Monday, December 7, 2009

Introduction

This blog is dedicated to the idea that mass adoption of a simple personal change is often the only way solutions to life's big problems get implemented. Legislation is great but change requires both bottom-up and top-down initiatives. New posts to this blog will profile and analyze the details of people using cycling as serious transport.

PlanBike stands for the euphemism, "Plan B", as in the plan that doesn't get all the attention but inevitably gets the job done.

The benefits of cycling as a simultaneous solution to many big health, environmental, and cultural problems are well outlined on Virtuous Cycling and many other sites so I won't repeat them here.

Given cycling's advantages, many people have worked hard to promote bike-friendly legislature. Lots of great achievements have been made. Nevertheless, the world still drives, and the number of drivers is growing fast.

In places like India, China, and Africa, they still have a chance to avoid the pollution, congestion, and health issues that result from the developed world's sedentary, car-based, lifestyle and economy but they are in danger of missing it.

What to do?

Step 1
Take some of the money you now spend on cars, gas, cable television, video games, retail entertainment, etc., and buy a bike. Start riding it: not just for fun but for a purpose, i.e. as transportation, e.g. to the grocery store. This will be easier than you think. In addition to transportation, cycling provides a feast for the senses and a distraction from the pain of exercise.

Once you are in the groove of propelling yourself forward literally, you will be one more rolling billboard for a better way to do things. People will notice, especially when the number of rolling billboards grows or even explodes.

Step 2
Once you are inspiring others passively, it's time to do it actively: again, not with talk, votes, pocket change, petitions, but with personal action. Take some of the money you no longer need for a gym membership and donate it to the many organizations that buy or donate bicycles for the developing world. Or take an old bike and donate that. In my area, Mike's Bikes has just such a program but there are zillions of others. Naturally, it would be great if our governments spent money doing this instead of bailing out banks and car companies but they don't so we have to find another channel for change.

Step 3

After you've propelled yourself and others forward, take a few minutes to use the traditional channels for change and compel your representatives to act. Politicians hate sticking their necks out for things because they are often punished and rarely rewarded for it. Nevertheless, they love to surf a wave of popularity. Let's give them one and then ask them to help it grow. That, they'll do. Write your president, senators, and congresspeople, and tell them to facilitate the change in progress. Ask them to at least appear on a bike, again, not just for fun but to get somewhere.

I know this is easier said than done because I've been doing it on and off for the last 20 years. Currently, my house is 700 feet above my subway station. I ride up that, hot or cold, rain or shine, 3 to 4 times a week. I'm trying to make it everyday but it is hard. However, following these steps has changed my life and is starting to change the lives of many others. No speech or legislation is as compelling for change as seeing someone right next to you succeeding by doing things differently.

Future posts will be reports and reflections on these initial ideas and the realities of realizing them.

3 comments:

  1. did you give up your car? I'm in NYC, and thinking about re-locating to the Oakland area.
    I don't have a car now, and don't want to get one----you don't really need one out there if you have a bike, right?

    great blog!
    thanks,

    Jack Savage

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  2. If you live in the flats, I'd say that going all-bike is tenable. I live high in the hills so it soaks a lot of time climbing, particularly with groceries.

    Nevertheless, I commute by bike most weekdays and run errands with it on weekends.

    There's a growing population of cyclists along the flats of Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville because there are a lot of new bicycle boulevards and lanes to support them and BART stations are close by.

    What is impressive to me is the bike rack at the Emeryville Home Depot. It is packed on weekends. You see folks, hauling pieces of lumber home on their bikes. :-)

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