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THE FERGUSON CYCLIST
by Gerry Noll

FEBRUARY 2009

Woe is me! Like a lot of us I followed the debate on President Obama's stimulus package with skepticism. (Don't lose me now, this will be a column on cycling!) It didn't seem like anyone really wanted to set and enforce the parameters that the stimulus package needed to meet. At some point one of the President's top economic advisers, Larry Summers, said that the stimulus needed to be "timely, targeted, temporary". Those are good solid parameters. But were they followed? No!

Personally I feel that the stimulus package is double-jinxed. First because it is not at all clear that it is going to succeed. And second because even if it does succeed it will be ignoring the simplest and most effective way to meet many of the President's agenda items.

At its barebones basics, the stimulus package attempts to support the President's agenda. Some of the President's agenda items most commonly mentioned are:

  • Invest in public works that strengthen the country's infrastructure
  • Invest in alternative and renewable energy
  • End our addiction to foreign oil
  • Address the global climate crisis
  • Promote public health

Each of these items can be found on the President's agenda website: (http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/).

My problem is not with the agenda. It's a good agenda. We should do those things. My problem is that there is a relatively simple solution that fully supports and meets many of the agenda items but is basically ignored. And that solution is cycling.

Imagine if $50 billion of the stimulus ($1 billion per state) were spent in making sure our road infrastructure provided safe and convenient routes that would enable people to bicycle to their most common destinations: work, the grocery store, church, etc.. That spending would be an investment in public works that would strengthen the country's infrastructure.

This spending would also automatically invest in alternative and renewable energy. Hey, guess what? We are all an alternative energy source! Each of us has within our bodies an amazing amount of energy stored in the form of fat. Listen to this statistic: the average lean 150 pound person has enough fat stored in their body to bicycle from New York City to Salt Lake City (Cycling Past 50 by Joe Friel, pg. 183)! And this energy is renewable. Every time we eat we are renewing our energy reserves. Some of us renew more than others!

Every mile cycled to common destinations is one less mile driven. This will help end our addiction to foreign oil.

By burning calories instead of fossil fuels at least a part of the global climate crisis is addressed.

And it doesn't take much imagination to see the positive effect that all of this cycling would have on public health.

Less dependence on oil, less pollution, less congestion, better air quality, better health; what's not to like?

So there it is: invest in a way that enables cycling as a safe and convenient method of transportation and get a 5-for-1. That's why this is a simple and effective way to accomplish many of the goals that the stimulus package is supposed to meet.

I'd be interested to know if you agree: is building cycling infrastructure a simple and effective way to accomplish many of the President's goals. Let me know. My email address is below.

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Now for some rides you might be interested in if you want to think ahead to nicer weather…

The rides below are organized by the Gateway Council of Hostelling International-USA. The rides appeal to all levels of cyclists, from recreational family groups who want a leisurely ride to dedicated cyclists who want to ride a "century" (100 miles). Just the names of the rides will give you a flavor of what to expect:

  • The Tour de Stooges - 12th edition. T-shirts and movies of the 3 Stooges; ride, then watch movies while eating lunch. Saturday, May 2
  • Strawberry Fields Forever - start at Eckert's Country Store in Belleville, IL during strawberry season, ride, pick or buy some strawberries. Saturday, May 23
  • Get Your Kicks on Route 66 - start in Eureka, listen to 50s music, guess which road you'll ride on? Saturday, June 27
  • Tour de Flood Plane - start at Mueller Soccer Complex, St. Charles. Saturday, July 25
  • The Moonlight Ramble - advertised as "The World's Original Nighttime Bicycle Ride", 10-15,000 riders start cycling at midnight in downtown Saint Louis. Saturday/Sunday, August 29/30
  • Johnny Appleseed Apple Pie Ride - ride begins at Mills Apple Farm in Marine, IL. After riding, pick apples. Saturday, September 26

As you can see, there are rides with interesting themes throughout the year. The entire 2009 schedule is posted at www.moonlightramble.com.

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If you want to talk about cycling, or comment on this column, you can reach me at: GRNoll@sbcglobal.net

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