Thursday, April 22, 2004

Cycling and freedom … same thing.

During the recent Holy Week in Metro Manila, the city was a virtual ghost town. A sudden eeriness seems to have crept in the metro. Gone were the traffic jams, honking horns, revving engines, squealing brakes, and irate drivers.

The near absence of cars and vehicles in the metro made it possible to hear the leaves rustling in the trees and for once you could actually hear the birds sing. When you sniff the air, it was perceptibly cleaner also.

The city, for a few days, was a paradise for bikers, walkers, and runners, who came out in droves to fully take advantage of the temporary truce with the city’s polluted atmosphere.

It was also time to make you think what we have sacrificed in the name of progress and personal comfort.

Personal cars are in great abundance in any city worldwide and in recent studies have proven to be a major source of pollution, illnesses, deaths, and social degradation.

In contrast cycling your way to your destination promotes an active lifestyle, contributes little to no pollution, and encourages social interaction.

In a growing number of communities, bicycling and walking are considered indicators of a community’s livability. A factor that has a profound impact on attracting businesses and workers as well as on tourism.

Although personal cars do have their advantages and one can even argue that in light of the present situation, biking to work may even be more dangerous, one must consider the benefits that one can get.

People have been calling city cyclists crazy, and frankly, they may have a point. You have to be a bit crazy to tackle urban biking, with all the pollution and dangers of being shoulder to shoulder with irresponsible drivers.

But biking is one big free liberating experience. Riding a bike is like having an epiphany on how better we and even the world can be if we but stop and consider the alternatives. You realize things you can and can’t do. You turn the wheel, you go where you go at your own pace.

Biking will make you a better person. Away from the hustle and bustle of traffic jams, you get to see the real situation and get to commune with what is happening in your society. Seeing the poverty and filth in the streets may move something in you to try to improve the situation.

It is just a matter of rethinking and contemplating a lifestyle change that minimizes dependency on cars. You not only clean the air, lessen gridlock, create more livable cities, but also promote a better and healthier way of perceiving yourself and society.

Do make the lifestyle change support your local bike advocacy group.

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