0

Peddling as a new way to save gas - Bob Paslay

I am driving up Boulevard in Atlanta on the way to work and am waiting at the light when a bicyclist, wearing his helmet and bike pants comes across the other way, manuveuring like a fine sailboat on a choppy asphalt sea. It was indeed poetry in motion to watch him command his vehicle, disappearing in the distance.

My mind flashed back to my trip last December to Amsterdam. Everywhere there were thousands of bikes, whole walls of them. On various corners at night, maybe 30 or 40 of them parked, awaiting the owners to remount and head to school or work the next morning. There is an atmosphere of trust in which you leave your bike there and expect it to be there when they come for it.

In my hometown, when I was in elementary school there was a lawyer who rode a bike to work. He, who looked a lot like Ichabod Crane, could be seen peddling along on the then state of the art cycle in his tweet suit, his leather briefcase strapped to the handlebars. My brother and sisters and I in my parents' car would crane our necks and marvel at the odd site of an adult riding a bike. We would humm the Wizard of Oz theme and joke about having Toto in the basket. I never remember seeing any story on how he got interested, but it would have been interesting reading.

If Americans were really interested in bringing down gas prices, which I don't believe they are, they would by the tens of millions take their lives back. They would buy bikes and peddle to work or school or to the grocery store. You could peddle by a gas station and smile as you look at no one at the pumps.

If you dropped consumption of gas in America dramatically, even if for a week or two, the price of oil would come crashing down.

Metro Atlanta is blessed with some pretty good weather. Except on those snowy icy days you couldn't ride and then you probably couldn't or shouldn't drive a car either.

This is the problem. The average person would feel stupid peddling along until the atmosphere of acceptance was established.

It is like the joke: What does dating a fat person and riding a Moped have in common? Both are fun until your friends find out.

Once the clerks at Abercrombie and Fitch, a couple of Atlanta Braves and the quarter back at high school start doing it, then the geek barier is broken and it is then cool or should I say kool.

If we were looking for reasons not to do it, there are probably plenty. Some people live 25 to 30 miles from work and that is quite a ride. Americans are not as honest as the Dutch and you would come out of work, tired and ready to peddle home and your bike would be gone.

Drivers in Metro Atlanta, unaccustomed to dealing with so many bikers, would mow them down. Once you rode to work or school there would be no place to put the bike.

Many of these are valid, but solution follows problem and many of these would be dealt with if record numbers of people started doing it.

MARTA would have to deal with people coming on board with their bikes in record numbers. Businesses and public buildings would have to put lockable bike racks.

The thing going against this sensible solution to the skyrocketing gas prices is the car mania in America. I will give up my car when you pry my cold dead hands from the steering wheels?.hold it, that's guns, but the same applies.

Anyway, I turn to Google which leads me to ESPN.com for a few facts:

The number of Americans who use stationary cycles has increased by 1.3 million, to 31 million people, from 2001 to 2003.

Approximately 800,000 more people bike recreationally than were doing the activity over the same time period.

Road bike sales have grown by at least 30 percent over the three-year period while the mountain biking craze has cooled.

So we may never be Amsterdam but every mile of biking saves a little gas.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald and can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257.