Maximum Unsustainability – The Worst Ways to Ride Your Bike

Riding a bike is a sustainable, green, eco-friendly transport option, right? Well, “it’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it” as the old saying goes. If you want to know how to destroy the planet faster, undermine community spirit and generally be ‘part of the problem’ in all ways possible by riding your bike, then you’ll love this step-by-step guide!

1. The more greenhouse emissions, the better!

As a bike rider, you can drastically contribute to greenhouse emissions and climate change in a major way, and I’m not talking about having a big dinner of baked beans the night before a bike ride! It’s easy really. You see, the maximum sustainable speed of a bike rider who ‘goes really fast’ is about 30 km/h, which is around the speed at which sight-impaired pensioners drive. This is really convenient because traffic simulations show that when the average speed for a car normally traveling at 60 km/h drops below 30 or 40 km/h, fuel consumption increases significantly, as do emissions of NOx, CO, and HC. [1]

Why? Internal combustion engines that use petrol (or ‘gasoline’ as some know it) run at maximum efficiency when running quite fast, at the peak of their torque curve, and are at their most inefficient and dirtiest in terms of emissions when running slowly.

The savvy unsustainable bike rider can take advantage of these limitations of engine design. If you ride really slowly in peak hour traffic and get a nice long queue of traffic backing up behind you, all those poor fools will pump out more greenhouse gases than you ever could by just driving a car yourself, all while you pedal away at a leisurely rate. The longer you delay them, the more emissions you get up there into the atmosphere. It’s brilliant, isn’t it? If anybody questions your actions, simply remind them that you’re ‘doing your thing for the planet’ by riding a bike, and insisting that it’s your right to ride on the road. If there’s a dedicated bike lane on the same road, well that does make it a little harder, but there’s a simple solution.

2. Keep it impractical for maximum inconvenience!

Those annoying bike lanes put in by do-gooder governments that are cropping up everywhere make life unnecessarily harder for the unsustainable bike rider. You can even get in trouble with the law for not using a bike lane and riding outside of it in the traffic, now how unreasonable is that?

Never mind, the innovative unsustainable rider has a simple solution. You see, car drivers have to undergo road-worthiness checks to ensure that their vehicles are fit and proper to be driven on public roads, which is why they aren’t allowed to drive full-blown racing cars such as Formula One cars or drag racing cars on the road. Luckily there are no such laws for bike riders. Great hey?

Now, if you’re clever, you’ll pick a bicycle that is a pure racing design that is only suitable for the smoothest of surfaces (like a track or velodrome) to ride around on the road with. It’s important to pick the thinnest, hardest tires that can’t handle the wet, and the most lightweight rims with the least spokes which are tensioned so high that the rims will catastrophically buckle if you go over a tiny pebble. Also, if you have the money, get the lightest and most delicate carbon frame you can to ensure that you can’t handle any bumps without cracking your front forks. All done? Excellent. Congratulations, you now have a bike that is totally unsuitable and incapable of riding on bike tracks, because any bump, crack, imperfection or irregularity on the track surface will lead to inevitable disaster, forcing you to ride on the road instead. Told you there was a solution!

What if someone questions your choice of bicycle? Just tell them you’re a ‘serious rider’ which is why you need a full racing bike that’s only really suitable for the track rather than a practical commuter bike with thicker tires with a tread that can manage a variety of surfaces and conditions and racks or panniers for carrying things. To pull this act of convincingly, you need to remove all safety equipment from your bike, such as bells, reflectors, and lights, because they’re totally uncool and so ‘commuter’, but make sure you don’t say that. Instead just tell everyone that as a ‘serious rider’ you are concerned about ‘aerodynamic drag’ (sounds impressive) and that these mandatory safety accessories increase wind resistance and slow you down, so you have to remove them for pure efficiency reasons.

Remember, there’s no need to worry about not having any safety equipment, even though it’s required by law in many places, because as a ‘serious rider’ you’ll only be decking out in full lycra gear in good weather, transporting your expensive racing bike to location with your fuel-inefficient four-wheel drive which has the aerodynamics of a house brick, riding around with friends for a bit and finishing around midday in front of a popular café where you’ll park your fancy bikes in a row so everyone can see you. Keep in mind that daytime riding with a lot of people around is the only worthwhile time to ride because there’s no point of showing off an expensive piece of kit with nobody around to see it. Also, the cyclist hierarchy is everything, and in low light, passers-by can’t tell the difference between a crappy entry level groupset and a pro-level Shimano Dura-Ace or Campagnolo Record groupset on your bike!

3. The roads are your recreational race track and activist platform!

As an unsustainable ‘serious rider’ you may not be satisfied with the weekend warrior café-racer routine and might want to put in some extra training to get ‘better times’. As you may be aware, your ‘times’ entitle you to bragging rights so these are extremely important, in the same way, that the price of your bike really matters. The question is, where and when to train?

