I just read a piece on GOOD Magazine's blog, analyzing a University of Massachusetts study that shows riding your bike is good for the economy. It was an interesting piece, but, as it happens, I didn't need a study to tell me that. I lived it.
Let me explain.
This Fourth of July weekend, my girlfriend and I took a trip down to San Diego to visit her sister. Instead of driving, we decided to ride our bikes to Union Station, take the train, and then ride to her sister's house in Ocean Beach--about fifteen miles of manual transportation in total.
We woke up at 6:30 in the morning, on a Saturday, to beat the heat and catch an early train. We were out the door by 7:30, cruising down Eagle Rock Boulevard with the cool morning wind in our hair. That was about the only thing that went according to plan.
A few miles into our ride, my girlfriend caught an unexpected nail to the tire. Not good. It was before 8:00 AM on a holiday weekend, we were miles away from our house with a flat tire and weren't carrying any spare tubes. And the temperature was rising. Thankfully, in this era of smart phones, we found a bike shop that was open at 9:00 AM, three miles away. So we walked it, buses seemingly impossible to come by this particular morning.
With the temperature rising above ninety, carrying our luggage and wheeling our bicycles by hand, stops were frequent. We stopped for water, we stopped for breakfast, we stopped at a pharmacy just to get some air conditioning. Of course we eventually stopped at the bike shop to fix the flat. Moments later, after leaving the shop and riding, her tire was flat again. Bum tube. Another mile back to the bike shop.
Overall contribution to the local economy: around 70 bucks. Not including the train tickets.
But here's the thing: I'm not complaining. It was a great day.
First off, I not have a tan. And not just on my driver's forearm. Legs, face, the whole deal. I got to try Pat & Lorraine's unbelievable chile verde omelette. I mean UNBELIEVABLE. Better yet, I got plenty of exercise, so I didn't have to feel bad about eating a 3,000 calorie breakfast. And instead of traffic-induced road rage on I-5, I was drinking a Bloody Mary in the cafe car, watching the coastline fly by.
Yes, we got to San Diego about five hours later than anticipated. But that just meant we were able to take a beautiful, evening bike ride around the harbor.
So yeah, biking is good for the local economy--extracting a few more dollars out of me than I would have spent otherwise. But the day was a journey. It was unexpected. And it was a whole lot more fun than stewing in traffic.
The L.A. Vitamin Report is a column about quality of life issues by Matthew Fleisher. It is brought to KCET's SoCal Focus blog in partnership with Spot.Us, which receives support from the California Endowment.