Monday, October 2, 2023

Want to be inspired or even gain an altered consciousness? Ride a bike

I love my bikes. My e-bike might be my favorite. It gets me to the office and back in 20 minutes each way with almost no variables and is also great for errands. My road bike was one of my first loves and therefore I love to have it, even if it’s just taking up space in my basement. Whenever I glimpse it, I can’t help but gaze in wonder at it for a few seconds. And my mountain bike is pretty sweet too because, when I get out to mountain bike, it is always a powerful and thrilling feeling.

I’ve been meaning for a while to read Two Wheels Good: The History and Mystery of the Bicycle, by Jody Rosen, since its release last year. Here are some things I learned about bikes in the introduction, titled “Bicycle Planet:”

  • There are approximately one billion cars in the world and about twice as many bicycles, mostly produced in China.
  • Believe it or not, worldwide, people travel on bikes more than any other form of transportation.
  • From their very beginning, when velocipedes were banned in London in 1819, there have been class battles. Carriage riders and pedestrians did not like bikes, which were largely adopted by wealthy and fashion-conscious riders.
  • The fight still rages. A 2019 Australian study found that 49 percent of non-cyclists regard cyclists as “less than fully human.”
  • A Dutch anarchist group, the Provo, wrote a manifesto for the world’s first bike-sharing plan, in the 1960s.
  • Adolph Hitler, as one of his first acts upon taking power, recognized countercultural and nagging bike riders by smashing Germany’s cycling union. Even in 2016, women in Iran became prohibited from riding bikes in public as to not attract male attention or expose society to corruption (?).
  • Of course bikes have a more complicated history than just Hitler’s nitwit methods and outrageous Iranian fatwahs, and bikes and cars aren't truly at as big of odds as it sometimes seems. In fact, the car magnates at the dawn of the automobile age were often the same people who had earlier played key roles in the introduction of bicycles. Roadways too were envisioned and built by the Good Roads Movement, “a political crusade led by cyclists.”
  • The bike is obviously an agent for good, at least speaking environmentally, as a way to do much less harm to the planet than is done by driving a car. Rosen notes that millions turned to riding bikes when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but I think the data is yet to be determined on how much this behavior is continuing forward.
  • This equation had never occurred to me: “On a bike, a person moves four times faster than on foot while expending five times less energy.”
  • Rosen writes that bike riding is a way to reach an altered consciousness. It’s “better than yoga, or wine, or weed. It runs neck and neck with sex and coffee. It’s also, in my experience, an antidote for writer’s block.”

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