The usage of the phrase ‘like riding a bicycle’ to mean something easily remembered and executed has never been quite applicable in my life. Traumatised early on by what my mum and I contentiously define as a ‘near death experience’ (me) and ‘nothing’ (my mother), I would never use ‘like riding a bicycle’ to describe something I could do calmly from memory.
Being viciously bucked off by a wild mountain bike my first time back in the saddle after nearly 16 years did nothing to assuage my fears. But being an Adult now, there is an increasing pressure to stop crying, pick the gravel out of my knees, and join the rest of society.
Admittedly, there is more on the line than my pride and sense of self worth. According to National Geographic, ‘Motor vehicles produce more than 30 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, more than 80 percent of carbon monoxide, and about half of the nation’s nitrogen oxide emissions each year.’
Despite U.S. Census reports that ‘about half of all Americans live within five miles of their workplace,’ the Brookings Institution found that 90 percent of Americans drive to work. Of that 90 percent, 76 percent drive alone.
To encourage an environmentally, economically, and health beneficial shift from driving to cycling to work, countries like the U.K. and Ireland have introduced workplace-based schemes that offer employees who cycle to work discounted or tax-free bicycles and gear.
In addition to a direct reduction of carbon emissions from every employee who replaces their car with a bicycle, The Queensland Government Department of Transport and Main Roads estimates that ‘traffic delays and interruptions to traffic flow in Australia’s six major cities account for around 13 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.’ An increase in cycling commuters would aid traffic flow, again contributing to an overall decrease in carbon emissions.
From 11-25 October, the Sydney Rides Festival is hosting a number of events to promote cycling around the city, including Sydney Rides to Work this Wednesday 15 October as part of Australia’s National Ride2Work Day.
As a special treat, and completely effective motivator for this Urchin, three parks throughout the city will be hosting community breakfasts with free food and coffee for cyclists on their way to work.
Since the Handlebar Incident of 2010, I have donned my Brave Helmet to go on bicycle rides everywhere from the concrete jungles of Washington, D.C. and London to the countrysides of Austria and California. Granted, half of those times involved wine tasting. Since moving to Sydney, I acquired a bicycle and have been making significant headway towards fearless (read: sober) cycling.
Sydney Rides to Work on Wednesday will be my ultimate test. I will be riding my bicycle through the CBD at rush hour. For the environment. For dignity. For breakfast. It’s time to put my pedals where my mouth is. Hopefully not literally.