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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 09-21-06, 11:20 PM   #1
Gratefulrider
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Making A Difference-One Bike Ride at a time?

Howdy,
I am new to this forum but not new to cycling. I have an issue with a local bike shop where one employee is down on bike commuting and recycling. It seems that in his world view one person does not make a difference- one trip by bike, one box or can recycled etc-has no real effect on global warming or even on community psychcology. He "argues" that one person commuting 5 days a week is so small in the big picture that there is no point to even try since it really doesn't make a difference-visual or otherwise and that it only serves the commuter/recycler to feel good about themselves. I know that it does make a difference but I am looking for other people's experience with this "argument" or if anyone knows of good examples where it is statistically shown to make a difference or if anyone knows some good links to other sources of info.

Thank You for Your Time,
Grateful to Be Riding
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Old 09-21-06, 11:58 PM   #2
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The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single foot step.
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Old 09-22-06, 05:20 AM   #3
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The person you are talking to sounds lazy and is just making excuses for not trying. They are showing that one person can make a difference actually. Because he does not wish to take steps to make things better he is making things worse, therefore he is making a difference, just in the wrong sort of way.

It seems also that he says that biking to work and recycling by one person will not make a difference, which he knows that it will make a difference. If he were to do it then there would have been 2 of you in the room working to try to make a difference.

As well you said that the person indicated that riding to work is only a feel good thing for the person doing it. This probably shows that he knows how to make himself fell better but chooses not to, and what does that tell you about someone. If I were to have contact with this person I would not try to convince him of what is better and what is not but ask him some questions to see how he really feels.

As well he may have a valid argument. Since you think that commuting and recycling are good you may have a bias staining you view and only hear the bad things that he says because they contradict your way of thinking. You may have only heard the bad things, and anything good that he said was filtered through your bias after that.

Like Mister's quote of Confucious "The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single foot step." Which is pretty much sums up of what has to be done, and probably makes a lot more sense that all the crap I have just spewed out.
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Old 09-22-06, 05:28 AM   #4
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Not the reply you want to hear, but why bother evangelizing to someone who won't convert?

I had a similar problem with the head wrench at the LBS where I bought my bike. He always grumbled and complained about things like, "Well, I'll put 'em on, but I don't see why anyone would want fenders on a bike." And "Why the hell do you need a rack? It's a bike, not a truck."

I take my business elsewhere now. Guy there said to me, "The reason you're having such trouble with your panniers is that cheesy rack. Rather than try different panniers, try this expedition rack instead. It's the same one I use on my bike." He was right.
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Old 09-22-06, 06:29 AM   #5
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One person riding a bike won't make any difference if he is the only person who ever rides a bike. But millions riding bikes would make a difference, and maybe one could set an example for another, who could set an example for another, etc.

What's the alternative reasoning? Well, we're going to run out of oil and the planet's going to burn up, but one person on a bike isn't going to help so I guess the only thing we can do is keep driving our cars and go extinct. There's nothing that can be done. We're totally helpless.

Sorry, I'm not going down without a fight.
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Old 09-22-06, 07:34 AM   #6
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It's not worth arguing with him. For the record though, one person riding a bike DOES make a difference in a direct way. If you commute to and from work, five days per week, fifty weeks per year, that's 500 trips per year. On each trip, you'll be seen by hundreds of people and you're bound to make an impression on at least one of them. Someone might even talk to you about it and then you'll have the chance to tell them about al of its advantages.
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Old 09-22-06, 07:59 AM   #7
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I agree - One person doesn't make a difference. But lots of individual "one persons" combined do.
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Old 09-22-06, 08:00 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gratefulrider
He "argues" that one person is so small in the big picture that there is no point to even try since it really doesn't make a difference-
Ask him if he would mind if just one tiny, solitary Ebola virus were inserted under his skin. I mean, what could one little virus do.....
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Old 09-22-06, 08:35 AM   #9
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His attitude is a cop-out that many people use. It's just a rationalization for self-doubt, fear of failure, fear of success(!), or just laziness.

I couldn't find this online anywhere, but I've seen a great illustration in print of what many here are saying. Imagine a great crowd of people. They are all looking unhappy, and above each of their heads is a thought ballon saying "What can one person do?" Get it?

More relevant to biking, this blog post points out something I hadn't consciously added up before: Each bike commuter is probably seen by hundreds of car drivers every day. That's hundreds of people who, at the very least, are seeing that some people do seem to ride bikes on the public roads. And that's just one commuter! Now multiply that by the number of bike commuters. Obviously that helps keep the motorists watchful for us. And some of them, just maybe, might wonder after a while if it's something they could do too. The author refers to this as "passive advocacy", which I would paraphrase as the advocacy of simply showing up. Inform your guy that he has a chance to be observed riding a bike by hundreds of people every day!

becnal's comment reminds me of a Sci-Fi book I read recently, Grass, by Sheri S. Tepper. One of the characters contemplates a view of humans as sort of viral agents of God, all seemingly pursuing their own ends but collectively and slowly working to accomplish God's will, albeit at a level below God's direct awareness, rather like viruses in other living bodies. An interesting but possibly useful view of advocacy.

