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Consciousness shift

Life is better at 12 ½ mph

Several months ago I wrote about my new commuter or transport bicycle. It has proven to give me even more use and enjoyment than I antici pated – and I anticipated a lot. As I’ve said to a number of people, “If I discover that I need an onion or two, I’ll just hop on the bike to and from the grocery. It doesn’t take that long and I don’t have to look for a parking spot.”

The purchase of this bicycle has measurably increased my commuting, and the novelty has not worn off. Nor do I think that it will. In six months of ownership I have ridden one thousand two hundred plus miles, or an average of two hundred miles a month. I ride to stores, to friends’ houses, to church, to NMSU, to doctors and dentists, to dinner or a beer, and on and on it goes. I also tend to keep the bike clean and treat it as I would a car, perhaps better than my cars.

I have shifted almost entirely to using the bicycle over a car for my local needs and wants. I’ve gone for two and three-week periods without using a car. My consciousness has shifted; it now feels more natural to ride a bicycle than to hop in a car for any trip less than seven miles for which I don’t need a vehicle to haul big stuff. “Seven miles” was an arbitrarily chosen figure, but it works as a measuring rod for the moment.

Years ago I made a promise to myself that I would never live so far away from the central location of my work that I would have to use a car for my primary transport. When I lived in Chicago I had trouble cycling from my neighborhood to my place of work, so I combined public transportation and walking, but aside from that I managed to keep the promise, and in the Las Cruces area it has become quite easy to keep that promise once again.

American society as it developed west to California, became more dependent upon the automobile. People began to live farther and farther away from the locus of their work, and so the demand for cars grew bigger. Whole cities were planned with no thought whatever to the efficiency of public transportation or human-powered alternatives, and now we are paying the price.

I want to urge people to begin to think of alternatives. Most of us realize that we need to reduce our use of fossil fuels. We need infrastructure to support the increasing use of alternative modes of transportation that enable us to make these reductions. We need to begin to think like city planners of Davis, California, who made Davis the safest cycling city in the U.S. for half a century! Check a video at this link.

Practically, this will mean more dedicated bike lanes, more bike racks at stores and medical offi ces and schools, more signage that reminds auto and truck drivers that ALL roads are open to bicycles, not merely those marked “share the road,” and more education for the general public on the rules of the road as they apply to cyclists. We need to gain clarity about exactly what “share the road” means in actual road space and lane usage. Kudos to those in our community who revised a map that shows not only bike lanes, but estimates of safety on various roads. We need to encourage law enforcement agencies to recognize the right of cyclists to the roads and enforce such laws as the three-foot margin required for cyclists on the part of cars, fi ve feet on the part of trucks. Life can be better at 12½ mph.

Fr. Gabriel Rochelle is pastor of St Anthony of the Desert Orthodox Mission, Las Cruces, an avid cyclist and secretary for Velo Cruces, a local advocacy committee. The church web site is stanthonylc.org.

 





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