9 Oct 2009, 10:00am
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Dude, where’s my bike rebate?

bike kilmarnockI recently acquired, at surprising expense, a bicycle, a seven speed commuter bike with full mudguards and a wire basket that can hold two single gallons of milk. It is even more “green” inasmuch as it has a dynamo for its lights, with a neat little capacitor to keep them lit when stopped at traffic lights, not a good place to be unilluminated. My main goal, at the time of purchase, was to avoid yet another piece of garage art, well intentioned but ignored after the initial enthusiasm wore off.

For the record, I am, in bicycle terms, though many others as well, a plodder. I poke along at an average of 13 MPH. Hardly world beating stuff, thank goodness. I mainly ride to my job at Camp Bullis, a round trip of just over twenty-four miles. I hoped to do this at least once a week. The summer heat soon put an end to that plan. If it’s over ninety degree when I leave my house near Red McCombs Ford at Callaghan Road and IH10, I’m going to be sitting in my polluting vehicle’s air-conditioning and enjoying every second, thank you very much. I have also ridden to my other job at the Texas Transportation Museum, coincidentally also a twenty-four mile round trip, a couple of times, but am daunted by the last few yards on Wetmore Road to the point where I am just a bit too chicken to do it very often, and certainly not on a Saturday.

When I was in Scotland for a brief visit recently, a friend mentioned that when you buy bicycles there it is sales tax free providing you promise to commute to work at least once in a while. This is a national program instituted to encourage more cycling for a number of reasons, improved health and lower pollution being two of the more significant ones. Doesn’t San Antonio suffer rather conspicuously in these areas? What is the city actually doing to encourage us fatties to get on our bikes every once in a while, especially on “Air Quality Alert” days? Wouldn’t riding a bike be a better solution than avoiding filling up gas tanks until the evening? So, where’s our rebate here?

Now you might say I am saving money on fuel and that ought to be enough. So far I have managed to puff along for almost nine hundred miles, a none too impressive one hundred miles a month. I willingly concede I have also done some pleasure riding. I have done a number of jaunts with my wife, who acquire her new bike a month or so before me and who essentially mandated that I join the cult. She is anything but a slow poke, however, so is investigating more compatible velocipede companionship.

I achieve 25.6 MPG in my 2005 Dodge Caravan, at least over the last twenty thousand miles or so. At an average of $3.00 per gallon over the last two years, I have saved a princely $105.46 from the thirty-five gallons I did not use to ride those nine hundred miles. Gee. At this rate I will break even on the purchase of the bike in six years. Heck, the note on my vehicle was shorter. And anyway, the absence of a negative is hardly the presence of a positive. If this city wants folks to cycle it will have to do better than that.

And it must be said that San Antonio is not a bike friendly city, as the frightening accident statistics demonstrate all too well. The incident that has frightened me the most was that poor cyclist minding his own business on Nacogdoches recently being killed – DEAD – STONE DEAD – because some inattentive driver was fiddling with his stereo. That’s a pretty inane way to go. The strange thing is that the south side of the city, particularly the Mission Corridor along the river, is far more accommodating than anywhere on the north side.

I know stupidity cannot be legislated away. Has that incident prevented me from making a single driving mistake since I heard about it? Hopefully, but, in reality, probably not. But cycling should have its place in San Antonio. It brings a lot of benefits. Bike lanes are just one thing that can be added to encourage more folks to try getting on two self powered wheels more often. A positive financial gain in the form of a tax break of some kind is another. Your city and county representative will be surprisingly receptive if he or she perceives a voting block of just a few people. With the way folks turn out for local elections around here, such a group could make all the difference.


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