the TAO of CHANGE

a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Posts Tagged ‘bicycles’

Bicycle Safely, Bicycle Safety – it’s worth the ride

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I’ve been biking a lot more this year and I’m pretty happy about it. Daily commutes downtown, to stores and services like the bank and post office. To the coffee shop, to visit friends, to social events and my legs think nothing of those miles these days, which feels good, too. I’ve learned more about the right gear to get around conveniently and feel more confident.

Hmm, Confident? Cocky may be more like it. Ride a lot and you can begin to get a bit too headstrong about traffic – after all, I’m on my bike to rise above this carbon-emmitting mess, right? Well, not really. When you are on a bicycle, you ARE traffic. Although I wouldn’t say I’ve had any  truly close calls, I have caught myself taking chances for no good reason – you know, crossing at a red light because there are no cars in sight, riding through a parking lot to turn a corner, hopping onto the sidewalk and back onto the street when it seemed more convenient. Fortunately, I woke up – before I caused an accident. I now ride with my bike AND my head in the right place.

Of course, there is much that can and should be done on the driving side. Drivers education programs and testing should include important information when it comes to sharing the road – a big part of the safety equation. More and better-designed bicycle lanes, intersections and shoulders will go a long way towards creating harmony in the way we get around.

Still, there is a lot of good news for cyclists in this comprehensive article on Safe Streets, by Alan Durning, where he reminds us that not only is commuting by bicycle safer than you think, but “Not Pedaling Can Kill You”. Whether you ride now, or are considering it, this article is a must-read. Because the truth is, when you look at facts and figures, bicycle commuting is actually safer than any of us think. Statistics show that while bicycling is increasing, crashes are not. Bicycling is also safer that getting around by foot – pedestrians are 3 times more likely to be killed by a motorist per mile than cyclists.

Much of cycling safety seems to depend upon the rider – one survey shows that 80% of bike wrecks involve falling or colliding with something other than a moving vehicle. (Come to think of it, my only significant wreck was with a mailbox.) For more on this, read The Art of Urban Cycling: Lessons from the Street, by Robert Hurst.

If you’re still a cycle-skeptic, or a risk-taking rider, read the full article where you can wrap your head around the information above and much, much more. It could get you into a more fit world and body and help you keep both wheels on the ground.

Short Commute? Ditch the Car!

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I admit, whenever I felt a bit lazy or rushed, I used to tell myself driving just a few miles to get somewhere couldn’t be so bad. Other times, I tell myself I have too much to carry. And that’s just what I was thinking last night when I started to my car to make my weekly CSA pick-up last evening.

I live only 3 miles from the drop-off site, but I’ve been driving my car there for almost a year. The bike ride hasn’t been the issue – it was the jars and cartons. For some reason, I’ve assumed that I needed the car to transport them. Well, you know what they say about assumptions – !! This time, I stopped and looked at the jars…looked at my bike panniers…looked back at the jars…and it finally occurred to me that they would easily fit inside. And, if I put a jar on each side, there would be no danger of them hitting together and breaking. The 2 egg cartons fit snugly alongside, stabilizing the bags nicely.

As it turns out, this decision is more important than I previously thought. Not only do short trips matter to the environment, but “Sixty percent of the pollution created by automobile emissions happens in the first few minutes of operation, before pollution control devices can work effectively.” Whoa. There goes my rainy day rationalization! “Since “cold starts” create high levels of emissions, shorter car trips are more polluting on a per-mile basis than longer trips.” For more, go to Bike2015Plan.org.

Needless to say, I hopped on my two wheeler and was back with my milk and eggs in less than 25 minutes. And, as always, feeling energized and lighter from the exercise. In fact, after putting things away, I rode again until sunset, wondering about how many other ways I could save energy, fuel and emissions that I had not thought of yet.

There’s good and bad news about all of this. The bad news first from League of American Bicyclists: According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet, more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle. (Read more details about driving habits here.)

The good news is that many of us can change these daily driving habits with a little creativity and determination. Consider walking, riding bicycles or scooters, ride-share and public transportation. If possible, carry less, or simply get your gear on. You may have to get used to stepping out of the “race” to get places, but there’s no better way to avoid stress and tension. Your fitness and stamina will improve quickly as your habits change and your body will thank you for many years to come.



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