Not a Toy
Today, for instance, I used the bicycle to take my daughter to her summer art camp, then to carry about a hundred pounds of books to the Post Office to mail, then to haul a load of used clothing, suitcases, and other odds n’ ends to Goodwill, then to go shopping, returning with, among other things, a watermelon, a cantaloupe, and a four-pack of toilet paper.
And it’s only three in the afternoon.
Granted, most people don’t have a tandem, which allowed me to do the first errand, nor a swell trailer, which enabled me to do numbers two and three, nor a solid touring bike with racks and panniers, which provided me with the wherewithal for my shopping trip.
Still, I think the main sticking point isn’t a lack of two-wheeled options (although any excuse to buy another bike is a good one); it’s a lack of imagination—or perhaps just understanding—that leads people—even people who ride bikes a lot—to see them primarily as recreational vehicles rather than as solidly utilitarian conveyances that allow a person to travel fairly significant distances relatively quickly, while simultaneously carrying a reasonable amount of cargo, and even, in some cases, one or more passengers.
To me, the bike isn’t a toy—although it’s certainly my second-favorite plaything. To me, it’s the most important tool I own, and the one thing that will save me and my family should the Zombie War really take place.
In a faculty meeting a few years ago, I said off-handedly that the most important lesson I teach students and Cascadia isn’t philosophy, it’s riding my bike to school. The other day, at Critical Mass, I saw a former student who said I inspired him to ride his BMX bike from Bothell to the event.
He doesn’t know Descartes, but I’d give him an “A.”