Daily Archives: June 12, 2011

You are the change you want to see in the world

I just returned from our final Sunday evening service until it gets cooler here in the suburbs of Hell. The subject for the final evening service before Summer was the 7th Principle of UUism: “Respect for the interdependent web of creation, of which we are a part.” What became the catalyst for this blog post was the discussion during the service (We UUs generally do discussions more than we do sermons as a way to get people to think about the service.)

One of the things said (and there were many thins said during the discussion) was a quote from Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I say the corollary of that is “You are the change you are going to see in the world.”

What that means is what you do an a daily basis determines what the world becomes. If you sit on your duff becoming a couch potato, sofa spud, or davenport tuber, well the world is going to change to whatever other people want. If you drive around in a WMD spewing toxic chemicals (even in really tiny amounts) then people are going to die so that you can move your butt. As oil gets more and more scarce in the future, more people will die so that you can move your butt. If you let corporatists dictate the debate then corporations will control the world.

Or, you could ride your bike. You don’t have to ride your bike everywhere, everytime, which would be awesome by the way. Start small. According to the US DOT 80% of journeys in the US outside the home are less than 2 miles each way. For a car this is a bad thing because this is the distance during which a car emits the most pollution, but for a bicycle this is a good thing, because 2 miles is 10-15 minutes at a sweat-free pace. With a properly equipped bicycle ridden by a properly clothed rider you can do almost everything imaginable you need to do on any 2-mile trip in any weather at any time of the year. Granted if you need to carry tools and supplies to a work site you will probably need some kind of motor vehicle, but for the vast majority of people travelling under 2 miles the only thing they are carrying is their butts. And if they rode a bicycle they would have less of that to haul around.

So, imagine a world where every trip under 2 miles was made by bicycle. What would that world look like? Well to begin with there would be a lot fewer cars on the roads, and more room. That’s just because of the size difference between bikes and motor vehicles. Those roads would have fewer potholes and other pavement issues because bicycles do 4-5 orders of magnitude less damage to roads than even the smallest and lightest motor vehicles, other than motorcycles. The air would be cleaner and so would the water as there would be less oil-contaminated runoff to foul waterways.

Now, add that to moving goods and people long distances by electric trains instead of diesel trucks and buses, and things are even better. Our dependence on fossil fuels for transportation would nearly vanish as the only things we would need IC engines for would be moving freight from the rail depot to the final vendor, or not even then if speed limits are reduced to bicycle levels and solar cell technology continues to improve as there is more than 40 HP available from the top surface of a standard 53′ trailer.

So, that’s what I want, what am I doing to get it? Well I badger and harangue the local City Council to provide decent bicycle infrastructure. It is a proven fact that people won’t ride bicycles unless they feel safe doing so, and they won’t feel safe having to share the road with 3000 lb. killing machines moving twice to 3 times or more their speed. The way to make people feel safe on the roads is proper infrastructure. The more people who ride, the safer they actually become, which increases the number of people who ride. It’s the opposite of the vicious circle, call it the virtuous circle.

Billed @$0.02, Opus