Sunday, June 08, 2008

Are you ready to go to BAT for the planet?

It's baseball season, but that wasn't the sport I was watching today. Instead it was Tri-madness here in the Bay area. Bookended with the Accenture Escape from Alcatraz (and yes that is the full name, it was funny to hear one of the announcers forget Accenture, and redouble to make sure it was included) in San Francisco. This is a international field event where participants swim from Alcatraz, ride around the beautiful Presidio and Golden Gate Park and finish a run and back in the Presidio. Down South, participants tested their mettle at the San Jose International Triathlon. Hats off to all the athletes that participated.

Triathlon is a gear crazy sport, the top athletes spend the gross domestic products of many small countries on their kit, mostly on their bikes. These are impressive pieces of machinery, specially designed for fast flat courses. Most every triathlete is a pretty competent bike rider. But one thing almost all rely on is an extra piece of gear. A car! Despite their fine tuned bicycling physiques, most triathletes fall into the category of recreational riders. They ride their bikes for exercise or competition. So to ride their bike they put their bike on or in an automobile Now I'm not going to just pick on triathletes, the same goes for mountain bikers as well. Heck, I've been guilty of putting my bike into my car for a training ride. It's a shame since most of them could easily bike their commute without literally breaking a sweat (though they may want to pick up a beater bike).

But to make an impact on the environment, it might make sense to exchange some of those training miles for some commuting miles. We have to start thinking of "Bikes As Transport" or BAT. Bicycling as a means for us to get around in our daily lives. Once you get up to shape, the riding isn't that difficult. If you're putting 30 - 40 mile training rides, a 10 mile bike commute isn't going to kill you. I decided to ride to San Jose to attend an extracurricular event that I normally would have driven (25 miles). Difference in time 30 minutes if you include the time it would have taken to park the car. I didn't have to pay for gas or parking and it ended up being my (albeit a little light) training ride for the weekend.

As fun as bikes are to race, I think Grant Petersen got it right way back in 1992:

In 1992 you said the following on the future on cycling:

“The best use of a bicycle is commuting, it’s not racing or competing or recreation or anything like that. Ultimately its best use is getting cars off the roads and the government is not sympathetic to that idea at all.

source: Pushbutton

Now before readers think hey your some super athlete, no I'm not. My times are very middling, so what I propose is not limited to the super-athlete.

It's summer, so you ready to step up to the plate and take a swing at BAT?


At 9:53 AM , Blogger arduous said...

This is a great point, Charles and this is why I walk to the metro station. Because when I walk to the metro, I am multi-tasking, getting my exercise and my morning commute in one.

It's too bad that we tend to only view something as "exercise" if we're properly outfitted for it and we're single-minded in our exercise pursuit. Just think of all those miles marathoners and triathletes log. If instead of running 5 miles and driving to work, they ran 5 miles to work, that would be awesome!

But, we also have to see more offices become receptive to that, by installing showers at the office and changing rooms. Because while I am perfectly happy walking two miles and not changing, I would never run 5 miles and not change.

At 12:22 PM , Blogger Melissa said...

I'm biking as much as I can for groceries and stuff, but I've got to tell you, if you're not into biking as a sport and aren't super into it, it's kind of scary with the way people in, they don't seem super concerned with whether or not they run you over.

At 9:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I are triathletes, and he's been commuting by bike for 15 years. But here's the thing--the triathlons generally are not within commuting distance. And you're not just carrying the bike. Maybe there are triathletes who can bike 20 miles, compete, and bike home, while carrying all the gear, but I'm not one of them. So, yeah, we drove to the race start.

At 10:43 PM , Blogger Charles said...


I do have to agree that biking can be scary and some of the car drivers out there are down right hostile to bicyclists. I do know that there is something about familiarity, and at least here in Silicon Valley there is an increasing number of cyclists and drivers are becoming more aware of them, and that awareness is leading to better driving.

As to anonymous,

I completely agree that triathlons are usually far away, and you are there to compete. Riding to an event is not usually feasible and against your goals of performing well.

The point I was trying to get across in my post was that I would like to see recreational cyclists also consider their bicycles for getting to work or running errands. They have the conditioning where using their bike to ride to work is not as difficult as someone who doesn't ride as often.

You're husband is already doing a fantastic thing by being both an athlete and a commuter.

I drive (though last triathlon I was fortunate enough to carpool) to my events. But wouldn't it be cool to be in that good a shape :)

At 11:54 PM , Blogger Melissa said...

Charles, I saw this yesterday I think I am going to check it out to see what they have to say; I'll let you know if anything interesting comes of it.


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