Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Revolution Will Come With Pedals

“I like to ride a bicycle.” There I said it. I know it is nerdy. I know it is not trendy. I know that it is not “cool” to ride a bicycle - especially the kinds of bikes I ride. However, with the current state of the economy, rising gas and oil prices, global warming threats popping up hither and yon, it seems to me that possessing a joy of cycling is one of the last signs of evolved human thinking.

Maybe tomorrow a new Star Trek-esque propulsion system will pop up and we will all be saved from the horrors of our polluting ways. Burning fossil fuels will magically go away and we will be able to putt around in real “green” vehicles that only emit fresh smelling droplets of cleaner-than-Aquifina water from their tailpipes and continue to put forth little to zero physical effort into our mobility. But I doubt it. We are in too deep.

I rather liken the journey off of the addiction to fossil fuels as steering the Titanic away from the impending iceberg - except our Titanic is traveling at freeway speed, was built in Detroit, and all the Captains at the helm are drunk from sucking down pints of crude with their other rich crude swilling captain friends. We don’t realize that when our ship strikes the ‘berg, if it hasn’t already, those Captains "in charge" will simply crack the whip on their private pilots to fire up their private jets and they will be off like they were never there to their private islands. The rest of us are locked in third class to drown in the fumes and toxic soup that we are blindly creating.

H.G Wells said, "Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." This is pretty powerful coming from the guy who is known as one of the Fathers of science fiction. Sadly for Wells, there are not many adults on bicycles - especially here in the United States - where the bicycle is largely viewed as a pleasure vehicle for nerds, toys for kids, or transportation for people who got to many DUI’s. Indeed, Wells would probably shed tears at the state of cycling in the US today. It is time for us as cyclists to take Wells’ words to heart as the future holds an “us versus them” scenario.

The greater society will not let go of their fossil fuel addiction without a fight. The built environment just won’t allow it, and neither will the zombified perception toward cycling. We have planned, built, lived, and conditioned ourselves to be slaves to the very thing we NEED to get away from - the oil companies - in an “Epic Fail” of global proportions. In addition, many of the assimilated will likely sell their plasma, craigslist their pets, forego eating, and cash in their children's college savings to keep pumping the good 'ol petrol into their SUV's before mounting a bicycle. For cyclists advocating better environs and facilities to promote cycling - these same oil companies have infested all of our other avenues historically allowing “free” society to affect change, such as the mass media and most levels of government. 

Maybe Wells was predicting the future when he wrote “When the Sleeper Awakes.” It’s premise envisioned “a vast political and economic order that spans the entire world” where “the classes have become more and more separated” leading eventually to an inevitable set up where “the people of the world prepare to stage a revolt against the “White Council” that has its grip on society.” Hmm. Following many current events that sounds pretty prophetic to me.

I would propose to start this revolt by riding a bike. Ride it in the street. Ride it safely following the established rules of the road. Ride it to work. If you can’t ride it to work the entire way - bring it part way, park, and ride it the rest of the way. Ride it in organized events. Ride with friends and family. Help get your non-riding friends on bikes. The revolution won’t be motorized, folks. This I truly believe. Time to ride.

Ride To Work from Nicolas Lambert on Vimeo.

Riding a bike can be summed up succinctly by quoting Elizabeth West, from Hovel in the Hills

“When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became.  Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others.”


  1. You should come to Hong Kong. The New Territories has an extensive network of dedicated cycle tracks, which are extensively used. The highlight of my week is my wife and I doing a 45-mile round trip to a friend's little store for fried noodles. I write quite a bit about Hong Kong (but not yet about cycling, although I plan to) on

  2. Robert, great blog, I also saw you woke the not-so sleeping trolls on BROL. As someone who has lived in NYC, Munich, Portland and now Seattle I have seen a wide range of styles for urban and suburban development. NY has become much more bike friendly since I left. I am not sure I would even recognize it anymore. It is remarkable how much change can happen in such a short period of time. Even Portland has changed significantly since I have left. There are two more Max lines and the infrastructure has continued to develop.

    The main need is the will to change. Hopefully we will see something on that front within the US. Until then I am looking at getting myself a Velomobile as a car replacement. The extra carrying capacity, stability and weather protection is highly alluring.

  3. Cool, Robert, the oil angle reminds me of James Kuntsler's writing... sardonic, but with good humor. Great job, keep them coming!


  4. You don't need something from Star Trek to make internal combustion engines send pure water out the tailpipe. The answer is Hydrogen. There are already quite a few vehicles in the USA burning hydrogen as the sole fuel source, including Scwatzenegger's HumVee.

    All the air the engine breathes in comes out the tailpipe cleaner than it went into the engine.

    It also extends the life of your lubricating oil as well. I've seen an engine with over 75,000 miles on the oil and it still looked brand new.

    Hydrogen works very well. That's why none of the top people want to talk about it. You can make hydrogen at home.

    Don't let those people on BROL get you down. Just do your own thing. I've made dozens of changes to my trike. If I had listened to them I wouldn't have made most of the changes because, according to them, the changes just wouldn't work. But, I did the changes and I am now riding a trike that is waaay the hell better, easier and faster to ride than it was when I bought it. So just keep doing what you want to do!!!!!! BROL has no shortage of naysayers.

    I haven't figured out how to use this "profile" thing so I picked "Anonymous". I'm "jimbo" on BROL

  5. JS - I agree. It is that paradigm shift that is the real kicker. I am working on a post about my own personal experiences working for 6 years in Urban Planning and how that relates to cycling. Stay tuned!

  6. I agree hydrogen could be interesting. Embedded thinking is the real problem.As far as a hydrogen humvee - thats another lame thing I would have issue with - especially if I am going to be on my bike! :)

  7. Hydrogen is not a fuel. It takes more energy to manufacture hydrogen (hydrolysis, etc.) than it releases when you combust it.

    I would think all the pure neocon capitalists here on the Internet would applaud the current direction we're going. Because capitalism is always right, why mess with the market? The market clearly wants to stay oil-fueled. What are you, some kind of socialists? Let the market decide!

  8. No socialist here, but the market is broken when realistic options are not easily obtainable and the oil-driven economy cannot see the forest for the trees. A one-sided infrastructure design and a monopoly on mobility by the automobile is not a market. The auto manufacturers in the U.S had a great hand in destroying mass transit in the past - thats not letting the market decide.

  9. Ecellent job on the commenting system, Robert!

  10. Hydrogen is an EXCELLENT fuel. Like it or not. The energy for breaking down water can be free from wind, solar etc. And is being done as we speak. New technologies for producing it are now available and it is getting to be cheaper and more easily obtained.

  11. Yeah, I rode 10,000 miles last year. I would be very happy with an environment totally free of motorized vehicles but it will never happen. As long as we have to have them it would be nice to have clean air as well.

    Not to mention the huge difference in price once everything is set up.