The Perfect Choice
by Livia Ross (July 1997) I don't enjoy driving a car any more. It's frustrating. Everyone drives so quickly and frantically, desperately searching for parking because his real goal is to get out of his car. Not only is driving a car boring and frustrating-- it is isolating. People enclosed in cars cannot communicate. The rare communication that takes place is usually angry: "Get off my tail, you idiot!" Driving stinks and we do it a lot. Many subject themselves to hours of this unpleasant experience each day. This is no way to live!

There are alternatives. You can walk. Or if you are going several miles you might consider taking a bus. Buses can be great, but if you are addicted to the freedom and the power of controlling your own vehicle the perfect choice for you is the BICYCLE.

Don't Hide It, Ride It!
Everyone knows how to ride a bicycle and most everyone has at least one in his garage for pleasure riding. If the bike is so pleasurable why not use it for transportation? Riding a bicycle opens you up to the world. Suddenly you are alive again and in control; not to mention physically fit and ecologically sound. Allow me to illustrate with two recent trips to my dentist.

Dare to Compare
My dentist is only two miles away--but a congested and tedious expedition by car. First I start up my car and sputter along for a while until it warms up. Then as I get close to my destination I come across a series of one way streets crowded with erratic traffic because the drivers are all focused on either finding a parking spot, pulling out of a parking spot, or trying to get around the cars that have stopped to wait for someone who is trying to pull out of a parking spot. Lots of honking. Lots of frustration. Lots of anxiety. O.K., I survive this and I am even lucky enough to find parking at a one hour meter. This time I happen to have parking meter change in the car. Now I still need to walk a few blocks to my dentist. The whole time I am there I worry about my meter expiring. I think I'll make it; after all, I am just a few minutes over the hour! Sorry, Charlie-- not in Beverly Hills. I get back to my car and I have already been nailed. "%#&!!!+#!!" I drive home irritated and exhausted.

The next time, having actually learned from experience, I take my bicycle. My noble $25.00 English three-speed has waited patiently for me in the garage. I snap on my helmet and glide off toward those congested streets. But today they do not upset me. I zip past the blocked-in cars because my velo and I are slim and sleek. I also have lots of options. I can go through alleys, cross with pedestrians, or ride with the cars. Not only is my experience quick and practical but it is also pleasing. I feel powerful. I do not need a motor--I am a motor. I am one with the world. I have no barrier between myself and the world--only air. This air has some nice things in it (when it is not being infused with exhaust), like the smell of fresh coffee roasting. As a matter of fact, I will stop and buy a pound. I just lock up my bike in front of the door and walk right in. I couldn't have been so flexible with a car.

In no time at all I arrive at my dentist and this time park directly in front of the office. I can use a one hour parking meter to lock up to but I don't have to put money in it this time, and I have no time limitations either. I can stay and get my teeth drilled as long as I like. I arrive home feeling refreshed (except for my rubbery cheek). I've spent some time outdoors and I've exercised while accomplishing something.

Making the Choice
Most of my errands by bike are this satisfying. I have decided to patronize businesses that are close to me because they are easily accessible by bike. By patronizing them I am also supporting the neighborhood and community I live in. The panniers on my bike can accommodate four good sized bags of groceries. This is not enough cargo (or bikego) space for a week's worth of family groceries, but my marketing by bike is quick and easy enough that I can enjoy it several times a week.

I do not ride my bike everywhere. Sometimes it is not possible with kids and great distances. But I ride it enough that it makes a difference: a difference in the traffic congestion, a difference in the air quality, a difference in the shape of my body, and a difference in my state of mind. I am not an athlete. I am a practical bicycle commuter. You can do this too--and compare the difference.

Livia Ross