No one really wishes for things on America’s Independence Day. But they should. Not only should they celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed on July 4, 1776, but they should celebrate everything independence has brought to the country since then.
I was born and raised in the USA, so I have never experienced the type of broad restrictions on my freedom that many others in the world face every day. Native born Americans take freedom for granted because it’s all we’ve ever known. But, we shouldn’t.
Freedom is hard won and easily lost. Even a country which has survived for several hundred years could see the fall of its current government and be thrown at the mercy of a despotic regime. This is unlikely in the U.S., although not impossible.
Having freedom makes one want more freedom. And, while humans like to live in social groups, there is nothing like having the freedom to choose for oneself, as an individual.
Individual freedom is the hallmark of the diehard American cyclist. By choosing an alternative form of transportation, an American cyclist is making a statement, a choice to go against the grain.
The grain, of course, is motorized transportation. Although marketers have promoted the automobile as a symbol of freedom, one that is supposed to allow a driver to travel unfettered on the open road, it can be a burden in many ways.
Not only are there restrictions on where cars can go, cars come with taxes and fees, fuel costs and maintenance costs. A car owner is financially tied to a car. He or she is invested in it. And the older the car gets, the more costly maintenance becomes, especially relative to the value of the car. This is certainly not freedom.
When a car breaks down, it can’t just be locked in place or walked to a safe location. A truck must come and tow it to another location. Until the truck arrives, the driver is stranded with several tons of steel that won’t move. If there is no location nearby where the car can be stored until it can be repaired, towing fees can become prohibitive. This, too, is not freedom.
Unlike a car, a bicycle provides freedom in many ways. The most obvious is the low cost of ownership. Some bikes are relatively maintenance free. Even those requiring maintenance can often be kept in good operating condition for a nominal sum of money.
A bike can be taken to most places, even if there are no paved roads to travel on. In this way, a bike is more versatile. It doesn’t restrict a traveler with its size and fuel requirements.
Should a rider be unlucky enough to have a mechanical failure, the situation is always less dire than what one would experience with a car. Most repairs can be done by the cyclist, right on the side of the road.
Flat tires and other minor repairs only take a matter of minutes and then the cyclist can be on his way. On those rare occasions where a repair can’t be performed on the side of the road, the cyclist can call a friend, family member or a cab to take him home.
A bike can fit into almost any car or truck, allowing ordinary people to rescue the cyclist for no more than the cost of the fuel required to travel to where the cyclist has gotten stuck. This is certainly more economical and less stressful than what drivers experience. Rather than relying on strangers, a cyclist can rely on people he knows to help him out. There is no risk of getting ripped off with outrageous towing fees or putting one’s life at risk in dealing with people one has never met.
Riding a bicycle also frees one from the burden of finding a place to park and often paying a fee for that privilege. While it is always nice to find dedicated bicycle parking, many stationary objects will do in a pinch.
Parking meters, sturdy light posts, and fences can provide a secure place to lock a bike. Often such objects can be found very close to the cyclist’s destination, rending long walks from a parking place unnecessary.
Bicycles also offer freedom from obesity and from a host of health problems. Using one’s own body to power one’s transportation is not only a beneficial to health it can also help to elevate one’s mood.
Cyclists can celebrate all of these things, not only on Independence Day, but on every day of the year. But, back to wishing. As I said earlier, cyclists should wish for things on Independence Day.
They should wish for more freedom by wishing for cycling to become more mainstream to make it easier to travel by bike. They should wish for equal rights with drivers and a fair shake when involved in a crash with a car.
Essentially, cyclists should wish for the freedom to be different, to march to the beat of their own drummer, to choose a less restrictive way of life and travel. Most of all, cyclists should celebrate and broaden their independence from mindless conformity and their right to freely choose an alternate path in life.