Commuting - FAREWELL TO ARMS (...and legs & feet, etc.)
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Jean-Paul Rivegauche, PhD
02-19-01, 08:04 PM
Motivations for commuting to work on a bicycle, eh? First of all, its an ecologically friendly mode of transportation (and there are far too many cars cramping our remaining vestigial quality of life, anyway). Second, as Lenin may or may not have actually remarked, "True socialism may never be achieved on anything but a bicycle" (you'll never find it behind the wheel of a monster SUV, certainly). Third (on a list that continues into the dozens...), it is a great way to maintain cardiovascular and muscle strength (OK, mainly lower body, but heck, nothing's perfect) between regular visits to the gym or work-out. In this last context, when combined with a daily three mile run after work and a 30 minute daily workout session focusing on upper body muscle groups, you are probably better covered against conventional health emergencies than you would be with the best (and most expensive) health insurance policy. I first developed an interest in bicycle commuting when I was in the Air Force, back in bad old Vietnam days. From there I took my mountain bike to Saudi Arabia, where I spent 10 years working on Saudi medical projects (it was the perfect vehicle for commuting to and from the hospital compound, but most importantly it allowed me to stay WAY away from crazy Abdullah, the local bus driver who was always just one hair-pin curve away from a quick trip to paradise). Now that I am back in California, I am fortunate enough to be able to ride the 5 miles daily distance to work on my bicycle, which is a truly happy circumstance. All told, the benefits of riding a bike as commuting transportation are enormous, in just about every way. The few drawbacks (such as encountering REALLY severe foul weather, and running afoul of some occasional motor-driven horse's arse) are tolerable and pale in significance, in my opinion. Furthermore, I feel it is important that at least SOME of us try to make a dent in the infernally-combusted death-grip that the oil manufacturing and automobile producing cartels have on Americans (and their ever-reduced quality of life). For some excellent iinsights into related subjects that may illuminate and enlighten you within these parameters of thought, visit the following URLs: http://www.adbusters.org http://www.carbusters.ecn.cz/Index.htm http://www.lanset.com/aeolusaero/aeolus_aerospace.htm
Be well, citizens!
Second, as Lenin may or may not have actually remarked, "True socialism may never be achieved on anything but a bicycle" (you'll never find it behind the wheel of a monster SUV, certainly).
I find this statement to be..... well most puzzling and alarming! Can you explain this? I am an American! I do not follow the belief's of Lenin or Socialism!
02-20-01, 03:11 PM
Jea-Paul, j'aime beaucoup votre nom. Moi, je suis né rive droit, dans le IVeme, mais j'ai vecu rive gauche, dans le XVeme. Votre essai est... provocateur...
Hunter, socialism is a great concept... all warm & fuzzy... filled to overflowing with the best of intentions.
Only, it doesn't work. It runs counter to the basic nature of we humans. Notice that all of the great worker's paradises have gone out of business, save for a few desperate and starving backwater dictatorships, and China, which cheats on the whole concept of communism, and is well on its way to becoming China, Inc.
I betcha that Jean-Paul was alluding to the "Bikers of the World Unite" bit of warm & fuzzy, using "socialism" in the same shock-you sort of way as I'd write "dismembered human entrails on Route 28, skid hazard" to do much the same. His point concerning a healthy life on two wheels was well taken, as was his put-down of those vulgar SUVs, although I'd have written something on the order of "Want to see Nirvana? Well, you can't get there in your Ford Expedition."
I didn't intend to interpret a PhD's message, but it appears that I've tried.
In my defence, I'm from France, a country that thinks it wants to be socialist, except that it also wants to be a liberal free-market republic, a representative democracy, a monarchy, and a world-conquering empire. It is all of these, and less. (It does, however, have a world championship soccer team.) So, what do I know?
I think what Jean-Paul is trying to share is great story of a life with a bicycle. I find it odd that readers clamped onto the political reference. What i took away from the story is that enough people and their bicycles can change the world. People and their bicycles are self reliant. I mean, when the gas has dried up and the economy is toast, my bicycle will still get me places.
I guess the best stories are the ones that get you thinking about things.
I am not "clamping." I simply found a reference to a dead communist a rather alarming reference when it comes to cycling. I agree on the point of self reliance, as I was a avid speaker of people getting bikes when the Y2K thing rolled around. I have been riding for 20+ years. When I lived in a city my bike was my transportation, I saw automobiles as I still do a vulgar, dangerous, time consuming, money wasting, resource depleting, polluting, pile of metal and moving parts. I cannot help my reaction to the obvious political reference made by this poster. Call me a freak but I am a patriotic American! References to Socialism I find alarming! As I do the Wall Street's Journal reference in their commercial. "Adventures in Capitalism." I do think the point could have been made without the socialist comment.
