Friday, May 05, 2006

Gas is not this gasbag's bag

Here's one thing I don't get about the incompletely gilded place I live.
Marin County is a hotbed (oops, almost said "hottub") of anti-Republican, pro-environmental activism. Or inactivism, since most of the politics takes place around morning lattes in coffeehouses. It's also the capital of mountain biking and road biking. But most of the bicyclists end up nowhere but coffeehouses to shoot the breeze about gears and global warming.
So how come I see so few people using bicycles as actual transportation, to work or to stores, instead of as $3,000 quadricep-building devices?
Every day I bike a few miles to downtown San Rafael, maybe to pick up some wine or go to the bank. (And always to a coffeehouse, I admit.) Once or twice a week I bike to the farmers market to get vegetables, fruit and cheese. Most days I'm the only person at the market who arrived on a bike. And this market is the belly of chard-hugging, petroleum-hating Marin liberalism!
Instead folks roll up in SUVs and BMWs to fill their hemp sacks with organic produce. What is the math here? Three gallons of irreplaceable hydrocarbons for five pounds of sustainable veggies?
Then, when I'm out in the bike lane, heading to town in my sweatshirt and jeans, the bicyclists who pass me (they all pass me) are wearing Vegas-colored Spandex and heading only to the blessed world of lower body fat. Why doesn't anyone actually use bikes as transportation? When I used to bike to work via the Sausalito ferry only a half dozen regular cyclists would be aboard.
In fact, there are those in these parts who use bicycles, the world's most efficient form of short-range transportation, as means to get to work and stores. They are the invisible people of Marin. At least they were invisible until very recently when they took to the streets en masse.
When I'm out on my bike the only others out there pedaling with a purpose are struggling, hard-working Latinos. They don't wear helmets or Lycra, or ride bikes worth more than most people's cars. Bikes, cheap bikes (which is what bikes used to be) are how they get around.
Now, I'm sure most of these guys, like everyone in America, would like to own a nifty car. And more horsepower to them in achieving the American dream.
But what's with all the liberals who say they hate cars but drive expensive ones three miles to the store? Get a cheap bike. Maybe you can even quit the gym.


Blogger Tea said...

"The belly of chard-hugging, petroleum-hating Marin liberalism!"

I love it.

When I lived in MV and worked in SF, bike commuting over the bridge was the best part of my day. Not only was it gorgeous and exhilarating, I loved passing all the people stuck in traffic on the Waldo Grade:-)

5:07 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

What an excellent rant. Right on, Cranky.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous kudzu said...

Well, honey, I don't bike, myself. But I so prefer to see gents in regular clothes (with helmet, of course)to those skinny insect-like maniacs on their $$$$ bikes. I shudder as I drive over "the old road" between Corte Madera and Mill Valley and have to divine which moment is best for getting past either a single speedster or a cluster of them. My heart is in my throat.

I praise your cycling. I love the casual rider. I do not (in my lifetime) expect to see many folks trading in their guzzzzlers for wheels, but that makes your post even more meaningful.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

The way gas prices are going bikes are going to be a hot commodity.Let them use those SUV's for planters

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Cranky said...

Thanks for the comments. I once biked to work over the GG Bridge and was scared I'd fall over the edge or into traffic, so I chose the ferry with its convivial coffee and beer on the way home (wobble, wobble). And, Kudzu, the bikers on the old road between MV and CM scare the heck out of me. Unfortunately, I don't think they're scared enough of me when I'm in a car.
By the way, I'm turning my old SUV into a planter this month, even though it's a reasonably high-mileage Honda CRV with a Civic engine. Bring on sanity!

5:49 PM  
Blogger Dagny said...

I see plenty of bikes in Berkeley but I'm not sure if people are using them for transportation or something else. This weekend my friend who was visiting asked why my car was so dusty. Because it sits parked on the street most of the week. I walk the majority of the time now that I have a job closer to home -- even when it was raining.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Tea said...

Oh, I didn't say that I always biked home from work. That ferry was so appealing that it was often hard to turn down the end of day glass of wine while watching the sun set behind the GG Bridge.

We've got it pretty rough out here.

7:14 PM  

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