We are giving away a copy of On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life, edited by Amy Walker. Check out this interview with the author, and then leave a comment for a chance to win your own copy of this book!
A Talk with Amy Walker, editor of On Bicycles
(republished with permission from New World Library)
This book is about ways that bicycles can change people’s lives. Why do you think people’s lives need to change?
Many tribal human societies based their traditions around living in harmony with nature. The modern attitude assumes that humans have dominion over the elements and the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms. Since about the 1960s we’ve been scientifically measuring and understanding the negative impact that our industrial manufacturing, transportation, ways of using materials and ways of growing food have on the earth, air and water. In 2006 the film An Inconvenient Truth made the issue of climate change a topic of discussion at dinner tables across mainstream America. With such clear and incontrovertible evidence that human activity is a threat to our own survival and to the well-being of all the diverse and amazing life forms with whom we share this planet, we have the choice to ignore the facts or to do whatever we can to reduce the environmental impact of our lives. We can do this by living more simply. Biking for transportation is one way to take a load off the environment – and have a lot of fun while doing it. Life is change. Since people’s lives are always changing anyway, my interest is to shed light on a path for positive change that I have found to be effective and joyful.
If bicycling is so great, why isn’t everyone doing it already?
Everyone is not bicycling already because our cities and suburbs were designed around cars and favour automobile drivers so it’s not always possible or feasible to make bike trips to work, school, shopping etc. given the distances between these destinations, the quality of the road space and surface and the traffic patterns which currently exist. Though many cities are bikeable, there is some planning and re-engineering which must occur to make our North American communities truly bikeable. Where this is being done, you’ll see the cycling population rising. Where it is not being done, you’ll see people forced to rely on automobiles for their transportation.
In many cities, towns, and suburbs there are not even safe ways to walk from home to a variety of destinations. The 20th century obsession with automobiles created suburban sprawl and rights of way which only accommodate cars. Cyclists need safe, continuous networks of bikeable roadway (shared with cars) bike lanes, or multi-use paths.
Another reason why everyone’s not already biking has to do with attitudes and perceptions rather than facts. People often don’t bike because they think it is dangerous though it is not. People think that biking is physically difficult and you need to be an athlete to bike to work (bicycling is the most efficient form of travel and many people who bike to work never even break a sweat!). People perceive cyclists as unusual and this is true – cyclists are not the norm – but as more people start cycling for transportation, everyday biking is becoming more commonplace every year. This is a positive shift and a very important one: people are often reluctant to do something different but once they see their peers, friends and family members doing it, it feels a bit safer and easier for them to try it.
Cycling in North America is largely perceived as a sport (as in racing or mountain biking) or a recreational activity. A car is a status symbol – and a bike is seen by the majority as an inferior method of transportation. It’s a brain-twister for North Americans, but if you value your freedom, a bike is by far the superior way to travel!
Next: Advice for beginner bikers