02-20-01, 11:57 PM
Ah, what does it really matter? Capitalist, socialist, or nudist, I think Jean-Paul's post was rather interesting, and merely restating the advantages of riding. Sure, not everyone in this crazy world believes that bike commuting is the greatest thing in the world, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no matter how wrong it is!;-)
Okay, it seems as if driving one's car is frowned upon in this forum...I must admit that I have driven my car from time to time to time. Yes, it's true! ;-) Well, I've been weaning myself from using my car when I can ride my bike--riding to the grocery store, post office, to work, or the gym instead of driving my car. I think starting to make adaptive changes like these, helps as well. Believe me, in my corner of the world, this is a "radical" change. ;-)
I really don't think American Patriotism is in question here, but rather I sense that everyone seems to be in agreement of trying to make where they are a better place.
Ah, let me finish my diatribe with this joke:
Q. What do you call someone who can speak only one language?
A. An American.
Really, that was a joke, folks! ;-)
<insert cricket sound here>
(just another damn American)
Just a quick note. Socialist Politics aside. You can and do save money by commuting by bike. I have done it at very job I have had except my present one. Which until recently was a 68 mile round trip through some of the toughest areas in Houston. Now my commute is about 40 miles round trip, but so far I have found a bike freindly route to take. I am still looking and hopefully will. 20 miles each way is about at the outer limits of bike commuting for me, at least one hour each way. Regardless, you save money on gas, and health improves, that is benefit enough fo me. And if there are any Bike activists, Socialist or not, in Texas we need them, this place is becoming bike unfriendly to the max, legislation has been proposed that will ban us from so roads (State bill 238). As they say:
When bikes are outlawed only outlaws will ride bikes.
Originally posted by kittyfury
I mean, when the gas has dried up and the economy is toast, my bicycle will still get me places.
An albertan talking about the gas drying up!?!? Blasphemy! Be careful - remember what happened to k.d. lang.
What will you oil your chain with?
Bubba (a sociocapitalist)
[Edited by Bubba on Feb 21st at 11:30 PM]
02-22-01, 12:27 AM
Hi, DonTx! That's pretty harsh that the government would want to ban bikes on the roads! I totally agree with you, bikes are good for your health and the environment, and not to mention how economical they are...
I guess we're lucky where I live, since our city (it's a not a huge city) just had a meeting on improving our bike paths and trails. It's great that they have bike paths accessible to us, and they're considering making more improvements to them.
Hey, I found this link regarding Texas Bicycle Coalition, too, if anyone in Texas is interested in more info: http://www.biketexas.org/index.html .
BTW, I wish you luck in defeating SB 238! :-)
03-03-01, 07:54 PM
Gosh, you took the words out of my mouth! Cycling is indeed the ideal mode of modern transportation, given our specifically modern problems: energy consumption, pollution, destruction of eco-systems (by asphalt), heart disease (and a myriad of other medical problems related to being obese), clinical depression, and on and on.
Jean-Paul Rivegauche, PhD
03-04-01, 03:44 PM
Alors! Facilite de parler, c'est impuissance de se taire, I always say.... I am bemused (note: not amused, but bemused) by Hunter's sensitivity to certain 'S' words, but Hunter may relax in that I am neither a Socialist nor a Communist in terms of my political sentiments; of course, the fact that Socialism and Communism are two distinctly discrete concepts that are nevertheless frequently confused by most Americans does not surprise me. The reaction is significant herein, however, in that 'la caque sent toujours le hareng'.
But all of this is mere amplification of what was meant by use of the "S" word as a monumental digression, since the subject under consideration is not whose political bias is more virtuous than another's, but rather the use of two wheels as a superb tool of liberation for the mind and spirit (among many others). [I should say, in completing this brief riposte on the alarm engendered by the sudden appearance of the "S" word here, that Cambronne is an astute assayer of tongue-in-cheek intent; his observations on the fact that the "S" word is, no matter how well intentioned, completely unsuited in the long term as a functional and enduring social philosophy for organization of human economic interactions, quite true.] Who but the French could have such insightful understandings of this...naturelment? [But then, "Complique" c'est un mot Francaise (apologies to Emperor NB).]
