Editor's Note: Two-Wheeling Through the Apocalypse | Chronogram Magazine

Editor's Note: Two-Wheeling Through the Apocalypse

May is Bicycle Month

I started writing about Bike Month six years ago. And while not much has changed since I began my annual promotional campaign touting the benefits (personal, global, social) of cycling more and driving less, I recently received an e-mail suggesting another reason to take to the road on two wheels—disaster preparedness.

A publicist in the employ of a bicycle manufacturer sent me the following pitch for a story on their line of bicycles:

When dealing with the unexpected, emergency management officials say people should prepare a kit, plan ahead, and stay informed. You’re familiar with the usual tips: Keep water on hand (a gallon per person per day for at least three days), stock up on nonperishable food, have a NOAA Weather Radio and extra batteries, etc. But what about a bike?

I represent [X]—a top-selling line of bicycles featuring high-quality designs, performance, and safety components at affordable prices. In a disaster, bicycles offer flexible mobility.

[Mr. X], bike expert, is available to discuss the far-reaching lessons we can all learn in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake. Among other things, when making a bike part of any emergency plan, it’s important to know: how to maintain a bike; how to properly haul cargo on a bike; bicycling rules of the road.

While I appreciate any attempt to get Americans out of the driver’s seat and into the saddle, the most salient far-reaching lesson I learned in the wake of the Japanese tragedy was that I probably live far too close to Indian Point. No amount of frantic pedaling will get those of us in the Hudson Valley far enough away if there’s a meltdown.

Futurist James Howard Kunstler would agree with the bike publicist about the imminent need for bicycles as a form of emergency transport. In The Long Emergency, the Saratoga-based Kunstler suggests we’re heading for a post-fossil fuel society where life will again become more localized—the late 21st century looking more like the 19th century. Carl Frankel spoke with Kunstler about what a low-energy future might look like in the Hudson Valley, and why small cities like Kingston and Newburgh have a good shot at thriving after the oil apocalypse. (News & Politics, p. 22).

And just a couple facts to remind you why you need to find an alternative means of transport now, this minute:
• 80 percent of Americans do not get the recommended 30 minutes of moderate daily activity.
• 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.
• The number of barrels of oil consumed by cars every day in the US: 19 million.
• Nearly a third of the gas used in the US goes for trips of three miles or less, usually to transport a single passenger.
• Motorized vehicles are responsible for 70 percent of the carbon monoxide, 45 percent of the nitrogen dioxide, and 34 percent of the hydrocarbons we produce.
• More than half of all Americans live less than five miles from where they work.
• In 2006 I wrote: “A gallon of gas is currently $2.25 a gallon. In a few years, gas at this price may seem like a bargain.” Gas is now over $4 a gallon.
• One hundred bicycles can be produced for the same energy and resources it takes to build one medium-sized automobile.
• Owning a car for one year can cost more than $7,000. Operating a bicycle for one year can cost almost nothing, but maintenance will probably run you about $150.
• The League of American Bicyclists has extensive resources at www.bikemonth.com. Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 20.

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