It’s Bike Month once again, and I am reminded of certain realities regarding our lifestyle in this country:
As of April 25 gas is $3.65 a gallon and shows no sign of downward movement. This is no Seventies-style “oil crisis,” no geopoliticking by the members of OPEC. This is no market fluctuation while we find untapped new reserves lurking in some heretofore unexplored locale, like beneath the Vatican. This is the last slow sip on the oil straw. And no admixture of biodiesel, solar, wind, ethanol, nuclear, or hydrogen is going to replace the dead dinosaurs we pour into our automobiles once their tombs are fully looted. (Unless we can figure a way to turn our own ancestors into black gold, and right quick. Soylent Gas is people!) When the oil dries up, human arrangements as they’re currently configured are going to change. We will drive our cars less. Not because gas is $10 a gallon—that won’t stop us—but because there won’t be any of it to be had by guns or money. (James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency is a good primer on this topic).
We’re fat. I mean, I’m not and you’re not, but somebody must be because obesity has been on the rise in the US for 40 years. In 1964, 13 percent of us were obese. Now 31 percent of us are obese and 63 percent of us are overweight. More to the point: Almost four million people in this country weigh over 300 pounds, over 400,000 people (men mostly) carry over 400 pounds. The Surgeon General blames obesity for 300,000 deaths a year.
The twin issues of our gas consumption and our sedentary lifestyle come together neatly in a little bundle called Bike-to-Work Day. This year, it’s Friday, May 16. If you live within 10 miles of where you work, own a bicycle, and are reasonably healthy, you should do it. If not, then a) quit your job, your commute is too long, it’s killing you, it’s killing the planet; b) buy a bicycle—there are 10 new postings every day of bikes for sale on the Hudson Valley extension of Craig’s List; c) get fit, there’s still time (go slow) if you start now!
Think about it, but don’t think too long. Biking to work is not easy, admittedly. I ride the potholed streets of Kingston every day, where cyclists are a nuisance and drivers still haven’t grasped why it’s important to signal before you turn. Note to Kingston drivers: The reason you signal is because I am flying past in your blind spot and I will end up a mangle mess beneath your tires or across your hood if you don’t let me know when you’re turning!
But who said everything should be easy? The challenge is relishing the challenge.
PS: There are a number of safe, group bicycle rides for charity planned over the course of the summer, including Family of Woodstock’s Tour de Family in Saugerties on May 18, High Meadow School’s Ride the Ridge in Stone Ridge on June 1, and the Great Hudson Valley Pedal, from Albany to New York City, August 12 through August 17.
High Meadow's Premier Ulster County Bike Challenge
With three routes to chose, a five mile, a 25 mile or a 50 mile ride around the countryside on Sunday, June 1.
The 4th annual Great Hudson Valley Pedal
A six day, 200 mile bicylce tour from Albany to New York City starting August 12.