Despite my doubts about American sanity and responsibility, as a bicycle commuter, I put my life in the hands of my fellow Americans several times a week. Essentially, I trust that Republicans and Democrats et al will at least drive responsibly. I put faith in the system of licensing that trains and then tests drivers before allowing them to drive.
Over the years, I have often commuted to my jobs on a bicycle. I found that I did not have the disposition for the gym and would rarely go. However, one must get to work and that generally involves a commute. Most of the time, I have found ways to commute on a bicycle at least some days. It has paid off in health benefits for me over the years.
I have also realized what a powerful and efficient machine the bicycle is. I have saved many gallons of gasoline and doctor bills through the benefits of this wonderful machine, but it goes beyond these basic positives. The invention and widespread adoption of the bicycle in the late 19th century changed the world, but America especially. The bicycle is an incredibly efficient device when it comes to converting human effort into distance. The bicycle became a great equalizer for the poor, but hard-working soul in America.
Previously, personal transportation independence required a horse. A horse required a lot of food, housing and other maintenance that was relatively costly. The bicycle brought to the common people a means of transportation that could simply be parked overnight without food or water being required. In addition, it enabled women to gain an independence through mobility which had previously been denied to them.
The bicycle was a game changer in so many ways, not just these basic social changes. As we entered the 20th century, the bicycle became a platform for many early internal combustion engines. The motorcycle, the airplane and the automobile all owe their early development to bicycles and bicycle mechanics. The rise of the automobile diminished the bicycle’s importance in the West, but in much of the developing world, it continued to be the default vehicle. A case could be made that China’s current economic power had its germination in the efficient use of the bicycle by the populace for much of the 20th century.
During WWII, the Dutch utilized the bicycle to continue to resist the Germans. The Germans had stripped the country of mechanized vehicles. Those vehicles not confiscated were useless because all the fuel was under German control as well. The Dutch were left with their bicycles. The Dutch leveraged these human powered vehicles to create chaos and sabotage all across Holland. The two-wheeled partisans of the Netherlands were a pain in Hitler’s @$$ the entire war.
Now in the 21st century, the bicycle provides an opportunity in our society. In the bicycle, we have a machine that can help us conserve fuel and cut down on gridlock and pollution. Large-scale adoption of commuting by bicycle would bring untold benefits, many of them intangible and difficult to predict, but benefits will be delivered for sure.
There are very positive social effects to be achieved by a national policy to promote cycling. This national policy will encourage a hardy breed of Americans. The bicycle is one of the most efficient machines ever invented to convert work into distance. The bicycle is an invention of peacetime that became the basis of a mechanical world, first for the individual unable to afford a horse and then as a platform for small engines ushering in the great petroleum-based modern world.
Many politicians currently in power see the average American as a lazy slug that will never change their ways and deserves curtailment of their rights due to their weak will. The bicycle holds the key to change some of the current calculus in America’s balance of trade. If even a small percentage of Americans switched to bicycle commuting, the amount of energy and money saved would be enormous. If large numbers of Americans biked a couple thousand miles a year on their commutes, healthcare costs would likely fall. The energy savings could make America completely energy independent.
People on bicycles can truly alter the entire playing field. Two-wheeled human powered vehicles completely change the economic calculus that currently seems to doom America. Two-wheeled Americans in sufficient numbers can deliver a future that is unimaginable by anyone right now. Citizens and politicians could wake up in ten years and see the country in the black again. The power of the people would be clearly and unequivocally demonstrated by such an economic and social miracle.