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**originally published on whichcharity.

Cycling schemes won’t work? It’s all about lifestyle.
Thursday, July 09th, 2009 | Author: Louise Sopher
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I HAVE just read an article in The Times, by Leo Lewis, titled ‘Get a bike and sav
e the planet (in 87 years).’ In it, Lewis speaks about Tokyo’s “environmental kicks” whe
re the city has gone “bicycle barmy” and employed the mode of transport in the hope
of replacing the recession-biting car.
The first impression of the bicycle, writes Lewis, is a positive one: “a bicycle r
uns the sales patter, will save on the daily cost of a commute, produces no C02
and is environmentally non-rapacious.” Conversely, we are then led on to believe t
hat the bicycle does not benefit the planet whatsoever because the cost of a thi
rsty cyclist drinking Ito En green tea, eating bananas from Thailand, washing ex
tra clothing, and finally, the footprint of the production the bike itself has c
locked up, means that it’ll be “about 87 years before that bike “saves” an ounce of petr
ol.” Now, these are all perfectly valid points which evidently question the worldw
ide bicycle schemes and view of how to correct global warming, however, if we ta
ke a more global view and adjust our country-specific focus to say, Kenya, we ma
y result in a completely different conclusion.
In Kenya, people walk or run to work with suit and jacket – and I don’t remember see
ing one person with a plastic water bottle in his or her hand, or a water bottle
of any type, for that note. Not one. The roads there are what we might call off
-road, and hence this is harder on the feet and the whole body than we might fin
d walking on a concrete pavement in the UK. These people walk for miles to work,
and they do it every day and have done it everyday for their lives. It is evide
nt to any Western onlooker of the sheer fitness of these well-adjusted walkers a
nd runners. As such, we might notice how a bicycle scheme in Kenya would work mu
ch better than in, say, the UK.
Is it not true that a fitter athlete can push his body harder? Is it not true th
at a fitter, well-practiced athlete’s body, providing he or she is healthy, does n
ot need as much water as an unfit, unpracticed athlete? That a fit, healthy and
practiced athlete probably won’t sweat as much as the ordinary person? Therefore,
it seems self-explanatory that we might assume that in the long-term – less than 8
7 years – such bicycle schemes may well benefit our environmental struggles, not t
o mention our fitness.
To add to this, although I have certainly never been to Tokyo, I can relate to c
ity life in the UK, and can most certainly compare the differences between cycli
ng in quiet, suburban areas, and attempting to survive the length of a busy main
road on your bike: the second is, quite frankly, stressful, stinky and noisy. N
aturally, then, we are going to need more water in such places, and to top it of
f, the obnoxiously suffocating heat, and air-blocking fumes of the passing traff
ic is going to make us more sweaty and hence in need of a change of clothes befo
re we get to work.
The end-result of all of this, quite obviously, is a cyclist who doesn’t need to d
rink so much Ito En green tea, or to eat so many bananas, or to change so many s
Despite the cycling initiatives being introduced into such stuffy places, the ai
m is that there will be many less – perhaps eventually no – cars on the road in seve
ral years time. Any that are still on the road will be replaced by more environm
entally friendly ones such as electrical and solar powered cars. Here, then, is
the cutting point: no cars means no stress, no stink, and no noise as well as re
sulting in a wide space for cyclists to lounge in. An entire society that cycles
to work every day in an environment which features enough decontaminated oxygen
is also going to be a fitter one. The end-result of all of this, quite obviousl
y, is a cyclist who doesn’t need to drink so much Ito En green tea, or to eat so m
any bananas, or to change so many shirts, and when the car production lines are
replaced by cycling-production lines, the bicycle need no longer be shipped thro
ugh three separate countries before arriving in its distributing country.
So, to the professor who named 87 years as the point at which the bike may begin
to save petrol, and to Mr Leo Lewis, whose article I here refer to, well, perha
ps I am looking at the long-shot, but I believe that the environmentally-friendl
y and fit society described above, with a much smaller footprint size than in se
veral decades gone, is actually less than the 87 years suggested. Plus, I would
like to think that there may be a chance that Tokyo’s initiative works once its ci
tizens become adjusted to the lifestyle and no longer need to endlessly drink or
to eat bananas or change shirts.
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