Why cycling is so important.by Alexander on May 27th, 2014
Cycling for transport you make exercise something that just happens. You have to be somewhere. If the journey is under an hour the bike is the quickest way: I don’t give it a moment’s thought, I just jump on my bike “because”.
The bike is also a great vehicle for self-expansion. As I sit in my flat looking out of my window on this drizzly day I can see the Elizabeth II Bridge. That is the massive 812m long, 137 m height bridge that crosses the river Thames near Dartford. It’s actually 24 miles away from me. I cycle, so I know that vast expanse of land between my window and that bridge is well within my bodies range. I know that because I have been out for the day and happened to pass it cycling home. At the drop of a hat I could go there. I also have a pretty good idea of how long it would take, by bike and on foot.
Cars and vans do the same thing. Because of my van I can move much more kit. The Wine Rides trips are only possible because I use a van and can therefore move all the guest’s bags, their tents and Wine around the Vinyards we visit. The van makes my body more powerful. But my bike is more “self-expanding” than a car, van, a train or plane could ever be.
Cycling not only makes me fitter and more physically robust, it also gives me a mental certainty of what I can achieve with my own body. In addition the repeated journeys I make by bike have given me a huge mental map of the roads where I live. Above ground, without difficulty from anywhere in the maze of South London’s roads, I can find my way home.
So my bike hasn’t just made me measurably stronger it has also expanded my mental universe. After a while, as someone who cycles it becomes clear you know where you are and other people aren’t sure. There is a Harvard Evolutionarily biology professor who has a great saying: “Humans are built to walk like fish are built to swim”.
Sadly the friction against walking has probably never been so high. You can’t walk a mile in any direction without crossing several roads. At these junctions you constantly have to stop and watch out for cars. Gentle cycling is about three times faster than walking. The most valuable thing a bike does is this: That 11 kg’s of metal pipes I call a bike allows me to travel on the carriage way. It gives me the ability to claim 18 inches of tarmac. That makes my bike the most freeing and empowering object I own. If I am on a trunk road, I can cross junctions with minor roads. There is nowhere you can walk where this is the case.
Bikes make you an effective pedestrian in a world built for cars. They are a conversion kit that turns a person into a very small quiet none polluting vehicle. As a result of being allowed to power myself along the road I can glide, from my home to anyone of a million places I might wish to be that day.
This isn’t a trivial point: Hunter gatherer (HG) men walk around 9 miles per day. HG women walk around 5.5 miles. No drug is as good as vigorous exercise for combatting depression. Humans are supposed to move. We need activity for the development and maintenance of good health. I know cars, trucks and Lorries are important for the economy but so are healthy people. A strong economy is also futile unless it serves a healthy population who can enjoy the benefits of that economy.
So if you don’t already cycle and think you want to; please speak to someone you know who does and see if you can learn from them what you need to start today.
If you don’t wish to cycle that’s fine, but I hope you can understand your spine isn’t simply a stick for keeping your head level with the TV or a computer screen. Cycling is one of the few remaining activities in our society that lets you use your body, your heart, your lungs, arms and legs, for what they are for: Namely moving you from where you are to, where you need to be.