Generally, many people think advocacy begins and ends with the dramatic confrontation of a Critical Mass, or a Rosa Parks bus boycott, rather than all the little foundational actions that have led of up to that moment. But those potentially pivotal moments only amount to anything when the groundwork is laid and enough people are ready. Until then, progress can certainly seem slow and even difficult to detect.
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Old 09-22-06, 08:50 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eli_Damon
It's not worth arguing with him. For the record though, one person riding a bike DOES make a difference in a direct way. If you commute to and from work, five days per week, fifty weeks per year, that's 500 trips per year. On each trip, you'll be seen by hundreds of people and you're bound to make an impression on at least one of them. Someone might even talk to you about it and then you'll have the chance to tell them about al of its advantages.
This is true. I am seen by many people riding out and in from work, the store, etc. Yesterday, I saw another guy riding his old raleigh back from the store into the complex.
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Old 09-22-06, 08:56 AM   #11
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If everyone thought like that guy, we'd still be in the stone age.
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Old 09-22-06, 09:58 AM   #12
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That guy is just plain silly. There are so many commuter, transportation, and utilitarian cyclists in Portland now, but like all other movements, it all began with a few people. Even if you are the only bike commuter you ever see in your area, you are making a difference to yourself. You're improving your health and likely your stress levels. Don't listen to him and don't let him intimidate people who are interested in trying.
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Old 09-22-06, 10:00 AM   #13
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of course one person biking makes a difference. you can tally up all your miles in a year and calculate how many lbs of carbon dioxide you didn't put into the atmo, how many gallons of octane you didn't burn, how many dollars you didn't spend on gas or repairs...pretty soon its obvious that all that biking had an effect.

and wtf is a bikeshop employee complaining about bike commuting...doesn't he realize the more people that do it, the more $$ there is for his shop to repair all those bikes out there? not to mention sell them?

I love it when LBS employees stand in the face of their own possible profits. I mean I understand integrity, but if the soccer-mom with an X-mart bike wants repairs done, I'd do em and charge her rather than say "oh, you might as well go back to x-mart and get another one of those, its not worth my time or your money."
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Old 09-22-06, 10:11 AM   #14
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I'd say, "So what? It makes a difference to ME."
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Old 09-22-06, 10:28 AM   #15
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The guy is just clueless, 1 persons efforts do make a difference. By recycling cardboard, paper and aluminum I have made aprox. $2100.00 which was used to purchase bikes for myself, wife, 3 sons. daughter, and 2 daughter in laws.
I have become a bike commuter and sold 1 of our 2 cars. 2 of the sons use their bikes for trips that they previously would have used cars for.
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Old 09-22-06, 11:31 AM   #16
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Thanks gratefulrider. Your thread made my day. The responses here prove that it is NOT just one person trying to make a difference. There are MANY of us. Together we will make a difference.


(But we must work quickly, or it will be too late.)
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Old 09-22-06, 12:30 PM   #17
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Be the change you want to see in the world.
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Old 09-22-06, 01:02 PM   #18
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There's a question that's not being asked: Is "making a difference" the only reason to do something?

Maybe it makes a difference. Maybe it doesn't. So what? If you enjoy it, do it. If you don't, no amount of "difference" is going to motivate you for long.

- Jeff

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Old 09-22-06, 01:10 PM   #19
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Sounds like that fellow feels a strong sense of guilt, but he's too attached to his car to let go.
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Old 09-22-06, 02:38 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eff-J
There's a question that's not being asked: Is "making a difference" the only reason to do something?

Maybe it makes a difference. Maybe it doesn't. So what? If you enjoy it, do it. If you don't, no amount of "difference" is going to motivate you for long.

- Jeff

Very well said. I would like to know what the individiual would have said in response.
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Old 09-22-06, 04:43 PM   #21
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I think the guy at your LBS has a valid point. The wheels are in motion and we are collectively going to bring Earth to its knees. Nothing we can do about it IMO. I use to ride/commute because I was hip to CRC, one less car, one more bike, save the world, etc...but know I just ride because I enjoy it.

So my advice is to live consciously, do what u can, hope for the best, and just ride.
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Old 09-22-06, 05:32 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mister
The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single foot step.
.....or turn of the pedal.
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Old 09-22-06, 06:09 PM   #23
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Good question.

I wonder if that fellow is completely clueless on bicycle commuting. My main reason for it has always been to get to school or work and back. The effect on global warming or community psychology are irrelevant. I pedaled to school because it was faster than walking and allowed me detours to the candy store. When I moved out on my own, I had no car, so my bike got me to work and back reliably and it spared my precious finances thus ensuring my early survival and allowed me to get through college without debt. Now it keeps me active and healthier.

Then there is the commute itself. A bike commute cannot be equated to a car commute. I've never had a car commute that included pre-dawn rides through a nature preserve. Bike routes tend to be quieter and more personal. In a car, I cannot race when I feel happy or go almost at a standstill if there are reasons I don't want to arrive at my destination. Driving in traffic has never been a way to prepare for or unwind from work. A car isolates me from the earth and its seasons. I cannot just stop to watch a hawk circling in the sky, or feel the weather.

Yes, we are like grains of sand. Tiny, but each little bit makes a little difference. It's not just that you recycle and bicyle, but that also you act as an influence on others.

And, does one person really make a difference? Ask Bill Gates. He didn't do it all himself, but the world wouldn't be the same without him.
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Old 09-22-06, 07:31 PM   #24
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Google "what difference can one person make". There are tons of web pages out there dedicated to answering this question with many examples.
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Old 09-22-06, 08:51 PM   #25
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He's not lazy or a jerk, just a pessimist. I bike commute and only drive once every two weeks or so, and I think I don't make a difference. It's just a drop in the bucket. It's nothing personal, it's just a different world view. Life sucks and things will go to hell eventually, I'm just trying to do the best with what I can. I'm not a big fan of the whole "pay it forward" mentality. So as much as I give kudos for having the balls to go car free, ultimately it doesn't really impact things much. I have little faith that a massive subset of the US will suddenly start bike commuting, considering how little of it is occuring even when gas prices are outrageous. Anyways, props to the commuters, just cause I think it's cool and I respect it, not because it's saving the world.
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