The bicycle: A simple machine with a profound impact

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Bicycle The bicycle is such a simple machine that can have such a profound impact on our daily lives, every day. It gives you freedom and not just a "sense of freedom" but real freedom. When you are on your bike there is no email, there are no text messages, no phone calls - unless you insist in answering your cell phone or BlackberryTM all the time.

Given only half a chance the bicycle could also, once again, have a profound influence on society as a whole, by being the instrument to wean us all off our dependence on oil.

Cycling is a great way to get around. Quicker than walking, less sweaty than running and saves plenty of CO2 versus driving. And as a bonus bikes can zip through traffic, go to nice places where cars don't stand a chance, like the beach, and help you shed loads of weight whilst saving you truck loads of money on parking.

Some areas have proper cycle path, not the pathetic cycle lanes that are part of the road in some towns and cities, especially in London. We need, in Britain and elsewhere, the kind of cycling provisions that are there in places such as the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France and Denmark.

If we had such proper cycling facilities, such as properly physically segregated bike lanes – even if shared with pedestrians, as in some places – the uptake of cycling to work, to school, to the shops and for general getting about would be much higher than it is.

Around 600,000 Britons already cycle to work. As well as living longer, together they save the same amount of CO2 every quarter of an hour as one car would produce driving around the world, and they get to work faster too. On average cyclists travel at 12-15mph, double the speed of a city car in cross town traffic.

But is speed really such an issue? I don't think so.

The one drawback, and I know that as I am a cyclist and do not drive nor own a car, is when it comes to going to the supermarket for a weekly shop. Carrying all the groceries on a bike can be a little bit of a thing. Panniers do help, as does the use of a large backpack. A trailer could be very useful indeed but then you lose part of the mobility and ease of “parking”.

Having stores closer to where one lives would certainly make it possible to go more than once a week and thus avoid having to carry all that stuff in one go.

Don't own a bike anymore but did have one when you were a kid and would like to get back to it. No need to buy new; there are places were you can buy secondhand and reconditioned, often abandoned, bikes.

As readers know, I rebuild abandoned bicycles myself and turn them into single speed bikes, most of the time, by a simple conversion. The multi-speed bikes are really, in my opinion, overrated and way too difficult, nowadays, to fix for the ordinary punter. Give me a single speed any day. No need to adjust and readjust gears all the time. Bad enough that brakes need having that done rather frequently.

Cycling, to me, is about about freedom, excitement, adventure, nostalgia and most of all deep, true passion for a wonderful two wheeled object. Come and discover it too.

© 2011