Sunday, July 10, 2011

Why All Car Guys Should Ride Bikes

When I was six years old, I had a dream where I befriended a fourth generation Camaro that a neighbor down the street had bought for himself. At the age of fifteen, I had my second car dream: this time, my mother won the lottery, and purchased herself a Lamborghini Murcielago. Of course, in this dream my mother immediately realized her mistake, as she could not climb in and out of it, nor operate its manual gearbox. So she did what any caring mother would do: she gave the car to me.
I have had many dreams with cars in them. Sometimes, I’m enjoying the high-revving engine in a McLaren Formula One MP4; others I’m soothed by the whine of the supercharger mounted atop my Ford GT. In my dreams I’ve driven classic Shelby Cobras and Porsche 911s, Koenigseggs and TVR Sagarises (what on earth is the plural of ‘Sagaris’? If you know, please inform me). I have even had dreams about my Volkswagen.
I have never had a dream about a bicycle.
Yet, I ride a bicycle every day. I ride it to work, to run errands, to see movies and go to dinner. I ride a bicycle because it is the logical thing to do. I am not a logical person; I know that automobiles are wasteful, dangerous, and often ridiculous, but I also know that I love them, that I always have and that I always will. I know this with the same illogical and fervent intensity with which I know that the Pontiac G8 surely would have saved GM eventually, that the Chrysler 200 is the proper car for someone, and that Carlos Ghosn has plans for world domination. I love my car, and love is never logical; I’ve accepted this, and it’s why I will never submit to a car-free lifestyle. But I will happily accept a car-light lifestyle. Why? Because while cars may be the center of my universe, they are not all that comprises that universe; rather, cars are the realization of dreams and the pursuit of perfection, wrought through time and labor into a beautiful piece of machine and artwork. They exist within a world that has limitations. Cars wear down, and grow old. Traffic congestion grows worse with each car on the road. Gasoline is not free, nor is it limitless. I want to stay healthy, which a stressful and lazy commute in my car does not contribute to.
Driving is a privilege, something we forget; we allow everyone to drive all the time, and in doing so, they spoil it for each other. No one who loves driving loves traffic, or high gas prices, or the thought of one day having to drive silent cars because gas is nowhere to be found (I haven’t yet decided whether it’s better or worse to drive cars that sound like spaceships). This world was not meant for us to drive the way we currently do, and it certainly won’t be a driver’s paradise in the future, the way things are headed now. This is why I ride my bicycle. I ride my bicycle so the world can be a better place to drive. I keep gas prices down, and make sure that petrol is still around so I can go enjoy the roar of combustion on race weekends. I take up less roadway, and cause less back pressure on freeways by riding on slower and less direct roads (not to mention that my bike takes up a lot less space on the roadway. For reference, compare being stuck behind a bike with being stuck behind a tractor). And on the weekends when I decide it’s time for a road trip out to the winding roadways I love so much, I’ve been looking forward to driving all week, not building an angry hatred while waiting in traffic. And I feel less guilty about the gas, and the exhaust, and the expense, knowing that I lived my logical life all week. On the weekends, when I let the car nut in me loose, I know that I’ve paid my dues, and proved that cars and living responsibly can find harmony. In those night drives, on those wide-open roadways, with my tank full for weeks at a time, I remember the glorious serenity of my car dreams, take pride in my commitment to conservation, floor the throttle, basking in that turbo whoosh, and l grin like I’d just been given a Lamborghini.