Bike Not: Waste Energy, Money, and Have No Fun

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Tompkins Weekly 05/06/2013

By Karim Beers

You’ve seen the yellow Streets Alive! signs on Cayuga and Court streets. You know that Bike to Work/School day is fast approaching. A voice within you is asking if it might be time to dust off that bike that has been in storage since the 20th century. Here are some great arguments you can use to resist that siren call of Spring:

First, “I don’t need to save money.” Biking is cheap; driving a car is most decidedly not. According to Census figures, an average family of four spends over $10,000 a year on transportation costs. The AAA estimates it costs on average 60 cents a mile to drive a car. You can get a functional bike at a yard sale for less than what it costs to fill your gas tank. It doesn’t matter that gas prices are heading north; who needs extra money anyway?

”I don’t really care that much about the planet.” Biking creates no pollution; driving a car is typically an individual’s most polluting activity. An average car releases a pound of carbon dioxide every mile, which is why transportation emissions are the biggest part of our community’s carbon footprint. Ouch! Biking is also really energy efficient. 100 calories—the amount of energy contained in 9 peanut M&Ms or a banana—can power a cyclist for three miles, versus only a few hundred feet for a car.

You can combine “I don’t need more exercise in my life” with “I don’t have the time to bike.” Using people-power to get around our community can take longer than driving, and I need that time to go to the gym—by car, of course!

Need more excuses? How about “I can’t bike up the hills”? David Kay faces two hills every day, and has this to say about TCAT’s bus racks: “As my hair has grayed, I’ve appreciated the multimodal uphill option (bike on the bus) ever more. The racks are so easy to use!” Or Larry Clarkberg from Boxybikes ( can mount an electric motor on your bike that will zip you uphill.

“I don’t have money for fixing my bike.” If you can’t handle the reasonable prices at the Bike Rack, Cayuga Ski & Cyclery, and Swan Cycles, there are two places where you can get help fixing your bike for free: RIBs at 530 W. Buffalo St, and the Friends Bike Clinic at the Quaker meetinghouse. Emma Hileman writes that she is “Currently rebuilding a … bike at RIBs that was ditched on the side of the road.” She is looking forward to riding it and learning about bike repair!

“I don’t feel safe riding on the roads.” Streets Alive! on May 5th–where Cayuga and Court Streets, from Boynton to GIAC, will be closed to cars—is perfect for a “short and shaky” bike ride, according to event coordinator Vikki Armstrong. You can also ride with someone else on Bike to Work/School Day on Thursday, May 16th. My mom biked to work for first time in a long time at last year’s event.

Finally, “I don’t like having fun.” Judging from comments on the Get Your GreenBack Tompkins website, cycling brings on feelings of elation and joy. Quinn Kelly says: “Riding my bike feels like flying.” Margaret: “I ride my bike to get just about everywhere–up South Hill to school, around town for errands, and outside of Ithaca for fun. Biking is the best! It’s liberating, awesome exercise, free, clean, and efficient. It’s safe to say I’m obsessed!” Barbara Perrone: “I bring my bike on the bus each morning and love riding around town to run errands on my work breaks. I love to buzz through town, enjoying the neighborhoods and not dealing with the traffic. Having a bike in town makes me feel very free.” Laura: “When I am doing errands I really enjoy doing them on my bike. It is much faster and I burn calories which makes me happier when I have to spend money on food.” Brendan Wilbur: “I bike to work and love it!” Francine Jasper: “I know I’m alive and pumped full of energy every time I ride my bike.”

As you can tell, my excuses aren’t that good. This is not to say there aren’t real obstacles to riding. Life is complicated. But perhaps you can figure out how to make some of your trips–even just one–by bike. Maybe it is time to listen to that inner voice calling you to fun and freedom. So this May, dust off your 10-speed, bike around, and Get Your GreenBack! Over 18,000 people have taken a step to save energy and money; what’s yours?

Karim Beers is the campaign coordinator for Get Your GreenBack Tompkins; he has biked up and down the hills in Ithaca and Tompkins County for over 25 years–now with two small boys in tow!

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