by Brad Lancaster © 2011
Years ago at a red light I looked into the car beside me and saw the frowning driver’s hair blowing into the back seat as though she were leaning into a mighty storm. But her windows were up. The gale was coming from her air conditioner — on a beautiful day when an open window could just as easily cool and refresh. Then I coughed, and looked back at her tail pipe spewing out toxic exhaust. I was on a bicycle, and loving the day, except for the coughing. And that’s when the simple realization hit me.
Everything we do, every choice we make, has consequences. And no matter how seemingly simple, they can be profound. We can choose to be and live problems — or solutions.
I realized every time I drove (or mechanically cooled myself) I was directly poisoning air, water, soil, and myself. However, every time I rode my bike, my exhaust was never worse than a flatulent. When I drove my car, I fueled it with toxic gasoline from a distant corporation. When I rode my bike, I fueled me, often with a burrito made from locally grown tepary beans and cooked in my backyard solar oven. A burrito I would’ve eaten anyway now tasted even better.
How I do live without owning a car?
I live in a central, mixed-use, pedestrian-scaled neighborhood, a few blocks away from major bus routes, where I can easily get the majority of my needs met within a 3- to 5-mile (1.8- to 3-km) radius. When working in town, I consciously select work that is closer to home to keep my typical in-town travel radius smaller and more easily bikeable, although I do venture much further out on occasion. And I started playing with the bicycling lifestyle long ago while I still lived with my folks in their “remote” suburban home 10 miles from my work. Plus I’m always advocating for more human-powered transport infrastructure and policy in my community and beyond.
Having sold my car, it is now far more convenient to ride a bike, walk, or take public transport than to arrange to borrow a vehicle. Convenience is key. And even when I’m feeling tired at the beginning of a ride, once I get going (and afterward) I am always glad I did.
I have an Xtracycle Free Radical Cargo Loader that extended my 20-year-old mountain bike so I can use it as a bike truck. I can pack 200 lbs (90 kg) on its back, carry people, other bikes, building materials, trees, groceries, and more. Before I had my Xtracycle I just used my mountain bike with bike bags, a big basket, and when needed, a bike trailer. Photos of the trailer, made from salvaged materials, can be seen farther down in this blog post.
Visit my Drops in a Bucket blog to read the full posting, view photos, and access a wide variety of great bicycle-related resources