Biking to work saves the money you would spend on gas.
Riding your bike on the weekend is a great way to exercise so you’re not such a fatty.
Taking a bike instead of a car reduces carbon emissions and the gigantic hole in the ozone layer will magically fill back up.
More bikes on the road blah, blah, blah.
Grab a bike lock instead of your car keys blah, blah, blah.
It’s all worthless.
These are some of the most common arguments for getting on a bike more often, for riding for fitness, for riding to work, for just getting out on two wheels. They’re the main talking points for an industry that makes billions of dollars every year. I’m guilty of it. I use them all the time, because they’re there, and they’re easy to use.
And yet, these arguments are useless.
How many people do you think are compelled by the fact that “For every 1 mile pedaled rather than driven, about 1 pound of CO2 is saved?” How many people do you know who can wrap their head around the concept of 1 pound of CO2, much less the impact that 1 pound of CO2 could have on anything?
How many people do you think will be convinced of anything by telling them “if people switched to bikes for half of their short trips, they’d create a net societal health benefit of $3.5 billion per year from the increase in air quality?” Yeah? How’d they calculate that one? Even as an advocate I’m skeptical of stats like that.
What about “active commuting, including cycling and walking, is associated with an overall 11 percent reduction in cardiovascular risk?” 11 percent of what from what from where equals how many? In a world where we all assume we’re invincible, what’s 11 percent off of invincible?
None of these stats mean anything. They’re a hodge-podge of numbers – varying at best, and contradicting at worst – that are too abstract for anyone to understand, much less be compelled or convinced by. And yet, a multi-billion dollar a year bicycle industry throws them out like candy at a parade, hoping people will go clamoring after them like children. But the candy the bicycle industry is throwing is Necco wafers, we all go diving after it, but then grab it and think, “Well what are we supposed to do with this??”
You want a compelling argument? You want something that will convince your neighbor to hop on their bike? You want an argument that will convince your roommate to ride to the work? Try this on for size.
Riding bikes is really, really fun.
Everyone can understand the concept of fun. It’s not abstract. It’s not obscure. It’s not difficult.
Plain and simple. Riding bikes is fun.
It’s not about saving fuel. It’s not about saving your heart. It’s about having fun. And it will convince way more people to get on a bike than any statistic will.
*Hat tip to SF Gate, for this blog post, which is why I finally wrote the post you just read.
**Most of these stats came from a Google search for “reasons to ride your bike,” or from various advocacy websites that I frequent.
*** This rant is not over. Expect a sequel.