Thursday, September 12, 2019

Locomotion

The  City of Key West is planning on restricting electric bicycles and banning electric scooters from sidewalks and I wonder  about all this emphasis on keeping people in cars. 
There is a moral element to the act of riding a bicycle that crops up in conversations all the time. I am pretty much alone in my belief that anything that can help reduce the number of cars on the streets eases traffic congestion. It would seem to be a simple enough proposition and the addition of modern electric motors and relatively effective batteries would encourage someone like me to think things will be even better.
But they are not. There is an upwelling of disapproval, dare I say puritanical rejection of electric motors because they make riding a  bicycle too easy. I know people to whom the concept of exercise is alien as the concept of cooking their own pets, yet when you bring up the subject of electric bikes they get a glint in their eyes and reject them with a severe sniff and a filthy look at you pointing out they want the bicycle for the exercise. 
I suppose one has to blame those professionals who keep telling us a little exercise is better than none and riding a bike or walking a dog is good enough to do some good. Personally I've been walking dogs for years and as much as I enjoy it and as little as I enjoy the gym by comparison, the results only come with the hard work of sweating in a  controlled environment.
Going for a stroll gets a big thumbs up from me and riding a bike is fine but if it's exercise you're after you need to build your muscles. I read once that muscles are like motors, the bigger they are the more energy they burn so if you have small muscles you can ride a bike till Kingdom Come and the number of calries your burn will be minimal. And those of us that like calories need to pay attention. 
From my perspective electric motors on bicycles will get people out of cars and onto two wheels and clear the streets of some traffic. These aren't  going to be necessarily exercise fanatics but they may be people intimidated by the thought of pedaling wildly and an electric motor may be just the ticket.
But now we have the usual backlash against a novel idea especially as  electric bikes are taking off. The ones most in the cross hairs are electric scooters which have no pedals. It's funny that I bought a cheap model from Costco to avoid the traffic jams next year when the bridge into Key West is going to be partially closed but it's not a machine I particularly aim to ride much beyond that. I live 23 miles from work so an internal combustion scooter such as I already ride is the ticket for me most of the time. However the problem with the modern electric scooter is that the state is woefully behind the  curve on designating licensing requirements for electric two wheelers. They can't be registered as motorbikes as they lack vehicle identification numbers but if they don't have pedals they aren't bicycles. So what are they? Eventually Tallahassee will come up with an answer. Maybe. 
In the meantime the morality brigades argue the purpose of a bicycle that has always been human powered and now may not be. Happily there is always a reason to get upset and even though street electric bikes are governed to  not exceed 28 miles per hour there are the angry commentators who act as though cars are the only solution. Around town I prefer to walk, with Rusty of course and my camera but for many city residents a bicycle is their means of transport and for many others the electric motor has proved irresistible. Yet they are viewed with condescension at best.
Parking is always problematic in the eight months of the year the city is crowded but scrabbling over parking spaces is apparently preferable to encouraging transport innovation. We humans are bizarre.