I have two halves to reconcile. One half wants to do the best I can to tread lightly on the earth, which entails many things, among them riding my bicycle when I can within our local community instead of driving the car. The other half wants to wear a skirt, not arrive in a sweaty mess, and dammit, look good doing it. Is it possible?
My husband finds my need to wear skirts unfathomable. Primarily practical, he keeps suggesting that I get a nice, sensible pair of shorts or pants to ride in. I, being eminently impractical, and a boho dressing hippie type, hate this idea. Why should I alter what I wear (which feels like part of who I am) in order to appease the practicality gods, and be true to my desire to be green? No, there must be a way to do this.
Our particular adaptation to increase my riding and decrease the sweating mess has involved purchasing a Hill Topper bicycle conversion kit. http://cleanrepublic.com/hill_topper_electric_bike_conversion_kit.html It is by far the simplest method we found of converting my Giant Cypress into an electric bike, and one of the cheapest as well. With no throttle, and a simple on and off switch controlled by your thumb, it is enough to get you up hills without a struggle, and has enough torque to assist with starting as well. The day we set it up, I was out on it tooling up and down the street shouting, “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” with an enormous smile on my face, and refused to come in until it was dark. It has handled the added weight of our bicycle trailer with our four year old and a few bags of groceries with ease. I am looking forward to being able to use it for commuting if I find a job in close enough range. For us, it has been a definite winner. What would put the icing on the cake is a solar panel to charge the battery, but that’s another post.
I am still working on the skirt issue, however. It is next to impossible to find a bike that is good for commuting with a decent range of gears, plus having mud guards and a chainguard. I was shocked at how tricky it is to even find those things to add on, but I am still looking. You can find bicycles with those items already on them, but primarily they are the cruiser type, and lack the necessary gearing to make them a true commuter bike. For now, I think I will have to adapt and raise the hemlines of my standard summer attire (A-line wrap skirts) slightly to accommodate. So in answer to my earlier question, yes, it is possible to maintain your dress style and ride a bike…sort of. I welcome any suggestions from other cycling gals on how they were able to wear what they wanted to and still ride the bike.
Can we expect that most people can adapt to bicycle transportation as a green measure as long as they do not have physical limitations? It seems implausible while we still have a society focused on appearance (the issue of what is traditionally worn cycling attire versus what one would wear to work), the many perceived barriers to cycling (“It’s too hard/far,” “The traffic is too crazy,”), and also given the fact that most of us are, well, inherently lazy anyway. It is so much easier to see the car in the car in the driveway and think, “I’ll just get in it,” when it’s hot, cold, raining, snowing, windy, or otherwise not pristine and to our personal liking. A lot of determination is required to make these types of choices. Is it realistic to expect that a large proportion of the population will be happy to make those types of choices? How can we make this particular green transportation choice more accessible and desirable?
We need a cultural shift.
Where we live in the United States, cycling or walking is seen as something that only people with no access to a car would choose. The bicycle industry reports that most people stop riding their bikes when they are eight years old, and don’t come back to it unless they are ‘serious’ cyclists, complete with lycra clad buns. We need to change this perception. We need more bike lanes so cyclists can share the road safely, and not feel relegated to back roads. We need a campaign of public education about cycling safety and sharing the road. The more of us who are out there participating in cycling, the more aware drivers will become. We need bicycle manufacturers to help make bicycle transportation a viable choice with well designed products for regular people to use. We need more women who understand women’s desires and needs involved in that design process.
Cycling benefits all of us. It’s very green, with no air or noise pollution apart from what is involved in the manufacturing process. It keeps you fit. It allows you to be a part of the world around you instead of observing it from a sealed box. Often it’s faster than driving when distances are short and traffic is heavy. It’s very efficient from an energy consumption perspective. It’s cheap. They take up very little space in a small apartment or house. Bicycles are, just about, the Holy Grail of Green Transportation.
Get on your bikes and ride. You never know, you might just have some fun doing it.