A Vehicle for the Twenty First Century

I can’t remember the moment in which cycling stopped being strictly recreation and became my three season commuting vehicle. Maybe it was that first bicycle camping trip to Balsam Lake Park. Maybe it was the cycling holiday on Prince Edward Island. All I know is that at some time during the past twenty years I remembered what I had known as a youth, that distance to a cyclist is simply a state of mind. Since most of my commuting happens within the city, my bike has become my answer to the oil crisis.

During the last century Canada thrived on creating a car dominated society that housed people at a distance from work, shopping, school and entertainment. This society, fueled by cheap gas and the jobs created by the automobile, thrived on a commuter lifestyle. Now many of those commuter jobs no longer exist having gone to a cheaper place. What’s more, that cheap gas has become expensive gas with plans to become even more expensive. I usually avoid the economy in my column, but today I make an exception with a modest proposal. I offer the bicycle as a racy, low cost vehicle for local commuting that is fun to ride, healthy and uses no gasoline. Remember the good times you had as a kid learning to ride a bicycle. Well, today’s cycles are much better than the one on which I learned. Twenty four gears make an easy spin on almost any hill; and on a bike you become part of the ride in a way that is impossible to a driver. Furthermore, the world becomes your free fitness club.

The savings offered by a bicycle are significant. Every year I save the cost of my bike in gas and truck maintenance. That is one hundred per cent recovery in one year; and mine is not a cheap bike. Cycling is such a healthy activity that I also save on health related expenses and arrive at my destination refreshed rather than tense. The bicycle did not originate as a toy. It was meant to be a commuting vehicle. Today, although bicycles outsell cars in Canada, they are still treated as toys of leisure. Yet most of our travel falls within an easy thirty minute ride on the bicycle. In regular use, a bike can allow you to put away $1000/ year and laugh every time you pass a gas station.

Our city, once a hub of rail activity, is lined with beautiful trails. Also, my experience on roads has been that our drivers are exceptionally thoughtful to cyclists. Our distances are not excessive, especially given the beautiful spring weather we have been experiencing. Finally, as the icing on the cake, cycling leaves no carbon footprint. It is as easy on the environment as it is fun to do.

So, if you own a bike, try short commutes, just for fun. If you plan to buy one, then I recommend that you go to a store in which you can get good advice and a cycle that suits your needs. A good bicycle that you use is money in the bank. A cheap one that sits in the garage is dead weight. You will find it feels good not having to care about the price of gas. See you next time.

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