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One Small Step

By Jim Felder, Madison, Alabama, in November 1997

Ken Kifer wrote: The $64,000 question to me is, how do we start another bike boom? The towns in Alabama that used to have a lot of riders don't have any now, although mountain bike sales are keeping the stores open. The $128,000 question, is how do we get them on the road?

A bike was my main transportation during the early seventies in the north Alabama town where I live.

Today, like many of our towns, enormous growth has made road riding a much more gutsy thing to do... and there are places I rode 25 years ago that I wouldn't drive through today because it isn't safe.

The combination of crime and crowded roads has many bicycles gathering dust. Also, a bike was a noble substitute for a car when I was in my twenties. Today, folks would rather not work that cycle to work.

I started riding seriously again this year. In the early spring, I was the only cyclist in my neighborhood. But I rode every day. Soon my wife got a bike and started joining me. She started with one or two miles trips, and I had to cajole her into those. Now, as fall approaches, I find that she's out there at 6:30 a.m., putting in between 10 and 17 miles nearly every day. And I notice that several neighbors have gotten their bikes down off the hooks, pumped the tires and oiled the chains. I'll bet we saw seven other riders this evening, and that's just the roads, not the bike trails.

If you want my opinion, if you want to get others on the road, ride.

One Step can Save the World

by Ken Kifer

I became an adult during the 60's, a period of time when young people believed we could save the world through our personal actions. The idealism of that time caused young people to volunteer for the Peace Corps, to help with voter registration in Mississippi, to march on Chicago, and to protest at Kent State. There were lots of unpolitical actions as well, such as using a "Save a Tree" bag at the grocery, growing an organic garden, and using a bike instead of driving a car.

I don't know what happened to that idealism. Was it Kent State, the fall of South Vietnam, the resignation of Richard Nixon, the new yuppie generation, the government's involvement in these causes, or just the struggle to find a job in a failing economy?

Whatever happened, the idea of personal responsibility has been lost. Instead of trying to conserve, we have doubled the size of our homes, installed air conditioning in every house and car, and nearly doubled the amount of driving per car, with more cars per family. We have even started using big gas-guzzlers again.

The Bible says, "If you sow the wind, you will reap the whirlwind," and that's exactly what has been happening to us environmentally. Song birds, forests, large animal species, wetlands, and even fish have been disappearing. In addition, we have experienced record droughts and fires, heat-waves and storms, and rains and floods.

For a while, global warming was laughed at as a myth or hoax. But more and more evidence has been coming in. Scientists have now documented the melting of the polar ice caps. This is a poor time to buy land in Florida.

Some people feel we should wait for a big government solution. They forget that the government does nothing unless it is forced to act. Global warming doesn't require big solutions anyway. Each person can make a difference. How? Take a bike to work instead of the car, live in a smaller house, use fans and fluorescent lights, and keep the house cooler in the winter. New possibilities now exist. Solar panels can free us from the power line, and the internet can free us from the cubical at work.

I know these changes will not take us back to the stone age because I have been living a different lifestyle all along. I have a better quality of life because I pay less attention to being comfortable and more to enjoying the adventure of life.

It all comes down to this: we can keep up with the Jonses and watch our planet die, or we can find new ways of being happy.

I think a bike is an important part of the change. Why? First, it frees us partially or completely from the gas-guzzler. Second, it greatly improve our physical and mental health. Third, it gives us healthy fun at little cost.

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