Detroit may have given birth to the automobile, but with the recent jump in gas prices (not to mention the city’s ever-persistent ranking among the nation’s fattest), it’s clear that her beloved child has reached a turbulent patch of road.

Sarah Royce

With small hope for dropping gas prices, and, given current national energy policies, even smaller hope for a long-term sustainable energy solution, a handful of devoted commuters have offered up a different answer: the bicycle. Last Friday, Detroit celebrated its first annual Bike to Work Day, in which casual bike riders were encouraged to cycle their way to work in a city-wide display. Organizers hope one day of day peddling might inspire fellow Detroiters to ditch their cars in favor of the more energy- and cardio-friendly bicycle more often.

The ingenious endeavor seeks to get people thinking smart not only about the nation’s ever-worsening energy crisis, but also about their own wallets and waistlines. It comes in the middle of a similar month-long program for the city of Ann Arbor called Curb Your Car Month, which aims to raise awareness of alternative means of transportation around the city.

These campaigns are intended not to convert the entire populace to granola-chomping hippies, condoning only the most stringent of eco-friendly technologies, but simply as the presentation of a logical alternative. For many in the city, the morning commute of a few traffic-clogged miles in the sunny month of May is merely self-condemnation to a costly and unnecessary hassle. Yet this practice endures, in large part, because reliance on the personal automobile is so strongly ingrained into the psyche of America, especially in and around the motor city, thanks to the continued absence of a viable public transportation system.

By championing a new paradigm, Bike to Work Day and Curb Your Car Month propose a small change. Instead of driving that two miles to work, bike it. Not only will you feel energized and refreshed, but you’ll also get to enjoy the beautiful weather. Do it once, these programs ask; see if you like it. By calling on current bike commuters to set the example, the programs effectively further their message by showing that anyone, probably even someone you know, can do it.

True, the initiatives won’t solve the nation’s energy problems, but they do offer a solution that’s far more attractive to the average commuter. Consider: You can sit in your car on the way to sitting for another eight hours at work, you can curse the traffic as your fuel gauge shows your precious black gold disappearing from the tank in the stop-and-go nightmare and you can even curse the Republicans, the Democrats or the big oil companies. But will any of that, even coupled with meaningless, stop-gap measures like losing the gas tax and opening up more drilling sites do anything more significant than trim the price of gas by a few cents?

While you await a viable energy solution to save us all, take up the bike challenge and enjoy the ride.

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