This post is part of series written by TreeHugger contributors about trading in your car for a bike for trips that are two miles or less in distance. The series is sponsored by the Clif 2-Mile Challenge.
I was late, I was late, for a most important date. A first date, and we were catching up to see a movie by Sydney Harbour. But when I made it to the bus stop, my bus had already left. I could see it blocks away, citybound, without me. I raced up the hill back home and quickly grabbed my bike, hoping to ride to the rail station in time to catch the next train. Yet, as I got there, I saw that too pull away from the platform. Damn, damn. What to do? There was nothing for it but to ride all the way into the city.
Not a good look to present late for a first date, so I cranked those pedals for all I was worth, zigging and zagging a path through chaotic city traffic. Could I make it in time? What would my date think of me arriving sweaty browed, perched upon an odd looking, small wheeled bicycle?
After a hair-raising trip, on decidedly bike-unfriendly Sydney roads, I finally screeched to a halt at the cinema. Where was she? No where to be seen. Had I blown it? My mobile phone rings. She is late. Stuck in traffic, in her car. I was the early one. A trusty little bike had saved my bacon, whereas if I'd been entirely reliant on bus, train, or car I might've been very embarrassed.
At first blush, a bicycle may not seem to be the most prestigious way to impress a potential beau. We are so pummeled with visions of how glamourous it is to swan about in cars, swerving around tight country corners with adoring partners in the passenger seat. Faced with an onslaught of such advertising, cars have become status symbols, not only denoting earning power, but overall machismo.
It is not surprising that cars have earned this status badge. Automotive advertising continues to rank as the biggest spending category of any advertising. In the USA alone, during 2005, the advertising spend on motor vehicles was $21 billion (roughly equivalent to the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Cayman Islands).
But just because billions are spent on promulgating this mythology around cars doesn't mean all men and women will fall for it.
Riding a bicycle to a date also sends other signals:
A bicycle ridden to a date tends to have the added benefit of becoming a conversation starter or ice breaker. I once went on a different first date where the object of my attraction became so fascinated by my bike she was convinced to take it for a test ride up and down the footpath -- dressed in her evening glad rags.
One summer I spent months sharing movies and meals with a woman, who joined me on the bicycle riding gig. We rode all over town together, to the many open air cinemas that were playing. And we never once had a problem finding parking.
Bicycles have proven to be very practical transport for dates too. On another occasion I arranged an A to B walk around the harbour, culminating with a meal on the foreshore. I drove my car to point B, hefted collapsible bike out, and rode off to point A, where we were meeting to start the walk. After the perambulations and lunch I was then able to drive my date back to her motor scooter, and my bike.
Should your date turn out, however, to be an unmitigated disaster, you get to ride home, with the night air washing that woman (or man, as the case might be) right out of your hair, as you ponder the upsides. Like you ended up with some beneficial exercise and didn't waste good money paying a car parking toll.
Luckily for me, though, I met my wife, after having pedaled my trusty steel steed to our own first date. She was subsequently inspired to dust off her underused bicycle and suggest a date with both of us cruising the harbour shore on bikes. We've been getting our cadence in sync ever since.
I guess the point I'm trying to make (albeit long winded) is that just as a bicycle should not be seen as an impediment to commuting to work, taking the kids to school, or grocery shopping, nor should it be seen as a hurdle to romance.
Hence Clif Bar's $100,000 USD support of bicycle advocacy and climate change abatement via the 2 Mile Challenge. More people on bikes makes for a healthier, happier planet. And doesn't your heart ache for that?
More 2 Mile Challenge