By Lukas Brinkerhoff — I roll up, swinging my leg over the top tube and coasting to a stop next to the bike rack. A small smile begins to crack the hardened texture of this curmudgeon’s face. I pull my lock out and secure my bicycle to the rack and then step back. I’ve been forced to lock my steed at the far edge of the rack as it is bulging full. My smile broadens. I pull out my phone and capture a photo (you gotta get that gram!).
There are a lot of things happening in our world, and closer to home, country and state that truly just bum me out. There is no bright side to them, as hard as I try to understand the other side’s point of view, I can’t quite seem to fathom why destruction is a preference. However, seeing a bunch of adults choosing the bicycle as a form of transportation makes me hope that there might be a future left for humanity. As H.G. Wells stated, “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”
It may not cause me to dispel all despair, but it does put a smile on my face.
Seeing that this is a cycling rag, it’s quite probable that you ride bicycles. I’m sure you’ve seen the title’s hashtag floating around the interconnected webs. #onelesscar.
If you’ve ever chosen to ditch your four-wheeled coffin and just pedal to the trailhead, or to work or the grocery store, you probably found how easy it is to feel extremely small. Sharing public routes with machines that weigh 1000s of pounds, can make one feel insignificant. Add to the shear sizing inequality the almost complete lack of cycling infrastructure and riding your bike for transportation can easily feel both terrifying and pointless.
You see, the crazy thing about the automobile is how we have allowed it to rule. When someone says the machines are going to take over, I scratch my head. A quick look at any modern city and it is easy to find countless examples of cars over human planning. The only conclusion I can arrive at is that they already did.
Riding your bike for transportation can be akin to leaving a cult in some dystopian thriller and then trying to convince your loved ones who are still in the cult, that they are the ones that are crazy. Not only does everyone around you give you blank stares, but they will try to kill you at some point.
One less car embraces that fact. Cars are so ubiquitous today that removing just one from the system by using an “alternative” form of transportation is a big deal (how moving yourself without the aid of a machine is the alternative is beyond me). It is not pointless, in fact, it’s one of the biggest political statements that one can make in our current society. Not only are you giving the middle finger to oil companies, giant car manufacturers and city planners, you are also stepping outside of the cult of the automobile. You are, as the kids say today, woke.
Riding up on a bike rack and finding that it is full, bursting at the seems with bicycles that were used to turn bananas and apples into forward motion, is like running around trying to avoid zombies only to happen upon a group that has somehow come together and proven that they aren’t trying to eat each other and are on the same team. Even if you don’t see everything on the same level, it is understood that you have left the cult.
#onelesscar. It’s a simple concept. Perfectly simple as to be effective in its call to action. Eliminating just one car is worth the effort even if that car is only eliminated for the one trip. In the universal scheme of things, you might feel small and that one trip might seem insignificant, but your one less car is always added to the next one less car and to my less one car and to their one less car. The more of us who choose to wake up and take our streets back from the machines, the more others will be willing to brave the war zone of public streets and subtract their one car from the millions trying to keep us down.
Clearly, I love this concept and I love even more when I can see the cars being eliminated. When my bike is suddenly accompanied by another 5, 10 or 15 in a bike rack that sat empty all winter. When I can watch the teenage kids at the shop suddenly open their eyes to not spending all their paycheck on their vehicles and instead, doing what they love anyway, riding their bike.
No, it doesn’t dispel all my despair, but it does give me a hope for what the future might hold. There are a lot of things we as individuals can do to improve the existence of our species, but the one that holds the most power for us, I believe is riding your bicycle. We all know the changes it makes to us physiologically, but it also transforms how we interact with our surroundings and our fellow human beings. To change the world, all we have to do is start pedaling.
The Revolution will not be motorized.
Lukas Brinkerhoff blogs about mountain biking and life at mooseknuckleralliance.org.