Monday, March 31, 2008

Brave New World

The major reason for the popularity of bicycling is as "pedestrians on wheels" -- which are the multitudes of aging baby boomers who can be aided for many years of useful mobility by "activity wheel chairs'-- that bicycling technology lends itself to be -- rather than the delusions of the relatively few out in their bike geek outfits and high performance road bikes trying to prove they are as fast and virile as cars.

For increasingly many, even walking becomes an increasingly prohibitive activity as their feet, knees, hips and backs break down -- whereas biking for several centuries now, has been the most efficient means of human transport since at least da Vinci's concept of the bike to even propel human flight, which was also the inspiration for the famous bicycle mechanics and bike entrepreneurs, the Wright brothers, to develop the first airplane of the modern era.

It is the useful implications of bicycling technology for much wider purposes than imagined competition of Tour de France wannabes and aging baby boomers, that really are the great opportunity of bicycling in this time and age -- for bicycling to move into the mainstream of the human mobility and enabling movement, than remain on the fringes as an expensive hobby for a few who have never grown up and think they have to relive their childhood fantasies daily in keeping up with road traffic.

And in fact, the fastest growing phenomenon in Hawaii, as well as all over the world, is the adoption of bicycling by middle aged and retired people to move slowly and safely to do their errands and tend to their appointments -- rather than getting dressed up in their outlandish outfits and taking over the roads ala The Critical Mass strategy that alienates everybody else trying to attract the attention they require to do anything worthwhile and meaningful in their fantasied existences.

That's where the important paradigm shift in thinking has to occur -- from the bike "regarded" as vehicle, to that of being "pedestrian" -- and moving in the direction of further efficiencies and capabilities not for speed but in enabling the ordinarily and marginally disabled of the past to maintain their lives of extended mobility.

Such advances would also improve the possibilities for every "average" person to enhance their range of movement and activities far beyond those we are limited today.

If we never have another bike road race, the world will not suffer any great loss. But the real gain, lies in applying that useful technology and basic wisdom, in much more enlightened ways than seeing "how fast" we can travel. We need to grow up and think, how intelligently we can move -- in all the conditions of our normal daily activities, rather than creating special categories and niches to burn off (waste) more energy.

That is the essential problem and challenge of these times.


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