[lug] Commuting by bike with a laptop

Rob Nagler nagler at bivio.biz
Wed Jan 13 09:13:54 MST 2010

karl horlen writes:
> Davide writes:
> > PS: being a dad, I don't bike when there is snow/ice on the
> > streets, which means after Thanksgiving - but I don't drive
> > either: I walk and ride the bus.
> i saw a guy almost fall into traffic the other day.  the roads, bike
> lane, sidewalks were all really in bad shape.  i would think it just
> makes sense to put aside the bike for a day or two in cases like
> that.
> 5 minutes later i saw a guy toting his daughter in a carrier on the
> back of the bike.  just seemed not very smart.

It's funny.  Linux guys will argue about anything. :) This particular
topic is extremely near and dear to my heart so I can't let it go.  I
think the answer to this question is obviously very personal and is
quite nuanced.  This is a long answer.  For a short and more
structured answer, visit freiker.org.

Personally, I had an epiphany of sorts last week.  It was not a New
Year's resolution that had me riding all last week.  I went out Tue
with the thought that the roads were clear, but they weren't, really.
I have a typical 700c-tire hybrid.  What I realized is that I can fall
and get back up and keep going.  It's ok.  People do this all the time
when mountain biking.  And yes, I might fall in traffic, or a car
might skid into me, but I won't die, and probably won't be very hurt.
The bike-car accidents that I know of in Boulder all happened on
perfectly clear weather.  I'm very paranoid about cars, and when it is
cold, I'm wearing a lot of gear which will pad my fall.

For me, I'm going to ride this winter, because it's important to my
mental and physical health.  If you read about my death in the Camera,
you'll know that at least I died doing what I wanted to do as opposed
to dying in my car on I25, because I was unlucky enough to have to
drive my car down to DTC.  I have ridden well over 100K miles in my
life, and I've never had a car-bike accident.  I have, however, had
some pretty serious car accidents.

I was in urgent care on Tue afternoon, because my son sprained his
ankle getting off an RTD bus (my lawyers are already at work preparing
a negligence suit ;-).  I certainly am afraid of my kids getting
hurt.  It's my worst nightmare.  But there is more than one way to
hurt your kid.

When I grew up in the 60s, everybody rode their bike or walked to
school unless we were being bussed to the other side of town.  There
was simply no question about getting in a car and being dropped off at
school.  I don't have the stats handy, but something like 50% of the
kids biked to school.  Now that number is around 5%.

Childhood obesity is an epidemic levels.  This is not something we are
noticing more, like autism or ADD or other increases in health issues.
According to the CDC, in 1980, 7% of 6-11 year-olds were obese, in
2006 17% were.  The number tripled from 5% to 18% for 12-19y.

The most polluted areas in most suburban cities are around the schools
themselves.  Just stand by a school some day when it starts or ends,
and you'll see a line of cars.  Schools are being designed with
"kissing lanes".  Go to Eldorado K-8 in Superior.  All the kids live
within a 2 mile radius, which is full of suburban sidewalks.  Stand
there at starting and ending times and count the cars.

Bike racks are being ripped out for liability reasons.  Before I
started Freiker, the bike racks were half-empty at Crest View
Elementary.  Now they are overflowing, and there are only a few people
who are complaining about this fact.  Parents ride with their kids and
actually talk with one another at the bike racks instead of shouting
across the street from their cars "hi!".

I'm not in favor of laws to ban people from doing something.  Some
people might have tried to get cars banned from driving to school.
That will never happen in the US -- there is such a law in a city in
the Netherlands.  What has happened is there are laws which ban kids
from riding their bikes to school for specific age groups.  For
example, in Madison, WI (right next door to the home of Trek Bikes),
it is illegal for 5th graders or below to ride their bikes to school.

Kids can't vote.  Parents have to vote for them.  As I said earlier,
my worst nightmare is my child getting hurt.  I'm fortunate that my
kids are fairly active.  Not having a TV in the house has really
helped.  My other worst nightmare is that they grow up unaware that
their health is in their hands, and no one else's.

Mental health is just as important as physical health.  Sitting in a
car in rush hour is not good for anybody's mental health.  A bike ride
gives people time to transition from a work to a home environment, if
they live and work in the same town.

Physically, just three hours of bike riding a week will reduce your
risk of heart disease by 50%.  You'll lose 13lbs the first year
bicycle commuting, and you'll keep it off.  I have yet to meet someone
who started bicycle commuting who said they didn't like it.  I think
most importantly, I have never met anybody who died bicycle commuting.

According to sites I've seen, under 1K people are killed cycling every
year in the US, and over 40K are killed driving in cars.  I haven't
seen stats of the life expectancy of bicycle vs car commuters.  That
would be very interesting data, but probably too hard to get.

Also, taking the bus is better than driving for your health, because
you have to walk to the bus stop.  I know of at least one diabetic who
visited me when I lived in Zurich, who reduced her insulin intake by
75% just from walking to the bus/tram stops.

As always, these decisions are very personal.  I really don't mean to
preach, but after working on Freiker for all these years, I've seen
that change is possible, and kids can ride *safely* even in the


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