I am reminded, in view of the fact that we are confusing political systems, that I first focused on the perfect & beautiful naturalness of bicycles as transportation while 'in country' (VN), the observation of which stimulated me to appreciate the immense sense of social equilisation that may be found among peoples and social groups who use human-powered, two-wheeled transportation. The Vietnamese, under Uncle Ho, did a wonderful job using their limited materiel, despite being doubly handicapped by a logistics system that could not rely on state-of-the-art systems as we did. Bicycles were the principal means of transport, not only of people in a civil transport context, but on the 'Trail', as well, for war materiel coming down from the North. But apart from the use of bicycles by the Vietnamese (on both sides of the war), bicycles were also used brilliantly in China by the average citizen for daily commutes and just about every other application of economic and leisure human activity that comes to mind (although at this time the word 'leisure' was definitely not yet found in the Chinese lexicon...). Immediately after Vietnam, I spent some time in China before going to the Southwest Asian region and came to love the fact that there bicycles ruled the streets and the 4-wheeled vehicle was definitely the unwelcome interloper. [This doesn't mean that I hate automobiles; I am simply of the opinion that the rampant and even somewhat sinister forces propelling the automobile industry should be bridled-in and more adequately constrained by the greater needs of human beings (read some 70s vintage E.F. Schumacher for more on this).]
I also understand all too well how impossible it is to dispense with automobiles altogether under the constraints imposed by our modern American consumer economy; I modulate that awareness of this unhappy fact by limiting my car ownership to a wonderful little 1979 Honda Civic Station Wagon (named 'Buster'); it is also an SUV (SMALL Urban Vehicle), but a much kinder expression of the type than those behemoth monsters of wretched excess whose front bumpers are set at about the level of my head, seated in the Civic.
The Chinese also benefitted from use of self-propelled vehicles in that you RARELY ever saw an overweight or grossly obese Chinese individual (I have never been a big fan of bariatric medical therapies and practices and we wouldn't even need them if more people bicycled!). While the opportunities to take a leisurely ride through the countryside on a bicycle in the company of a lovely young Chinese woman (armed with French bread, wine, and cheese) never presented themselves (as they might in Provence, for example), there was still something wonderfully immediately physical and joyfully invigorating about being together with such a creature on a bicycle ride to anywhere. My daily commutes in the Kingdom weren't half as interesting as daily rides to and from the office in Beijing, although sometimes the sheer press of numbers in such settings does tend to make you long wistfully for the wide-open natural splendor of the Sierra Nevada mountains (or the Tetons). I did tend to wonder occasionally about the proximity steering and path separation abilities of Chinese bicyclists, however!
So, have we a "The ZEN of Bicycle Maintenance" context within which to make interesting comparisons and with which to draw fascinating parallels? I believe we do, as the bicycle is curiously a sort of functional representation of the old Spockian (Vulcan) Mind-Meld schtick, in which mind and body join together in transference actions (mind you, I'm not now, nor have I ever been a STAR-TREK fan, but I did watch some of the earliest episodes many years ago while starting my college years). Paraphrasing kittyfury: "...the best stories are the ones that get you thinking positively about things positively." Bicycles certainly do that and even when commuting to and from a work place, the cerebral stimulation that is often forthcoming welcomes the extra cardiac output increment cycling produces.
Getting back to DonTx's comments, I envy him his ability to make a 20 mile ride each way, but hope that the 40 mile ride is being balanced out with a solid hour of upper-body strength exercises each day! (I am mindful of those friends of mine who are both bicycle commuters and sport bicyclists: they end up with legs like steam-driven pile drivers (hmmmm, sorry, but I was distracted by the amusing and humorous association possibilities between the words "piles" and "bicycles") and these little, disproportionately small-sized chests that almost make them appear freakish. It is sad to hear that Texas is a bike-unfriendly place, of course, but understandable when one considers that people who inhabit wide-open spaces naturally tend to resent ANY constraints on their continued ability to 'live large'. After all, a bicycle is a very small thing, really, and that fact runs directly contrary to the legendary (perhaps apocryphal? Correct me if I am wrong!) Texas preference for all things that are bigger and larger.
Good point by Pete Clark, I think, on the tie-in with bicycles as an adjunct for controling or moderating sub-clinical type depression. Running is also great for this, but of course the best program is one that includes a balance of running, riding, and muscle toning. People who commute on bikes, in addition to engaging in other types of exercise, benefit more in a much broader context.
Lucky technogirl in living in a municipality wherein awareness of the importance of bike paths, etc., is well integrated into the community's mindfulness. Even in a city such as Sacramento (or better yet, in Davis, CA, with its University of California campus), where bicycle coalitions have striven for a very well developed system of bike paths and street bike-lanes, it is VERY far from being perfect.
This has been very lengthy...sorry; obviously a rainy day on this end. As the Finns would put it in the face of such a fusilade of rambling and poorly focused expostulations as this: "Sanoisitteko minulle milloin minun on poistuttava?"
