Monday, January 3, 2011

Bikes Will Save the World

Transcript of Ignite Spokane talk I gave Sept. 29, 2010. I’ve added links to sources and a few side notes in the transcript.

So you’re expecting the talk with the data and the graphs and the guilt and you want that? See me afterwards.

I’m going to take a different direction on this inspired by Portland blogger Dana Putnam.

Why I bike: I am cheap

First of all, show of hands—how many of you know what gas costs?

I have no idea. I bike because I am cheap. I don’t pay for parking, I don’t worry about insurance. My daughter who’s here tonight had a blow-out on her tire the other day at a stoplight. One hundred and ten bucks. Except those things have four of them and you have to replace them all. I don’t like that part.

How many people would like a raise of over $7,000 a year? Okay, don’t talk to your boss, that’s how much it costs you to run your car. That’s according to AAA and that’s when gas cost about $2.30 a gallon.

I understand it’s more now? I’m not sure, of course.  [Added info: Found a different AAA source with more current data and the cost of operating a vehicle is actually over $9,500 a year.]

Why I bike:  I am lazy

I also bike because I am lazy. How many of you had to walk to the parking lot to get your car and then drive here, find a parking spot, walk to the building.... Do you hear all that walking?

I pretty much bike point to point. I am so lazy that sometimes I actually take my bike inside. This redefines indoor parking, I believe. My ride to work is also mostly downhill so I coast.

It’s a little counterintuitive but you can bike if you’re lazy.

Why I bike:  I am impatient

There are many reasons—my mom might call these character flaws, I think—to bike.

I bike because I’m impatient. I always hated waiting at stoplights. There really isn’t time to finish reading the article before the light changes for one thing; you can’t do your nails. But when I’m on my bike and I get to the stoplight it’s really just a chance to catch my breath.

So I’ve got a new attitude about stoplights: They’re a good thing. I bet you don’t share that.

Another thing for you—even if you’re never going to get out of your car, if all of us on our bikes and all the people on the bus do get back in our cars, look what we do to the street. We’re in front of you now at the stoplight. So if you’re impatient you want us to keep riding (or riding the bus).

I also hate one-ways because there’s no point to going like this and like this and like this [gesturing to draw three sides of the block].

I get off my bike and I walk a block, get back in the lane and keep going. I am continuing to move towards my destination while you’re stuck at the light. So if you’re impatient biking is great for you.

Why I bike:  I am a control freak

I’m also a little bit of a control freak although I thought of titling this “mechanically inept.” And for the men in the room you don’t have to fess up. But when I take my car to the shop and they tell me a lot of things I don’t understand and I have to pay them a lot of money—remember, I’m cheap and I’m impatient—I don’t like that part.

But I can actually fix my own flat on the bike. The technology has actually not changed that much since the Wright Brothers. I get to feel like I’m in control at this point. It’s a great feeling.

These are other reasons—I’m not saying this is about you, it’s about me—

Additional reasons to ride a bike: Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem—or, flip side, big ego—

When I’m pedaling and I feel the wind and I’m making the wind myself because I’m going so fast? Awesome. I’m not going that fast—it’s like 17 miles an hour and you’re going to pass me—but I feel great about it.

Additional reasons to ride a bike:  Desperate (but successful!) attempt to appear cool/hip/trend-setting

This one is not about you at all—maybe it’s about me—but if you think about what’s cool right now it is not you in your SUV on the way to Costco to pick up a gallon of ranch dressing and five pounds of Tater Tots. You’re not going to be on the tourism brochure cover or the magazine cover – I think this picture of a zillion cars is the people leaving Cirque du Soleil the other night.

You know what picture there is going to be on the tourism brochure cover, don’t you? This is a total set-up. You know what it takes to be cool.

The only thing missing from this shot is the farmers’ market vegetables. So, you can be hip and cool and urban just by getting on a bike. Who knew it was so simple? I thought it cost a lot more, actually, and shopping at better stores as well.

Additional reasons to ride a bike: Excuse to shop

There are other sorts of character issues. This is an excuse to shop for men as well as women. If you like buying something and then bragging to your friends about how yours is better than theirs biking is totally for you.

There’s more than one rider here tonight so I know you know what I’m talking about. Technical fabrics, special food—it’s basically sugar in a pouch but it’s still special food.

Additional reasons to ride a bike: Huge rush that comes from saving the world

You knew I was going to do a little bit of this piece. If you like knowing what’s good for other people and telling them about it, biking is totally your thing.

When people are talking about the problems of the world—it’s air pollution, it’s peak oil, it’s urban sprawl, it’s diabetes and obesity—if you ride a bike you’re not responsible for any of that! How cool is that?

So you can have this— * 

Or you can have that.

He brings us back to the cool urban trend-setting piece of this.

We do have a lot of problems in the world. I do think that biking is the only thing that solves a lot of these problems all at once. You do get to be healthier and save money and all of that. But also, it’s so simple a child can do it and it’s fun.

Remember when you learned to ride a bike and you had that sense of freedom and "I don’t have to wait for Mom or Dad to get in the car"--which was the limitation in your life at that point—you could ride your bike.

If you have any of these character flaws you don’t have to admit it out loud. Or maybe it’s psychological issues and therapy costs a lot. You could take a little bit of that money and you could ride a bike.

*On the video when I mention skipping it's a reference to the talk earlier that evening by Patty Sanders about the virtues of skipping to make the world a better place. I left it out of this transcript because it only made sense in context at the live event. Then I realized that editorializing proofreader types like me who watch the video and read the transcript will notice the difference and post snarky comments about my poor transcribing skills. I'm way ahead of you.

This post first appeared on BiketoWork Barb.


EvilElf said...

This is awesome!I am going to pass this on!

Barb Chamberlain said...

Glad you like it! I figured there's plenty of preaching about the merits of biking out there--time to get real about people's motivations :D.

The Ignite format is fun. It puts a lot of pressure on you to focus and produce in 5 minutes with no let-up in pace. There's another one coming up in Feb. focused on technology (the one in September was on saving the world, which of course bikes can do!).

See for more info.


Mike Sirott said...

Well stated. Agree 100%. Thanks for posting Barb!

Rob in Seattle said...

Perfect--I love it! I'm sharing this right now.

I've become acquainted with Brady Forrest over the last few months through our work on the board of Worldchanging, and heard a bit about Ignite from him. This is the first transcript I've read. Great format!