Hey everybody, meet Doug. You can’t see Doug – he’s just out of frame taking a picture of his bike with 350lbs of firewood on it, but trust me, he’s there. I know he’s there because I’ve been following him on various social media platforms for several years now and am privy to all sorts of bike shenanigans on his part.
I’ve also seen Doug carry groceries, construction materials, recyclables, pets, his own kids, the kids of strangers AND full grown adults – on this same bike. I’ve seen him do all these things in the winter too. And no, not that winter you get. Like REAL winter that you see in movies. Doug lives in Calgary. I’ve seen his teen-aged son, who rode in the bike initially, now ride the same bike – laden with 200lbs of recyclables to the bottle depot. I’ve also seen is the multi-day bike packing and cross-country skiing camping trips that he’s taken his wife and two kids on. I’ve seen his kids go from being funky little monkey groms hanging in and out and all over the basket of this bike to being active, healthy youngsters riding their own bikes on big adventures.
Doug’s not superhuman. He is rather furry and could possibly be mistaken for Bigfoot given poor lighting, distance, and if one could imagine Bigfoot captaining a cargo bike. No. Doug possesses no superpowers that I’m aware of. I’m going to go out on a limb here because I don’t know Doug personally, but at some point in his past, my guess is, Doug decided he was going to be more open-minded about what could be done on and with a bicycle. And really, that was it. That’s all he had to do. That’s all you have to do.
I’m betting you could do that too. If Bigfoot Doug can carry 350lbs of firewood, I bet you could carry your laptop and lunch to work. Or two bags of groceries. Or possibly your kid in a properly outfitted bike or trailer. Remember being a kid? I mean who WOULDN’T want to be pulled around in one of the trailers available now? How much fun would THAT be? I want someone to pull me around now.
You don’t have to give up your car. I think Doug has a car. I’m not sure. Really I don’t care. But you don’t. You don’t have to ride in the rain. Or snow.* Or if you’re sad because the Walking Dead season is over (but the reality is that the fresh air might help). All you have to do is change the way you think about the possibility of the bicycle.
We’re living in a world that is also populated by a guy unlike Doug. This guy drives a 5,000 pound car, recklessly in a hurry, without regard for anyone but himself. HE is the most important guy. This guy sometimes even stops to harass and assault cyclists (and probably anyone different than him) on the road. Guys like him sometimes even KILL or MAIM cyclists with their cars but often get off with little more than probation or a fine. This guy is probably overweight. Unhealthy. Maybe he’s even got his kids in the car with him. Think of the example he is setting. He is not a happy guy. Let’s call this guy ‘Dick’. I think we all know a Dick. Maybe we have one as a neighbor, a co-worker, heck, some of them even run countries. There’s Dicks out there everywhere, and often times they’re the ones normalizing really bad behavior quite simply because they are the loudest and most assertive.
The challenge of transport and utility cycling is that it’s seen as inconvenient, hard, uncomfortable or crazy. Why in the hell would anyone do that? Well, why in the hell would anyone behave like Dick? The more people choose to change their minds about cycling and the benefits of it, the more accepted and normal it will become. We need to normalize bicycle transport and travel. Taking the car for short trips or to work should be what’s seen as odd, because the fact of the matter is that statistically cycling for these activities MAKES A CRAPLOAD MORE SENSE. Fuel and money savings. Mental and physical health. Sustainability. Social structure and community. I’m not going to reference the stats here – they’re all over the Internet. Go find ‘em. Or don’t. That’s what Dick would do.
The best way to normalize cycling, specifically for transport, utility and commuting, is to just do it. The more people do it, the more normal it will become. The more municipalities will have to provide the necessary infrastructure and legal protections for cyclists. Normalize it. Thinking you can ride your bike to the store or the library or to work or to pick up your kids or to soccer practice or in the rain or in the snow is not crazy and it shouldn’t be thought of as such. All things considered it actually makes the MOST sense. You CAN do it. Anyone can do it.
Don’t be a Dick. Be like Doug. Or maybe be just a little bit like Doug, ‘cause carrying 350lbs of firewood? Maaaan, that shit be craaaazzzy.
*Truth be told, ask any experienced cyclist – properly outfitted, riding in the rain and/or snow can be an absolute blast. And not properly outfitted? Well then that just makes for a great story at parties.