Oh yes, by the way, Cambronne, my PhD is in Teleological Scatology, so don't feel as if anything I have to say ever has any genuine existential meaning, whatsoever. As far as politics and patriotism goes, perhaps we should adopt as America's national defense slogan: "Et le combat cessa faute de combatants!" If that were adopted, even though I am a defense consultant by profession, I'd 'etre heureaux comme un porc dans le merde!'
03-04-01, 03:58 PM
Me? I just like biking! ;)
Jean-Paul Rivegauche, PhD
03-04-01, 05:13 PM
Touche, aerobat! Je connais la musique! [Je devoir lacher un vent...BRAAAACK....pardon moi!] A bicycle by any other name is still a bicycle, agreed, and as we all know 'la critique est aisee et l'art est difficile!'
03-05-01, 09:54 AM
This bike forum, ain't it somethin'! Hat's off to the Webmaser--ta, mate! Where else would you get to meet so many interesting people? Also, I'm really glad this is such a civilized forum. I'm looking forward to learning something.
Thanks for the tip about the need for upper body exercises, Dr. Rivegauche. And though I've never been to China, I was impressed by some news footage of rush hour in a major Chinese city. Sort of like one in America, only with bikes instead of cars (and they were actually moving).
I am not anti-car, but I would love to see a mass exodus from its overuse. When was the last time you pulled up to another car at a red light, rolled your window down, and said, "Hello! Great day, isn't it?" Does an automobile culture contribute to a social anxiety? Are people really better off shut up indoors all the time (or in cars)?
Perhaps someday, though maybe not in our lifetimes, the flame we have kept alive will be eagerly sought for
by people who have finally had too much of a good thing.
Jean-Paul Rivegauche, PhD
03-05-01, 02:06 PM
Pete: Very interesting and excellent sentiments on the role of the automobile in our society. Your reflection on '...the last time you pulled up to another automobile at a stop light, rolled down the window and said "Hello! Great day, isn't it?"' is also worth putting into greater context, as the cocooning of individuals within that mass of metallic, inertial lethality that is the automobile does indeed create and sustain an unhealthy and psychologically deleterious sense of detachment from others. This is, in my opinion, nowhere more noticeable on America roadways than at the present time, with the present faddish trend that has developed of applying shaded coatings to the inner surfaces of automobile glass. Ostensibly introduced to provide enhanced solar reflectivity and improved cooling within an automobile, this has a more sinister function as well: it helps the motorist shield himself from the gaze of others. This mechanism of increasing autonomous anonymity has two very substantial and severely deleterious effects. One is to help reinforce separation of the driver (or passengers) of the car from others motorists and from an awareness that one is sharing the streets with others. The second is to encourage risky or deliberately arrogant/antagonistic driving practives on the part of the person who is thus shielded from the (perhaps) censurious or disproving gaze of others. It is a demonstrated fact of human social behavior that anonymity reinforces the possibility of misdirected or inappropriately directed displays of aggression or antisocial road manners on the part of drivers. Hence, when the average dip-**** feels that he cannot be easily discerned by others--hidden from view behind his 'black-out' window glass--he is more inclined to act stupidly on the roadway. The result of such behavior is bad enough for those protected by the bulk of a 4000 pound SUV, but catastrophic for an unprotected human being on a two-wheeled vehicle. The operative social mechanism at work here is removal of the 'shame factor'. Remove the disgrace or shame of irresponsible social interactions by individuals and you effectly strengthen or reinforce the social disintegration process that degrades the cultural environment for all of us. This same principle is also apparent in our 'justice system' (I use the term 'justice' disparagingly, since as an attorney friend once reminded me: never make the mistake of confusing 'justice' with 'law' in the United States), wherein instead of subjecting a criminal to severe castigation in the form of public shame or social ridicule, especially in the face of his/her peers, we instead lock him away and instead allow him to cultivate peer approval as a mean dude with 'attitude'. But this is a further unhappy digression and we are, after all, discussing bicycle commuting here.
What is particularly reprehensible, to me, is the fact that the automobile manufacturers are seizing upon this sense of 'attitudinal anonymity' that shaded auto glass confers and use it actively to advertise their objectionably excessive 4-wheeled monster vehicles. Picture, if you will, the typical automobile TV advertisement, in which a rather large, agressive- appearing 4WD SUV with black-out glass is shown careening about, careening wildly through highly fantasized scenarios depicting breathtaking scenes of natural beauty (mountainscapes, deserts, etc.) at excessive rates of speed. Just for the sake of some amusing (but highly informative) observation, try to make out the human form or shape of the driver behind the wheel of that fearful monster of a car as it smashes through all that pristine wilderness! In almost all cases today, it is nearly impossible! The message that comes through on a much more subtle level is very clear, as far as I am able to discern: "Buy this vehicle and indulge yourself in your fantasies, completely bereft of any sense of greater responsibility or constraint to others or the environment". In other words, "it's OK to be an A**h**e."
