The Bicycle Brief, Chapter 4: Math And Stuff

Now that it’s summer and I’ve made it through an entire season without owning a vehicle in L.A., I decided to add up the miles I’ve traveled (excluding rides with friends and walking) since taking on the experiment with carlessness. I’m not great at math, but here goes …

    Total miles biked: 546
    Days biked to work: 85
    Miles driven: 26
    Cost of refueling the rental car ($4.63/gallon): $6.74
    Number of hybrid bikes I could buy for what the (previously desired) hybrid Honda costs: 60
    People who told me I inspired them to ride a bike: 2
    People who looked concerned about my mental health when I answered “no” to the question “So, are you going to buy another car?”: Far more than 2
    Weekend days it was hot enough to sear flesh but I got out there anyway: 3
    Months before I broke down and bought a basket for grocery purchases: 3.5
    Calories burned, according to dubious online calculator: 28,050
    Executives at my company that I unexpectedly encountered post-ride (i.e. disheveled, sweaty) on the weekend: 2
    Normal people at my company that I encountered: 0
    Days I’ve seen that squashed crow on my commute: 9 (somebody pick that thing up)
    Yippy dogs charging at me: 1
    Car doors smacking me: 1
    Group rides: 1
    Freeway rides: 0

All in all, this doesn’t sound like a lot of trekking, especially compared with some bike commuters. It’s hard to believe that the total miles covered in four months would’ve required only about 20 gallons of gas. But looking at that number forces me to accept that when I did have a car I made unnecessary (or indulgent) trips. I used to fill my tank about once every two weeks — once a month when I was especially good about biking to work. Now that Americans are going apeshit about the price of fuel, I keep reading about people changing their habits, mostly cutting the nonessential car trips and, to a lesser extent, taking whatever public transportation their city has to offer. We’re all aware that ours could use some work, but I know a couple of people who are making it work for them.

I can attest that there are more bikers on the road now than there were a few years ago, and that’s a trend that’s going to continue. An encouraging development came the other day in the form of two initiatives meant to make biking an even better alternative to driving. The Metro initiative makes complete sense but is tricky. It would be great for bikers while simultaneously annoying nonbikers — I think it should go further and seek to designate a car for bikes, like in San Francisco. And the “sharrows” would, I hope, reduce the number of indignant drivers who come up behind a bike and just want it to get out of the way. (I was going to go to Neighborhoodies and make a shirt that says CAR DOORS with a big arrow pointing to the right, but this is better.) The more awareness of bikers’ right to the road (and increased safety of the roads) the better. And we can probably all agree on this: The fewer cars in L.A. the better.