January 21, 2021

How the Bike has impacted me, you, all of us since the day it was invented

By John Guy LaPlante

It has impacted how our country has developed, our society and culture, our very way of life, and all in unimaginably good ways.  Yet we know so little about all that.

But first,  I know, yes,  I know. It’s been a long time but here I am. It’s been nearly a month now and I’ve made the challenging and so life-changing transition from Connecticut to California and I’m in the groove again.

In fact I rode my trike today. The temperature was 55 and after several days of rain –  it’s winter here, too, and we get rain instead of snow –  the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the big clouds were gorgeous. I hopped on and started pedaling.

The plain fact is that in just a few weeks I’m going to hit 88. I can walk but it ain’t easy. But on my trike, Wow! It’s as if I have just slugged down a quart from the Fountain of Youth. It’s great for my muscles and even better for my mental health. My trike has a big cargo basket in the back and I can shop and do a lot of errands. And what fun!

I mentioned it before and here I go again. I rode a tricycle as a little boy, moved up to a bike when I was 10 and continued to ride right into my seventies. And here I am on a tricycle again. Lucky me.Sure, there were a few gaps here and there but I never lost my interest. In fact as I think back, nobody I know of pops up as having been as consistently active and  enthusiastic a rider as I’ve been.

Why am I telling you this? Well, just today in the online edition of the wonderful old Saturday Evening Post — yes, it has found a new life for itself  both in paper and digitally– I read a fascinating article on this multi-faceted and largely unknown impact the bicycle has had on us.  It has been humongous.

And today, as we know, particularly in our large cities, the bicycle is far more than just an interesting adult toy. It is an important and serious and for some, an essential personal vehicle. City after city is being redesigned with safe and practical special lanes to let it play its full role.  Even with fleets of “Here, take one and ride it” bikes.True also in large cities around the world.

I’ll bet most of you have been bike riders and have loved riding. Maybe some of you still bike. I hope so. Anyway, if you want a wonderful read, just Google “Backstory: How Bikes Built Our Highways.” It will take a minute and you won’t be sorry.The facts are so impressive and the details so fascinating.  You will be engrossed. Guaranteed!

For even more fun, Google “An Interview with Margaret Guroff on How Bicycles Built Our Cities.” You’ll be fascinated all the more.

While you’re at it, look over that edition of the Saturday Evening Post. I read it for years till it disappeared or seemed to. It’s just occurred to me you may be too young to have known iy. For years it was the country’s most popular weekly.  When it csame, Maman. French-speaking immigrant that she was, would suspend her housework and just curl up in her favorite chair for a good hour. She could read English a lot better than she could speak it. Well, the Post is back, just as a bi-monthly, but it’s very promising.

All this said,  I’m hoping that this will be just the first of a number of interesting posts that you will be receiving from me in this new year.

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