The Power and Joy of an Oil-Free Commute by Dave Snyder, Executive Director, SFBC

I've always considered bicycling a powerful political statement. That statement is more obvious today than ever, with the oil wars coming closer to home, as was inevitable.

I say "inevitable" based on history: Whenever power over a global resource is so concentrated, wars over that resource occur. Merely a dozen countries and a dozen private companies control access to oil, and the only leverage the U.S. has in that industry is its military. It's completely understandable that we would invest billions of dollars in protecting the oil supply we are so dependent upon. This is not a war against terror, it's a war for oil.

I'm reminded of a thesis by Ivan Illich from his book Energy and Equity. Illich theorized a connection between the volume of energy that a society uses and the degree of equity possible in that society. He said that a society's energy production and distribution systems can promote equity only up to a point. Relatively large amounts of energy - too much electricity, too much gas - require undemocratic, inequitable systems: huge utilities, disparate access to energy, nuclear power plants. As a bicyclist, you'll love the next step in his theory. He said that speed is a kind of energy and therefore a society's transportation system can be democratic and equitable only up to a certain speed: about 15 mph - the speed of a bicycle. If people expect to go faster, people should also expect inequitable production and delivery of the transportation resource.

Looking at the absurdity that you have more rights to drive a huge car at high speeds on public property than you do to drive a small bicycle at gentle speeds, it's hard to argue with his point. Looking at the billions of dollars spent by our government to wage war and curb civil liberties on behalf of a few oil companies, it's hard not to argue on behalf of his point.

That's the angry side of the political statement of riding a bicycle.

But the reason bicycles are such a powerful political statement is because there's another side - joy. Boycotting oil is essential to boycotting war, but our message can be positive, too: ride a bicycle. Bicycling is fun! It brings health and well-being for you and your neighbors (even if they don't ride)! You'll look good, feel good, save money, be happy. It's Bike to Work month, so encourage your loved ones to ride a bicycle to work on Thursday, May 16. When I started riding, it was about biking to work. I started out only once a week, because the ride was a long one, between the Haight and Fort Mason over a huge hill, but after a while, I got addicted to the healthy endorphins. This powerful political statement became a really easy one to make.