If you want to change things in your life, your neighborhood, and your world, you have to learn to ask questions. Answers always appear on the far side of questions. The trick is to ask the right questions. I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you that with me the right questions are never the first questions, so I’ve learned to ask early and often.
It’s not enough to just ask, though. You have to learn to answer your own questions. This is something that doesn’t come natural to me. I had to teach myself to do it. I prefer to ask and answer out loud, even though it sometimes makes people think I’m crazy.
But I digress. What I’m trying to say is that I became a vehicular cyclist only after learning how to answer my own questions. Maybe you’re already familiar with that term, vehicular cyclist, but if you aren’t it means someone who chooses a bicycle as his or her primary means of transportation. That’s me. That’s who I am…now, anyway.
I wasn’t always. Like a lot of people, I once was all car all the time. I lived in the far suburbs and went everywhere by car. Even now I still own a car because sometimes (not often) it’s more practical than a bike. Besides, it blows the whole argument that some anti-bike people like to make about me being a freeloader and not paying my fair share of taxes. As a matter of fact, I do own the road. I just don’t pay as much for it as they do. That’s my choice…theirs, too.
Back in the 1980s, Mrs. Sharpe and I lived in the Mission Viejo neighborhood in Aurora Colorado. We were about thirteen miles from my office in downtown Denver. The two things I remember about Mission Viejo are the street lights (they looked like bells) and the connectivity. There was this awesome bike path behind our home that connected to the one along Cherry Creek that ran to within a half mile of my office so when I worked on weekends I started cycling into Denver. I could also cycle around the neighborhood and go to grocery stores and the library but I never really thought of my bicycle as a vehicle back then. It was just fun. I wasn’t asking the right questions.
That all started to change in 1990. I can tie it back to a single event. I had taken a job in the Twin Cities and one cold, snowy December morning as I parked and headed into the office, I happened to catch the sight of a guy riding a bicycle down University Avenue. It was still dark and dangerously slick but he was moving at about the same pace as the cars around him. That raised a few questions, let me tell you…
- What the heck was he thinking?
- Why wasn’t he in a car?
- Couldn’t he afford one?
- Was he cold?
- How deep was the snow on the road?
- How did he keep from falling over?
- Isn’t that dangerous?
- How is it even possible?
Looking back, that was the catalyst that caused me to think differently. Up until then I thought of cycling as strictly a summer pursuit. If you could do it year around, well, why wouldn’t you? That was the biggest question of all. The answer was obvious. You could. He was doing it.
By asking a lot of questions, I’ve come to the realization that there’s a right vehicle for every trip we take. Sometimes the right vehicle is a jet airliner. Other times it’s a bus or a train. Often it is a car. But it can also be a bike or our own two feet. If we ask enough questions we will reach the completely logical conclusion that a bike is often absolutely, positively the best vehicle choice for the trip we’re about to take. When it is, we should choose it. I call this process “Rightsizing Transportation .”
The challenge is that most of us have been so conditioned to choose cars that we don’t really think about it at all. We don’t ask the right questions. That’s what we need to change if we’re going to move forward. When we rightsize transportation, we recognize benefits for ourselves, our community our world. There aren’t many things we can do that have this level of impact.
So let’s do it. Together. Please share this with your friends who don’t yet ride a bike. They’re the ones we need to reach. Let’s get them asking questions. Let’s get them answering them. If we do, they’ll end up out there with us, all saddled up. More soon…