet are still very reliable.

Coworkers, family members, friends are normally puzzled by these observations. They furrow their brows and look at me like I’m some kind of kook, or worse. As if to say, ‘Haven’t you seen those commercials on TV*? Cars are great.’

Why is it such a hard sell? Even in the summer. My conclusion is that you can’t actually convince people. But you can enjoy your freedom.

*Disclaimer: I’m prejudiced against TV’s too.

5 thoughts on “Getting Free

  1. I agree about the environmental aspect.
    Although I try to do things that will benefit the environment and believe strongly in many environmental issues and am quite disappointed that the environment is not registering with people on the current election, it’s far from the reason I ride a bike.

    Many assume I first started riding to be “green”, however being green wasn’t even in my top 100 reasons.
    I would walk everywhere. When I wasn’t walking I’d be taking the bus. After a bad experience with our transit, my Dad for the 1,000,000th time told me to learn to ride a bike.
    Which after a week or two I taught myself…Yep, I didn’t learn to ride a bike as a kid because I hated bikes :p
    Took me only a few hours to get the hang of it, and a week later I was riding all over the city!

    The main reason(s) I have kept on cycling is probably the personal health benefits, cost and just how fun it really is.

    I was never actually out of shape but I couldn’t believe how much more in-shape I became when I started cycling.

    Although I could afford a car, it wouldn’t take long for that money to disappear and never be seen again.
    I don’t see the point in dishing out all of the money (gas, insurance, license, the vehicle itself, any repairs etc.) when I live in a city can easily cycle in and I rarely travel to places I can’t take the train or bus for out of town trips.
    That money can be better spent on technology or god forbid I just save it!

    The whole idea that you must own a car in today’s society is ridiculous. As matter of fact, IMO if you live in a city such as Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver you’d be crazy TO own a car.
    Oh, and I’m far too lazy to bother to learn to drive.

    And what can I say about it being fun. Even on a bad day, being on the bike lifts my spirits! Although I enjoyed walking, it never gave me a boost like cycling.

    1. Do you even try to talk to people about your experience anymore? Do they really want to hear?

      How could we cyclists communicate better to more people about all this great stuff?

      1. It’s at the point now where I’ll discuss cycling only if people are interested or ask me something related to it.

        A lot of it comes down to how we — cyclists, want cycling to be shown to the public and the type of infrastructure we want.
        Communicating verbally with the non-cycling public goes so far.

      2. Completely agree Ryan, the best mode of introducing change is modelling it. The one area where I see the cycling community can improve is encouraging each other to be better cycling ‘citizens’. For example the majority of cyclists I pass on my commute do not have proper lighting and at night are almost invisible. An idea I’ve had locally is to work find some funding and hang out on the cycling paths and installing them free of charge as people cycle by.

  2. I love this comment, which is so true: “People like to save the environment on weekend”. Perhaps we can start by nonchalantly suggesting how nice biking is (without being holier-than-thou), and suggest how people’s lives could be better with a bike. Something like “It’s so easy and fun! No gas or maintenance fees and I never have to worry about finding a parking spot or getting a ticket. Plus, I’m in much better shape now that I started riding.” Hold off on the ‘greener-than-thou’ lines. Probably doesn’t get you anywhere. Then, slowly, we can turn those “biking’s better” statements into “driving’s worse” statements. But we should stick with redefining ‘freedom’ and clearly lay out how driving is restraining us, not setting us free.

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