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Examiner
Walking and bicycling for transportation, fitness, and fun
Through a bicyclist's eyes
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About this blog
By Rachel Ruhlen

My bicycle is our second car. I love to bicycle in all weather, for all distances, and on all routes. Bicycling has brought so much joy to my life, and I want to share it with anyone who is interested. I will use my soapbox to tell you about the ...

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Bicycling and Walking Around

My bicycle is our second car. I love to bicycle in all weather, for all distances, and on all routes. Bicycling has brought so much joy to my life, and I want to share it with anyone who is interested. I will use my soapbox to tell you about the joys, the freedom, the benefits, and, yes, the challenges of bicycling and walking for transportation.

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Burn enough oil to transport 3000 pounds of glass, plastic, and metal just to return a tiny bit of metal that fits in my pocket, or use my two perfectly good legs?
Burn enough oil to transport 3000 pounds of glass, plastic, and metal just to return a tiny bit of metal that fits in my pocket, or use my two perfectly good legs?
By Rachel Ruhlen
Nov. 19, 2013 8:46 a.m.



Every now and then someone says something that makes me realize that we live in an entirely different worlds. For example, when I was in graduate school a professor expressed astonishment that my military duties included latrine duty. "You're going to have a PhD and still be cleaning toilets?" he exclaimed.

I was dumbfounded. Who did he think was cleaning the toilets in my own house? I guess he hired a housekeeper to clean his toilets. My military enlistment ended at the same time that I received my PhD, so I don't have latrine duty anymore, but from time to time, I still clean the toilets in my house. I thought of telling my husband, "Since I have a PhD, I'm not supposed to clean toilets anymore. It's all on you now." But I didn't think that would go over very well.

I still laugh about that memory, because that professor's world view is so alien from mine.

Bicycling will change your world view just as dramatically. I needed to drop off a key one day on my way to work. I jumped on my bike and headed down the street, appreciating the excuse to take a longer route than usual. The fellow who accepted the key said, "Oh, you didn't have to bike all the way here just to drop off a key!"

I looked at him in amazement. It was not even a mile from my house. Was the key so big and heavy I couldn't carry it on my bicycle?

"I guess I could have walked," I said slowly, but I realized that wasn't what he meant. To him, the reasonable way to perform a small errand is to jump in the car.

To me, that is ridiculous! Why on earth would I burn enough oil to transport 3000 pounds of glass, plastic, and metal just to return a tiny bit of metal that fits in my pocket, when I have two perfectly good legs? Even if it were urgent (it wasn't), the errand was faster with a bicycle than a car.

What is even more troubling is that this was a public health professional. The public health department focuses mainly on vaccines--a good and worthy pursuit--but the #1 health problem is our sedentary lifestyle. There's no vaccine for that. Walking or biking short distances is an obvious weapon to combat a sedentary lifestyle.

Learning about the hidden costs of driving, the impact of overbuilt parking lots, the effect on our health, and the sacrifice of our peace of mind changes how you feel about driving. You will easily and naturally develop a habit of walking and bicycling for short, small errands.

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