The answer is simple, on the road during peak hour! You see, roads are designed for transportation, they keep society running, and it’s illegal to use roads for recreation, which is why people get arrested for car racing and why kids aren’t allowed to play sport there or why joggers have to use the pavement. This should be a clear invitation to the unsustainable rider to use the roads as a training ground by traveling to and from work at peak hour on the road, while only focussing on training goals and completely ignoring what the traffic is doing. How can you be 100% focused on your training if you need to have awareness of your surroundings and have to consider what others are doing, right?

You must use the road because you can really ride fast there, as fast as you can in fact, without being slowed down by annoying commuter cyclists or pedestrians that stray across your path, stuffing up your ‘times’. How inconsiderate that they slow you down, take your concentration off riding as fast as possible by forcing you to be aware of your surroundings when you’re seriously trying to cut a few seconds off your personal best! It’s really intolerable. You’re truly justified in hating them with a vengeance!

By riding on the road, where everyone is faster than you, you’re are no longer being held up by anyone because you’re now the slow one holding up others, which is a perfectly logical solution for the unsustainable rider. It’s not hypocritical to complain about slow pedestrians but then hold up drivers because you have a social activism role to play out in peak hour traffic amongst all those cars and trucks. Placing yourself in unnecessary danger is part of the sacrifice you make to spread the word.

The sacrifices don’t end there. Engaging in strenuous physical activity, with an increased breathing rate and air intake, while in the thick of carcinogenic car and truck exhaust fumes is the training regime of heroes and champions! Riding along quiet, tree-lined bike tracks away from the busy traffic with clean air all round is for wimpy bike commuters, every ‘serious rider’ knows that!

As a ‘serious rider’, being elite has its price, you have the responsibility of acting as a ‘cycling activist’ representing the rights of all the cycling ‘community’, which even includes the commuter cyclists rabble who ride around on cheaper bikes in all weather and at night, day in day out, without racing lycra plastered with sponsorship logos, you know the types who really try to keep out of the way of the traffic. It is up to you to remind the world that cyclists have equal rights to ride on the road whenever they like, and the best time to remind the world is when there’s the largest numbers of cars on the road of course.

4. Community spirit is for wimps!

Now, I must come to that unmentionable topic, shared paths with pedestrians. What can I say, seriously, what do people expect, a finely-tuned twelve grand carbon-fibre racing bike can’t race on inferior surfaces of shared paths, let alone when they’re filled with annoying pedestrians!

If worse comes to worse, and you’re forced to ride on a shared path, what do you do though? This is a dilemma that every ‘serious rider’ will eventually face. There is a protocol for this scenario which is adhered to by all ‘serious riders’. The key point to remember is that it’s all about you, there’s no cycling community, that’s all greenie hippy do-gooder nonsense, the only people that matter are a few elite riders vying for top spot. Sure, you’re just a middle-class thirty-something to forty-something corporate male yes-man by day, but the world doesn’t understand that you’re a breed apart, that you’re really in the ranks of Cadel Evans when you don the lycra, much like how Clark Kent becomes Superman when he swaps his corporate uniform for spandex tights. The road is a race track and it is all about male ego and competition, who has the best bike, who has the best times, who has the latest designer lycra gear for the season – that’s what really matters.

Being all about you, the rest is easy if you’re ever stuck on a shared path. Remember, you’re at the top of the food chain here, you’ll only find inferior life forms such as other cyclists (mainly complete amateurs or even worse, commuters), joggers, mums with kids or prams, dog-walkers and elderly people going for a stroll. Since you’ve removed your bell (because it’s seriously uncool… er, um, because it introduces speed-robbing aerodynamic drag, yes, that’s it) you can’t ring it to alert annoying pedestrians that you’re coming through, that’s no longer an option.

If you’re lucky to find a shared path which is quite smooth which will allow you to seriously gun it at high speed without any risk of buckling your expensive lightweight rims, you might be able to work on your ‘times’, so you don’t want to slow down under any circumstances. So how do you get your speed up and avoid a collision with one of these nuisance pedestrians which may ruin your day by making you drop and scratch your precious bike?

There are two accepted methods for clearing the shared bike path of inferior people. The first is the ‘icebreaker’ – if there are narrow gaps between people, even if the gaps seem too narrow, you can try riding through them as fast as possible without warning the pedestrians. By the laws of physics, which can be explained through the concept of ‘vectors of force’ [2] you’ll find they get displaced sideways and the bike rides straight through. This works particularly well when approaching pedestrians from behind because they don’t see you coming. The second I call the ‘freight train’, which is indispensable when dealing with obstacles you can’t easily ride through. To perform this technique, maintain top speed and start shouting expletives at whoever is in your way as loud as you can, and continue swearing as you pass through to remind them who rules the shared paths. This works very effectively against nice, friendly, kind, community-minded people.

