I wanted to write a quick little post on why I love my bicycle. There are, of course, very good urbanist and environmentalist reasons to love bikes-- they're clean, they're green, they take up very little space-- but this post isn't about those. I want to talk about the empowerment I feel when I get on a bike and go somewhere.
My bicycle is a machine to greatly expand my personal transportation ability. By using a bicycle, I can get to anywhere I need using only the strength in my legs. I need not rely upon any expensive infrastructure of fueling stations, auto parts stores and mechanics. It doesn't matter if I have any money in my bank account. So long as I can push the pedals, I can go places.
My bicycle is a transportation tool, but not a complex and expensive one like an automobile. There is nothing on my bike that I can't fix myself, using simple hand tools and a few choice expletives. When I hauled my old bicycle out of the campus impound, it was in awful shape- but $50 and a few hours of labor made it a reliable, if not well-tuned, ride. There is little on a bicycle whose function I can't figure out within a few minutes of looking and tinkering. Compare the simple elegance of the chain drive with the innumerable, oddly-shaped boxes under the hood of a car, with their tangle of wires and hoses emerging from every corner.
My bicycle cares not about schedules, fare tables, or bus and train breakdowns. It doesn't worry about arcane transfer policies, or whether I have my UCR ID for the farebox or the college discount. (Sometimes, I wish it did.) When I do feel like dealing with those things, my bicycle is happy to come along for the ride, and continue empowering my transportation choices once I get where I'm going.
With my bicycle, I can go anywhere within 50 miles, with nothing more than myself and a simple machine that I can fix with hand tools. It puts my transportation back in my hands- or, really, my legs.
My colleague refers to his bicycle as a "two-wheel freedom machine." I think that's about right.