Monday, October 13, 2008

Bikes Could Change the World: Part 1 - Pollution

Biking as pollution awarness vehicle: 

I've been commuting using my bike at the beginning/end of the trip, both ways, for almost two weeks now. It has given me an entirely fresh perspective on the car culture in the US. I'm hoping that this will be the beginning of an on-going series exploring my thoughts on how biking could change the way we do things in this country, if people would embrace the bicycle.

One of my first experiences on the bike as I made my way to the train station last week, was getting stuck behind a delivery truck. It was a rather old truck, the big white box for transporting various goods around the city, and as per usual, a big BLACK cloud of smoke was emanating from it tail pipe every time it took off from a light. Here little me comes along on my bicycle, huffing and puffing, trying to make it to the station in time. I go right through the black cloud and try as hard as I can to not breathe, even though my legs are screaming for more oxygen. I've never hated big trucks with their nasty black spew more than at that moment. Luckily, the truck turned off the road a few blocks later.

And oh the smells you smell- the fresh moist fog thickened air of morning, the salty tang of the ocean breeze in your face, the buttery rich smell of a bakery on a corner,  the aromic smell of freshly cut grass, the organic smell of decay from a dumpster, the toxic waste putresence of an open sewer, the rotten egg smell of sulfur dioxide, the acrid smell of gasoline dripping loose into the street, the taste of tar in the back of your mouth sent by fresh asphault, the smell of your own sticky sweat. 

This is probably the most obvious example of how a bicycle based culture would really create some major change. The very very least it would do is help to reduce emissions because people would realize that they are sucking all that crap into their lungs. We ARE ALREADY (!) sucking this crap into our lungs, but you don't realize it as readily as when you are actually gasping for air, or maybe even thinking of your own body as an engine. You put in some fuel (food), some air intake (oxygen), and you have some exhaust (carbon dioxide). What happens when the fuel or air intake is polluted? You get a crappy running engine/body. It just makes you more aware of the fact that this is going on all the time without people realizing it. By removing the bubble shell that is the automobile, and actually being outside in the environment, you become much more in touch with the things that are going on with the world around you. 

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