5. Pollute the oceans then toss it out!

Last but not least, you can’t be an unsustainable ‘serious rider’ without lovin’ the lycra! The great thing about the high fashion lycra cycling gear is that, like all fashion, it’s seasonal and ultimately disposable. Who wants to be seen wearing last season’s clothing! Yes, sure the fake sponsorship decals make you a walking billboard that you’re not being paid a cent to advertise, but amongst other lycra wearers, it looks good, for a while a least.

For the short period that you’ll own your fashionable lycra gear, make sure you wash it often. Technical athletic wear such as lycra cycling gear, yoga pants, and synthetic fleece jackets shed huge amounts of microscopic plastic fibres each time they’re washed. The result? An estimated 1.7 million tons of microfibers enter the ocean each and every year. This microplastic pollution gets swallowed by marine life and become embedded into their tissues, something fish-eating humans might be concerned about! [3][4] This will earn you easy unsustainability points without even putting rubber to the road. It’s a real convenience to be able to still have a negative impact on the planet and pollute the oceans and the food chain between bike rides.

As we all know, no ‘serious riders’ ride in cold or rainy weather, that’s only something ‘pleb commuter riders’ do. So, what can the unsustainable rider possibly do for half the year to trash the planet? Let’s face it, if you’re not riding, you can’t hold up traffic, bowl over pensioners on shared paths, piss people off in general and make an antisocial nuisance of yourself, can you? Fortunately, all is not lost, for this is the time to sort through your lycra clothing collection and toss the last seasons clothing into the bin, which goes into landfill, and being a synthetic petroleum-based fabric, it’s a non-renewable resource. Bingo, done!

If that’s not enough, you can browse through retail catalogues and eye off the new season bike models. Overconsumption here we come! Yes, that new carbon-fibre bike is a whole fifty grams lighter, so you seriously need to toss that two-year-old bike you have, it’s so dated, and spend a cool 15K on this new baby! Sweet! Happy shopping.

(To all concerned readers, yes, this article is actually written tongue-in-cheek, with liberal doses of sarcasm. The author is a common commuter rider with no aspirations to win the Tour de France. He owns two bicycles, a mountain bike which he converted into an electric bike himself and a flat bar road bike. Both of his bikes have front and rear lights, reflectors, pannier racks, all-weather tires, and bells. His electric bike even has rear-view mirrors! For one and a half years his sole means of transport were his bikes and public transport. Having experienced the displeasure of being hit by a car from the rear at night with normal intensity bike lights on, he now has a new appreciation for very bright bike lights and high visibility pedal and wheel reflectors. In all seriousness – Ride safely, stay alive, keep out of harm’s way, and use the bike tracks when they’re available.)

References

1. Pelkmans, L., Verhaeven, E., Spleesters, G., Kumra, S., and Schaerf, A. 2005. Simulations of Fuel Consumption and Emissions in Typical Traffic Circumstances. SAE Tech. Paper.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271450373_Simulation_of_fuel_consumption_and_emissions_in_typical_traffic_circumstances_in_Belgium.

2. Basic Vector Operations – Georgia State University – http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/vect.html

3. The Case Against Yoga Pants and Other Technical Athletic Wear by Dr. Mercola – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/03/29/microfibers-yoga-pants-athletic-wear.aspx

4. Your Yoga Pants Are Polluting The Oceans, The Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/yoga-pants-microfiber-ocean-pollution_us_58d006e9e4b00705db51431e

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12 thoughts on “Maximum Unsustainability – The Worst Ways to Ride Your Bike

  1. Funny! I share the sentiment of the article. Unfortunately the sarcastic tone only ensures agreeable head-nodding from other like-minded cyclists, rather than inspiring self-reflection or (gasp) actual change from the oblivious offenders.

  2. I’m going to have to read this more carefully but as a serious e-bike commuter & traveller I believe I concur!

  3. I share your sentiments. Cycling is no more an ordinary means of commuting. Like with many of the simpler ways of sustaining life ( food, farming, clothing, buildings) cycling has also been taken up by the elitist making into more of a professional sport with exorbitantly pricey accessories to go with it. As you say the worst is the gas guzzling SUV’s luggibg sports bike and the so-called activist owner who never commutes by public transport but design transport policies.

  4. I intended my article to convey many important points on several levels, even though it’s written in the tone that it is!

    From a permaculture design perspective, the take home message is that the elements themselves do not make a design a permaculture design, it is their relationship to the things around them that does, and how they work together as a holistic solution.

