Mom, Ditch Your Car And Ride a Bike!

BY ON November 9, 2011

Woman riding bike

Recent research from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that switching to bikes from cars for half the short trips Americans make, cuts air pollution. It’s estimated the reductions in car emissions of very fine particles, which lodge in the lungs, could be reduced by 433 deaths a year. Cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases would go down, and health costs could be cut by up to $3.8 billion each year.

Moms, please read this guest post by Alexander Lemann and grab your bikes!

I try not to lecture my mom about how she should live her life, tempting as it might be. She was a fully formed adult, and a successful one at that, when I was just a helpless little vegetable. So what could I possibly tell her? There is one exception I make to this rule, one piece of advice I feel competent to bestow over and over again: Ride A Bike!

The case for why moms should ride bikes is an easy one. Riding a bike is usually faster, cheaper, more convenient, better for you, better for the environment, and more fun. I commute to and from work every day on my bike. I never run into strange transit delays. I never get stuck in traffic. My commute is virtually free, and I arrive at the office feeling energized and alive. I use my bike to get groceries, meet friends, and just to explore. The more I bike and learn about biking, the more impressed I am by the variety of people who ride. You don’t have to be a daredevil messenger bombing through red lights or a lycra-clad roadie with a bike that costs as much as a car and weighs less than a bottle of water. It takes all kinds, as my grandfather used to say.

So my advice to my mom is just to get out there. Don’t worry about what other people are doing or what anyone says is “right” – just do what feels natural to you. Go at your own pace. Start with little errands around your neighborhood. Learn how to ride safely on the streets, how to lock your bike up so it won’t get stolen, and how to pump up your tires. The rest will take care of itself.

What kind of bike to get? There are bikes for just about any purpose. Some are designed to break speed records, some are designed to be ridden off cliffs, and some are designed to carry stacks of newspapers. One important point is that bikes are amazingly versatile; you don’t need the “perfect” bike, and most bikes can be adapted pretty easily and cheaply to do a wide range of jobs. If you already have a bike, put a rack on it so you can carry things, put some fenders on it so you don’t get sprayed when you ride through puddles, and put some lights on it so you can ride safely in the dark. Even changing the tires can change the way a bike feels and what it can do. Take whatever bike you have to your local bike shop and ask about using it for whatever you want to use it for. They’ll give you good advice.

My mom doesn’t have a bike at all, so if you’re like her, you’ll need to buy one. My advice to her is to go for versatility, convenience, quality, and most important, something that makes her excited about riding. You don’t have to spend a lot for a good bike, but you probably don’t want to go to Wal-Mart and get the cheapest thing you can find. It won’t be made well and you’ll find yourself needing a new one before you know it. One company that makes functional, versatile, reasonably priced bikes with a certain stylistic flair is Public. If you’re buying groceries for a family of four, or taking the kids to school, consider a European cargo bike, like the Bakfiets. These have big, handsome wooden boxes on the front. They’re expensive, but they can carry an incredible load of kids and stuff with ease. Another popular option is the Big Dummy, made by Surly.

Finally, I will tell my mom, you’re not alone! Lots of other women are out there discovering the joys of biking, and in our modern times you can trust that a good number of them have blogs. Three of the best are Lovely Bicycle, Let’s Go Ride a Bike, and EcoVelo. These sites will give you excellent advice on how to deal with a whole range of little obstacles you might find in your path, honest reviews and recommendations of bikes, clothes, and accessories, and most importantly, a good dose of enthusiasm.

So, Mom, you should get a bike and get out there. I promise you won’t regret it.

Thanks, Alex!


TOPICS: Pollution

  • Judith Ross

    Ah, what would us moms do without our smart, persuasive children?

    When I was in my early twenties, I loved riding a road bike with dropped handlebars. Now that I’m in my fifties (your mom’s demographic, perhaps?) I prefer comfort over speed. I have some panniers that I can easily put on or remove when I’m riding to the local organic farm in the summer.

    And even though I’m “middle-aged” riding a bike in a skirt still seems to bring out the teasing boy in my husband. “That skirt giving you trouble, honey? Looks good from the back!” And yes, I still beat him up the hills now and then.

    Riding a bike is definitely the “slow love” approach to errands. You see a lot more. My ride to town takes me over a brook and I’ve seen herons and hawks above, turtles and beavers below from my two-wheeled perch.

    Riding a bike is not only good for the environment, it’s good for one’s health! And speaking of health, Alex, while you are helping your mom pick out her new bike, make sure she gets a high-quality helmet to go with it. Just in case.

  • L.F.

    Wow! Riding bikes to work and back would help so much with pollution in our country and world. Commuters riding bikes is on the increase especially in larger cities. Obesity would be on the decrease which have been on the increase with adults and children along with diseases, such as diabetes.
    Have you heard any bicycle clicks lately?

  • Frances Palmer

    I’ve been meaning to resurrect my bike in my barn basement. Excellent incentive, Alex. Thanks for posting.

  • Sarah Finnie Robinson

    I love your piece and I am sure it’s already persuaded hundreds if not millions of moms to get on a bike! It *is* absolutely the best — for convenience, for eco-friendliness, for FUN, and for style. My main obstacle (personal share moment) was WHICH helmet to choose. I worried not so much about looking dorky, but about squashing my hair. How maternal is that? But check this out… See? I’m over it:
    Write more, please!

    • Judith Shulevitz

      I am here to testify that Alex Lemann got me, also a mom, riding a bike. In fact, his example inspired me to buy a folding bike just like his, an option he didn’t mention in his piece. Having a folding bike means that I can go anywhere I want in New York City–all 5 boros–get there faster than I would by public transportation, and then, if I’m tired, fold the thing up and take that public transportation home if I want to.

      An added benefit to folding bikes is that for some reason people who ride them never wear Spandex or Lycra or those silly-looking bike shoes. Maybe it’s because we don’t go as fast, so clothing that cuts down on wind shear seems sort of silly. Anyway, we all dress like normal people going about our business, only on a bike, which is what we are.

  • cars for guys

    Yes, bicycling would certainly help so many children and adults not be so obese. Perhaps many adults think it looks degrading to ride a bike and not riding in a car.