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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Another one?

So here's a rarity.  Two posts in one day - and on the same subject; pithy sayings that reveal more about the people making them, then the people they are targeting.

This time, after being away from my computer for a few hours, I came back to find another graphic making the rounds.  This one is a combination of text an image.  On one side, there is a bicycle.  On the other, a car.

I'll bet you already suspect which one is demonized.

Over the bike, the text reads: This one runs on fat and saves you money.
Over the car, the text reads: This one runs on money and makes you fat.


I've said it before, and I'll say it again, because so far, nothing has shown me otherwise.  Logic is what people use to justify their emotional responses.  I now add to this, the stronger the emotional attachment, the more willing people are to suspend logic completely.

Let's look at the first part.  The bike, we are told, runs on fat.

Really?  Not too familiar with biology, are we?  Fat, of course, is basically stored energy.  Key word being "stored."  It's not going to do anything on its own.  What we use when riding a bike are our muscles.  Yes, I do realize that this statement implies that, if only we all just cycled more, we'd lose fat.

Which is bullshit.

Yes, some people do lose body fat when they increase their exercise levels.  Lots of people don't.  There are skinny cyclists and there are fat cyclists, and a fat person suddenly starting to cycle isn't going to miraculously become a skinny person.  Because bikes don't run on fat.  They run on muscle.  Now, I'm not going to go on yet another rant on how you can't judge a person's health by looking at them right now.  Suffice to say, there is a whole lot of ignorance and misinformation surrounding body fat. 

The second part of the statement tells us biking saves money.

Well, that depends.  If you're just tootling along a few blocks every now and then, you can get away with a cheap or second hand bike and minimal equipment.  Of course, there are helmets (if local laws require them).  And backpacks.  Water bottles.  Repair kits.  Lights and reflectors (cyclists, pleasepleasePLEASE don't skimp on lights and reflectors!).  Proper clothing and shoes.

For a dedicated cyclist, a good bike can easily set you back a thousand dollars or more, not counting equipment.  Others, just a few hundred dollars.  Still a lot cheaper than a car, but certainly not pocket change, either.

That's just for one person.  What about families?  For my own family, if we were to switch to cycling instead of our van, we'd need to multiply all the expenses by 4.  Still cheaper than a van, sure, but the cost is climbing fast.  For people with small children, there is the additional cost of child seats or trailers.  If cycling is one's primary mode of transportation, add in saddle bags or a trailer to haul the groceries or other such things.  One could, of course, just dangle the grocery bags off the handle bars, but that gets rather dangerous.  I speak from experience, there.

You can forget hauling anything big.  For that, you'd have to either borrow/rent a vehicle, pay someone else to deliver, or find some other way of hauling larger items.  Forget about hauling anything fragile, either.

You can also forget about helping other people out by giving them rides and whatnot. 

None of which covers another problem of cycling I know only too well - it can be surprisingly dangerous.  As someone who used to cycle as my primary mode of transportation, I try to be understanding and considerate of cyclists on the road.  They don't make it easy.  I know it's not a bike-friendly city that we live in, but when cyclists don't even try to follow the rules of the road, it frustrates the heck out of me.  Or scares the heck out of me as I find myself having to avoid killing someone who thinks it's a good idea to swerve in and out of traffic, run red lights, go from road to sidewalk and back again, and my personal "favourite," cycle and text at the same time.  Using both hands to text. 

But I digress.

Simple rebuttal; no, bikes don't run on fat.  They run on muscle.  And no, they do not make you skinny, either.  Do bikes save you money?  That all depends on your family needs and what use they'll be put into.  I'd say yes, with exceptions.

What about the next statement?  Do cars run on money?

Well, obviously they don't.  It's the price of fuel that's being referred to.  And yeah, fuel costs are getting ridiculously expensive.  That fact that these price increases are completely artificial and contrary to a free market economy doesn't help.  What about the cost of the vehicle?  Well, for us, the monthly cost of car payments plus insurance, plus fuel, plus maintenance does add up.  However, buying 4 adult bus passes per month is pretty much a car payment right there.  Buying four bikes, helmets and equipment?  Still a financial hit, but yes, cheaper than our van.  Not being able to buy in bulk makes food purchases more expensive.  Having to pay to deliver larger items, uncommon as that might be, also adds to the expense. 

As to the second part, does driving a car make you fat?

Just as the magical thinking involved in saying bikes run on fat, saying cars make us fat is false and misleading.  Cars can't make anyone fat.  The implication, of course, is that people who drive don't exercise, and if they don't exercise, they will become fat.

Ah, if only the world were so simple and magical.

Judging some one's body size by the fact that they drive a car is as ludicrous as judging a person's health by the size of their body. 

Of course, judging a person for driving is just plain stupid in the first place.  Unless you actually know a person's circumstance, you have no idea why they are driving.  We had some neighbours who would drive the two blocks to the store.  They were both thin, too.  So why did they drive?  Because being heavy smokers, they both found walking two blocks left them short of breath.  If you want to talk wasting money, there's a much better example! 

There are also other possibilities.  A person may be driving because they have health problems or injuries you know nothing about.  Their job might require them to go places and do things that cannot be done on a bike.  Who knows?

What I know, however, is that it's pretty rich for people to make such smug, judgemental statements about people based on what mode of transportation they use, and just plain stupid to make assumptions that those choices affect our body sizes.

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