    Adding bikes to society is not necessarily a step forward in sustainability as the article humorously illustrates. It depends on where bikes are put and how they are used in relationship to the existing ‘landscape’. It’s a bit like how some beginner permaculture designers throw a herb spiral anywhere in a garden design without working out the relationships to surrounding elements and assume that makes it permaculture.

    I almost forgot that ‘serious riders’ would never be caught dead wearing a reflective vest because those are worn by commuters, and that’s mega-uncool. Really, life-saving equipment day and night. Reduces the chances of ‘I didn’t see you’ accidents with cars.

    From a safety perspective, another cyclist group that I’ve encountered who are not problematic to others, but are highly dangerous are the ‘Bike Ninjas’. These are teenagers and young people who ride around at night in dark clothes with no lights and are a danger (to themselves) because they’re completely invisible! I’ve seen some local governments running programs handing out free bike lights to young people who might not have the money to purchase them – hats off to those running these community programs ensuring young cyclists are visible on roads at night.

  5. I agree with the article, but the sarcastic tone is awful and has made me very sad indeed. Negativity rarely ever helps such people to change. The question remains: is it sustainable to drive a humble old bike with light, reflectors and hand indication signs, whilst respecting all pedestrians and commuters alike, always giving way to faster traffic well beforehand, using all the road signs and bike lanes respectfully, instead of getting my petrol car out? Please do help people understand what to do instead of not to do. Thank you for teaching us!

    1. Thanks for your comment, yes agreed it is sad indeed when things get so absurd in the cycling world that we can write truthful satire about unsustainable bike riding behaviour (which the perpetrators think is justifiable)!

  6. My only misgiving concerns commuting on the road in places where there are no cycle lanes. This is a behaviour I engage in regularly. Sustainable or unsustainable?

    1. Hi Joshua, unfortunately some areas are seriously lacking in bike tracks, and when I do have to use such roads, I choose quieter side roads and short cuts where possible. This way, I’m not breathing in poisonous car exhaust fumes or getting splashed with filthy water coming off car tyres in wet weather, and generally out of harm’s way.

      When I do have to use main roads while riding a bike, I am mindful not to hold up traffic. If people (drivers or other cyclists) want to get past me, I allow them when it is safe to do so, as I do when I’m driving. It only takes a moment to show courtesy and prevent others getting frustrated.

      Riding time is also important, leaving earlier or later can avoid peak hour traffic chaos and make for a much safer and more pleasant ride.

      Having mirrors or doing regular rear head checks allows cyclists to see what’s happening behind them, and being aware of surroundings is a good way to stay alive.

      The article is framed in the opposite as a joke, by not doing what’s written in the article, I believe we can ride more sustainably.

  7. WhT [edit] was that all about?
    Having to wade through all that half heartedly while labouring upon any real attention to detail cos it was some sort of internal deal for the author…was bloody irritating!!!
    I love cycling, it lifts and heals the soul….so I was looking for an equally elegant experience here!!!!, not some [edit] linguistic spew, as akward and constipated and unenlightened as the infrastructure we often ride upon!!!!

    1. Hi Kane, this article is simply about how to ride more sustainably and with a greater community focus, two things that matter to us in the permaculture world.

      I’ve described the actual real-world behaviour of a minority of unsavoury cyclists, which any reasonable person would find objectionable, and which reads like a joke bacause it’s so absurd, and you find that offensive?

      What lifts my spirits is the feeling of mutual goodwill when people respect each other and exercise common courtesy on the roads, it’s a rare and beautiful thing to see people treating each other well. Similarly, so does riding peacefully and safely away from the chaos of dangerous traffic and poisonous exhaust fumes, with nobody holding me up, riding at the pace I choose while I take in the beauty of Nature around me that all the people in a real hurry miss altogether.

  8. Bike-nazis, bike supremacists, narciss-cyclists… All terms describing the elite snobbishness addressed in your article. So what’s the cure for self centered egotism? I think it’d be wonderful if a really funny movie with great comedians was done to address and show the silliness of these issues.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I think the cure for the self centered egotism driving this phenomenon is awareness and community.

      When those engaging in this behaviour realize that that we don’t buy their bull$%*# and see it for what it is, that other cyclists, pedestrians and other road users see them as a joke, this might hopefully bring them some much needed self awareness reflected back from their community.

      Then they’ll realise why all the derogatory names exist to describe them, because there’s a reason, and their behaviour is the cause of it! You can add ‘MAMILS’ (middle aged men in lycra) and ‘lycra wankers’ to the list you’ve already mentioned.

      I agree you can do a great comedy because the behaviour is laughable, yet they take themselves so seriously. That’s basically asking for someone to take the piss out of them!

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