In still other words: "If you drive this vehicle, it is OK to be irresponsible, boorish, selfish, aggressive, and negligent of anything other than your own ineherent sense of immediate sensory gratification". Think about this for a moment and reflect that although there are those of us out here in 'consumer land' who see through the smoke and mirrors and perceive the REAL message well enough, for every one of us with some vestige of reflective intelligenced left there are at least several hundred who not only lack the interest in critically examining marketing hooks and motivations behind these TV automobile advertisements, but who probably also lack the basic critical facilities (see 'facilities', read 'brain-cells') to do so, anyway.
Advertisements of this sort have great appeal to younger people who are still blissfully unaware of the fact that life has a finite end as well as a finite beginning (i.e. the not yet fully mature human personality--although I say that mindful that while aging is mandatory, as the old saying goes, 'growing up is not'). The small print at the bottom of the TV screen advertisement that says "Professional driver on closed course: kids, don't try this at home!" while the ad airs is almost a complete exercise in obviated uselessness (much like the surgeon general's warning on cigarette packs that smoking can cause cancer....DUH!). The larger, more profound and unspoken message comes across all too clearly.......
But to return to your comment about communicating in a friendly manner with others while in a car, I draw from my own experiences on a bicycle, commuting to and from work in which many instances of positive interactions of mutually self-affirming substance take place. There are several other commuters, for example, that I run into each day on my personal commute. All differ in their phsyical strength, abilities, and style, as well as differing in the capability of their machines. One such person I run into I have termed "The Yellow Flash", since he routinely travels at an average speed of 23 mph (I usually manage to maintain an average of 18 MPH on my Pinarello cyclocross commuter, but frequently manage 22 mph or slightly more on good, headwind-less days). Consequently, he invariably passes me by in a figurative flash of his characteristic yellow bicycling jersy. One day, determined to show him that 54 years could occasionally best 37 years, I fell in behind him and successfully drafted him, waiting for a moment of particularly psychological juciness to sprint out in front and pass him by. This was a harmless amusement that we both enjoyed and a few days later we happened to stop together at a light and became acquainted with each other. This could hardly ever happen whilst one was entirely encapsulated in 4000 pounds of automobile. This has also occured at other times, with others on the same commute route I take. In fact, I frequently pass people that are regular runners on my bike commute route and over the months we also have become nodding acquaintances in an unspoken mutal understanding of the benefits of human powered movement (as compared to the social isolation and aggressive effects that are facilitated and furthered by overuse of the automobile).
These are extremely positive effects that exemplify the best sense of what I would term beneficial 'generic socialism': in other words, a drawing together of members of a given society in mutually pleasing, healthy, and ammicable activities--clearly the opposite effects obtain in a predominantly 4-wheel vehicle dominated society.
So, Pete, a long-winded way of saying that your remarks certainly fell upon fertile ground . It is hoped that the message gets across to automobile drivers that "...et l'avare Archeron ne lache point sa proie!"
Jean-Paul Rivegauche, PhD
03-05-01, 02:40 PM
Cambronne: Your adoption of this name is tres amusant!
I wonder how many in this forum are aware of the significance of the use of the name "Cambronne". For those who are not, Napoleon's General Cambronne answered the British demand for surrender at Waterloo with the inspiring epithet "MERDE!", thus immortalising both the word and the good General for posterity.
America has a milder analogue in General McAuliff's response to the German commander in the 'Battle of the Bulge', during the Second World War, when the latter demanded the American surrender in view of the fact that McAuliff's forces were completely surrounded (with little hope of escape). General McAuliff's response was a somewhat less scatalogical "Nuts", but considering that many WASP Americans are descendents of the ultra-conservative Puritans, this choice of idiom is understandable.
[I myself prefer General Cambronne's pithy remark, although if it had been myself, I would have probably replied: "Fous-moi le camp!" This is also useful on a bicycle ride in France, by the way].
At any rate, Cambronne, thanks for some excellent and droll inference by innuendo. Il n'y a que le premier pas qui coute, je pense....
03-05-01, 08:16 PM
Thank you for that explanation, sir. The paths of the many do not always lead to freedom. It is in the resolve of the visionary that the many find leadership which can unlock the shackles of normalcy.
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