About the Author: Pat Childers is a Senior Advisor in the Office of Air and Radiation who has spent over 1/2 his life promoting Clean Transportation choices for the American public. Pat currently coordinates the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee and the Clean Air Excellence Awards and is the proud father of two budding cyclists.
Bike to Work Day is Friday May 15, unlike many folks my decision isn’t to bike or not, its deciding which bike to ride. Some people think biking is my life. I seldom go a day with out some sort of spinning, be it mountain biking, commuting, or riding with my kids. I was named the Agency Bike Coordinator by Carol Browner fifteen years ago. I volunteer for an organization that teaches kids about the environment from the seat of a mountain bike. I met my wife through a biking buddy, and the first purchase we ever made together was a red tandem bike. I even teach a diversity class using bikes. While biking is a passion, it is not my life. However I do find that biking is a great tool, it is the swiss army knife that I use to get through my day providing me a way to solve many problems with one simple tool.
Biking is a great tool for exercise as you burn calories riding through the city or local parks. I look back at the 240 lbs that used to be me, and say it’s good to be on the other side of 200 now and I can thank biking for that.
It’s also a great tool for teaching almost anything. Need a math lesson, a bike has 3 front gears and 9 back gears…how many total gears does that provide? Please don’t say 12. How about history, sports and diversity lessons, the first African American World Champion in any sport was Major Taylor who was a cyclist at the turn of the century a hundred years ago, and Susan B Anthony said that the bike “has done more to emancipate woman than any one thing in the world”. That’s some pretty lofty importance to place on two wheels.
On top of that, the scientific importance of bicycling from pneumatic tires to the Wright brothers developing their ideas for the airplane from their previous job building bikes, make the bike one of the most important inventions ever.
But what biking really can do best is act as a tool for low cost environmentally sound transportation. For years I rode a bike recycled from the trash and the only fuel I needed for the trip was one peanut butter banana and cheese sandwich. If you look around the community you will see cyclists of every age, sex, race and socioeconomic background all riding for different reasons-fun, health, finances, coolness factor. Whatever their reason, they are all riding and they are all helping the environment, reducing their daily footprint by increasing their daily cycling mileage so to speak. I doubt that most think about the environment, the science of biking, or as they happily spin from place to place, seeing the world from a different view than commuters stuck in traffic.
Biking isn’t my life, but it certainly has made my life better so I will join the crowd on bike to work day….if I can just figure out which bike to ride.