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Yes I Can and You Can Too!
Last Fall, before the Xtracycle

 Even with the supposed "gas crisis" and people bemoaning their personal difficulties in the pseudo-depression - and with mounting concerns over climate change / global warming (choose your phrase depending how head-up-your-arse you are about this reality), I seem to have generated exactly no interest whatsoever when I've attempted to form a dialouge about using alternative, human-powered transportation.  Unless, of course, I'm talking to other bike fanatics.  Which I kind of try to avoid.

 I like to think I'm special - yes, I do.  Yes, I bike around my extremely rainy, geographically disparate yet urban (I live five miles from our grocery needs), annoyingly highway-dominated twin cities.  What makes me a little different is I travel with two children (and usually lots of other things) in this inconvenient locale.  What makes me sad is, though I get tons of looks, smiles, and nods of approval - I seem to get so little in the way of influencing people to flirt with this sort of lifestyle, too.

My bike is quite literally as versatile as a car in most ways and in some ways, more so.  Yesterday I visited my mother and ended up dropping off my two children and picking up a sewing machine, fabric, and groceries.  No jugging of carseats.  No checking the gas gauge. In my case, no hooking up of a bike trailer or pre-planning of any kind.  There is very little I haven't been able to carry, or to decide not to carry.  I have carted our week's worth of groceries on this bike, cross town, rain and all.  I have picked up friends' children and taken them to soccer games and park dates, and they enjoyed the ride far more than they would in any car.

The thing about using a bike is that it benefits you in ways you wouldn't first expect.  Besides the obvious financial savings (no costly insurance, very small repair costs, no gas, no annual licensing fees) and fitness benefits (my legs, heart, and lungs are in top-notch shape!) there are all sorts of less obvious rewards in the use of this unorthodox family vehicle.  One:  I think about what I'm going to purchase, or haul.  I tap into that part as a responsible human, the part that knows we shouldn't be wasteful but can't think of any other solution besides:  hopping in the car (percentage of <3-mile trips from home where we choose the car?  95%).  Some people are obsessed with the passenger capacity and hauling abilities of cars - but they don't realize how rarely they employ these abilities, or how much their life would change if they let go of this mentality and committed to using a car only occasionally (not to mention our public transit systems, which can carry bikes, benefit when we actually use them).  90% of car trips only carry one person, rendering passenger capacity issues less important.  I know, I was shocked too when I first heard this statistic, so I started doing a count (easy to do on a bike).  Where I live it is about 85%.

 I see so much more of my neighborhood, and my neighbors, when I bike.  I have met many people, seen more fun houses and gardens, and found more garage sales and free-sign offerings on the curb now that I bike.  It is easier to run in-town errands because in town my bicycle is usually faster than a car, especially considering the ease of parking.  I get more waves, comments, "hellos", and hey-theres! than anyone who isn't driving something that sells food.  I plan my life more efficiently.  I don't get bored when I'm out on the bike (and my kids never do either).

 And no matter what, I end each day knowing I stretched my body and mind; I talked and laughed with my kids with the wind in our ears, rather than entertaining them with an annoying DVD in our bewheemoth gas-guzzler.

 I'm no bike militant.  I just wish more people would give it a shot.  The best way in my view?  Just sell your damn car, and make a go of it.

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