Excerpt from Save Gas, Save the Planet
Do you remember the thrill of riding a bicycle when you were a child? You were free. Empowered. You had fun. You were also riding a zero-emission vehicle, saving gas and helping our future.
Globally, more people own bikes than own cars, trucks and SUVs combined. Over one billion people own bikes. Fifty-seven million United States citizens ride a bicycle, at least, on occasion. For most of us the pace is gentle as we enjoy exercise and fresh air. For some of us, the bicycle is a practical part of our commuting and reaching other destinations.
Visit any college or university, and you are likely to see thousands of students, staff, and professors bicycling instead of driving. Parking is normally such a challenge that it is faster to bicycle, or even walk, rather than drive and search for parking. Some universities encourage students to start on the right foot, by having both feet on pedals. At the University of California, Santa Cruz, for example, freshmen are not allowed to have a car on campus. My niece, Lindsay Short, rode to classes and work by bicycle and bus, not missing the car that she left behind.
America is running out of oil. Imagine the difference if people replaced 20 percent of their car travel with bicycling and walking. Many universities, employers, and even cities are encouraging more bicycle travel. These organizations are motivated by everything from soaring health care costs to vanishing parking spaces.
When we bicycle, we burn fat not fossil fuel. We achieve the health benefits of moderate cardiovascular exercise. The benefits of bicycling are so attractive that people drive in stressful traffic to a health club to ride on a stationary bike. You can make a difference in your health and the planet’s by replacing one car trip monthly with a bike ride.
Communities are constantly sponsoring bike rides and events. Many have clubs with regular rides for people at different levels. A good place to find your local organization is bikelane.com.
When I lived in Atlanta, every year I joined thousands (including the mayor) in a charity event ride through beautiful antebellum neighborhoods. No cars were allowed as the police waved us through stop signs and stop lights during the ride. Now, the favorite ride for my wife and me is a nearby street with a bike lane that takes us across the Golden Gate Bridge. During the ride, we look out on the Pacific Ocean and the dramatic cliffs of the Marin Headlands. We continue a few miles to Sausalito, stopping for lunch where we can sit on the water and look back on the San Francisco hills.