Why I Ride
Matthew Wierson

I am not a saint and have never claimed to be. During the better part of my twenties (which was spent during the better part of the 90s), I drove my modest 1990 Ford Tempo--in fact I drove it a whole lot. After all, I am an American, and beginning with my earliest recollection, I learned that this is what good Americans do. We drive--a lot. I drove my Tempo extremely short distances, be it to the Wendys drive thru (I really do love their chili) or to the super market (which was very close to where I lived), as well as longer distances. These would be drives for no other reason than to sit in my comfortable metal box as I listened to the radio or tape. (I did not even have a CD player.)

This scenario played out until spring or summer of 1999. It was around this time that I simply began to lose interest in driving. I know: to an American, it must seem incomprehensible. But it was also at this time that I began to rediscover the bicycle as a much more efficient--and certainly more enjoyable!--mode of transportation. The bicycle: the very ideal which I, and certainly most other Americans, had essentially discarded as nothing more than a childs toy, upon that very American rite of passage known by all as earning ones drivers license at the age of sixteen.

One year later I sold my Tempo and became a full-time bicyclist and walker, as well as an occasional user of public transportation (bus). I have never looked back. The longer I go without driving, the less I miss it, and indeed I have no desire even to touch a steering wheel again.

I even try, at all costs, to avoid being a passenger in an auto. During this past Christmas Holiday, I found myself a passenger in a mini-van. I would like to point out that at least every available seat in that mini-van was indeed occupied by a human being (with a dog in the mix), so it was efficient (as opposed to the usual one person per car paradigm). Anyway, I am a healthy 6' 2" tall, with my legs taking up the majority of that height. I was uncomfortably stuffed in that box for twelve hours, one way! It was absolutely miserable.

Instead of being inside that mini-van, I could have opted to utilize the train (which I did once, happily). I am still in a box as a train passenger, but I am able to stand up and walk from car to car, allowing the blood to flow thru my muscles. Then there is the scenery you can see only from a train: beautiful countryside mostly devoid of autos and development. You just don't get that on the interstate.

Human beings were meant to move. When a person is in an auto, the person is under the delusion that they are moving, when in reality it is the auto which is moving, not the passenger. A person steps into an auto at one point and twenty miles later (or, sadly, fewer than that) steps out at another point. At no time during this journey did the person use the muscles in their body. By contrast, when a person operates a bicycle (or walks or runs) they are healthily utilizing their muscles every time they spin that crank. Your muscles want to be utilized. Your muscles were not designed to be stationary during the majority of your life, just sitting. Sitting at home, at work, in the metal and glass box transporting you from place to place. Your muscles were designed to be move, and to move you.

My final point is about time spent. During the last ten years of my life I have come to the conclusion that enough of my youth was wasted my life. When I am bicycling, or running, or walking, I am able truly to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste my world around me--rain, snow, sometimes dust. All of these sensations are stolen from me when I'm sitting in an auto.

Sitting in an auto does not make me feel alive. Utilizing my muscles, in a healthy and efficient manner, is what makes me feel alive. And I do not have a membership at any fitness club.

Matthew Wierson