TCI Friday

TCI Friday works best when you throw your two cents in the pot at the end. Read. Comment.

As a bike rider, I like to think I’m an environmentalist, but words and labels like that are nebulous. What do they really mean? How many choices, how many sacrifices, am I really making that preserve the environment, balanced against all the little, sometimes unconscious decisions, I make that harm it?

One of the fundaments of my idea of myself as a tree-hugger is the amount of time I spend in the woods. I’m there, and I love being there, but am I leaving the place better or worse than I found it? It’s hard to argue that a trail, well worn by foot and bicycle traffic, is really helping the plants, trees, fungi and animals that live there. I suppose it’s true that trail users unwittingly spread fungal spores that propagate the network of fungus that underpins the health of the soil, but that’s a stretch. You might also argue that a trail system, such as it is, gives people a motivation to preserve a patch of vital ecosystem that might otherwise fall prey to the developer’s bulldozer.

We shouldn’t just ignore the idea that riding a bike is better than driving a car, or even taking the bus/train/helicopter, either. That’s a thing.

But humans are rapacious. Where we cut one trail, we will cut others. Where we make one jump, we will make more, widening and expanding the trail network as we go. Don’t get me started on litter. Even the “ambient litter,” the stuff that accidentally falls from jersey pockets, doesn’t help.

So I wonder if we, has bike riders, as the cognoscenti, if you will, are just a little self-righteous. Strike that. I know I am. I’m not prepared to tell you, you are.

This week’s TCI Friday asks, are we too comfortable with our role in environmentalism, because we happen to love riding bikes? Are we doing enough? What should I be doing that I’m not currently?

TCI and TCI Friday are brought to you in part by Shimano North America. They’re swell.

Join the conversation
  1. jlaudolff says

    I did an overnight bike trip in August and could not find water taps anywhere. I left quite a trail of empty plastic bottles that weekend. On my 3 week tour in September I did a lot better, keeping my eye out for taps. But did not have zero plastic bottles. Where are the chocolate milk taps?

    1. TominAlbany says

      Check under the brown cows…

  2. tcfrog says

    I don’t think riding bikes automatically makes a person an environmentalist. Lots of people drive (individually) to a group ride, do the ride, then drive home … a series of events that really just adds unnecessary car trips and fuel use. If the time you spend in the saddle drives you to consider the impact of your actions on the world around you; if you start supporting initiatives that preserve the environment we have; or, hardest of all, if you confront fellow bikers/hikers/outdoor recreationalists when they are taking actions that harm the environment like littering or cutting unnecessary trails, then I think you can be called an environmentalist.

  3. Pat Navin says

    Interesting question. My primary reason for riding is to keep myself healthy. Commuting to work by bike was just a way to get a workout in while doing something that I had to do anyway. I always viewed the “environmentally-friendly” aspect of that to be secondary, though friends who weren’t riders would often comment on the environmentally-positive nature of cycling over driving.

    I think as a cyclist I am certainly more aware of our impact on our environment. But whether that makes me an environmentalist in the active sense, I’d have to say no. I support environmental causes and elected officials who back improving/preserving our environmental quality. If you asked my kids, I think they would say that my generation is not doing enough. And, in general, I think that is true. We are at a critical juncture for the future of our planet. We all could do more. I know I could.

  4. alanm9 says

    Bike to work. Even just part of the way. Even just a mile.

  5. Michael Lock says

    Perhaps a distinction ought to be made between one who loves the out-of-doors environment, and one who is an Environmentalist in the conservational or activist sense of the word. I suspect that most people who are the former are also some degree (even if it’s a very small degree) of the latter, and fall into the ‘could do more, could also do less’ category.
    Flatulence not withstanding, the time I spend on my bike is time not potentially spent doing environmentally harmful things, like lighting shopping bags on fire and watching them float down the river like horizontally-minded Chinese lanterns.

  6. Hautacam says

    I biked to work and school for 25+ years… that is probably the most environmental thing I did, and it’s not why I did it — I did it because I like riding my bike. I’m modestly environmentally-minded and I act accordingly but my biking does not qualify me as an Environmentalist. I know that the consumption-related impacts of having two kids put me deep into an environmental deficit I’ll never redeem. So I don’t delude myself about my biking being anything other than slightly less destructive recreation.

  7. VéloKröte says

    I agree that just riding a bike does not make one an “Environmentalist”, but of necessity, riding a bike makes you way more aware of your environment both built and natural than you would be encased in in steel and glass. I don’t ride a mountain bike much, but I do a fair bit of touring on rail trails and ‘unassumed’ roads. I support the former with funds for maintenance. I love backwoods or stelth camping on my bike.

    I think we who love riding bikes, especially in car dependent North America, could be doing a lot more to demand more of our built environments in urban areas: protected bike lanes and protected intersections, changes in zoning to allow the ‘missing middle ‘ to be built to bring about 15 minute walkable/bikeable cities.
    Retreating to trails, away from the deadly dangerous urban desert may be essential to our cycling souls, but let it be an inspiration for demanding change in our built environments. Urban cycling doesn’t have to be a Deadly Dementor experience! If advocating for more accessible, liveable, bikeable, walkable urban environments earns me the label “Environmentalist”, I can live with it, but I don’t think it’s accurate.

Leave A Reply

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More