Life is All About (bi)Cycles

Bill Nye the Science Guy at The UP Experience 2010

photo by Ed Schipul This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

It seems that Bill Nye – the Science Guy – is way more well known than I know. Being away from the United States for 25 years and not one to pay attention much to TV in general, I don’t come across TV shows that air in the US – even on PBS – unless they are really popular or become important politically.  Though sustainability and good science are extremely important, they certainly won’t win many popularity contests among the TV viewing public.

Reading about the Science Guy now, I find I’d appreciate his TV program.  I really like his passion for bicycles and for personal health.

“There’s no machine known that is more efficient than a human on a bicycle.  Bowl of oatmeal, 30 miles — you can’t come close to that.”

The first paragraph of Bill Nye’s biography on his personal website says this:

Bill Nye, scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor, is a man with a mission: to help foster a scientifically literate society, to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science that makes our world work. Making science entertaining and accessible is something Bill has been doing most of his life.

What a fabulous introduction!  Making science entertaining and accessible is something I love doing, too, and hope to do for most of my life.

In the “crazy Bill vision”, Nye predicts that weather-tight “bicycle arterials” will be built.  These, he says, will be cost-efficient when compared to a modern roadway.  I fully agree.  They would be much lighter than roadways and bicycles are unlikely to produce anything near the wear and tear produced by cars, buses, and especially trucks.

But is our society ready to make these commitments to green infrastructure?  Tellingly, Nye says, “You could do that if you were committed.”

I’d love to see a future in which Bill’s vision for bicycles form a critical component in a sustainable transit system.  I’d like if it were not limited to places like Portland Oregon and Seattle Washington, where Nye believes that the commitment is likely to grow.  While I realize that these cities and some areas in and around San Francisco – where I was once a bicycle messenger – have both the political perspective and the occasionally inclement weather that provide an impetus to build ideal infrastructure for cyclists, the need is even more fervent in communities hostile to cyclists such as Los Angeles, Manhattan, Washington D.C., and Tokyo.

I’m hoping that in the wake of the 3.11 disaster, many more Japanese start to awaken to the reality that on the one hand mass transit systems are important, but on the other distributed and local systems are required.  While I look upon Shinkansen with admiration and awe, it is the local streetcar and the bicycle that I look to as critical in the ideal communities of the future.  In this future, the sleek and elegant tubes would be bicycle highways, competing with the Shinkansen for technical prowess and hi-tech coolness.  And bicycle manufacturers would supplant Ferrari and Porsche as the supreme designers of machines for transit. But the biggest winners: you and me!! (and Bill Nye!)

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