Every holiday season, instead of receiving a bonus or gift from my employer, I get lots of days off; three weeks to be exact. Of course, I don’t get paid for these days off, so in my case it’s not a time for joyous celebration. However, I do enjoy spending time with my family and catching up on extraneous projects. Yet, this holiday season, U.S. Ikea employees will be receiving a bicycle. Oh, how I love bicycles. Too bad I don’t work for Ikea.
Now, I’m a big proponent of bicycles; they are energy efficient in that it takes little exertion to move quite quickly. Bicycling is a great way to get in shape, or keep in shape, and you can save money on fuel. It’s also a fun activity for most. However, as the residents of New York City are finding out through their expansion of their bicycle lanes, just because you “build it,” it doesn’t mean “they will come.”
So, with 12,400 bicycles on Ikea’s give-away list, does that mean that all of these employees will begin pedaling to work? The cynic in me is saying, probably not. But, “Why?”, is the more important question.
A few years ago, when gas prices skyrocketed to almost $5 a gallon, I began cycling to work myself. I couldn’t bear paying the price per gallon in fuel to drive only 10-miles round trip to work and back. I remember enjoying bicycle riding as a pre-car teenager and decided a bicycle would be a smart way to travel around town. I found a comfortable bike and began pedaling to and from Starbucks, work, and school. I really enjoyed riding, even in a city that lacks bicycle lanes and is entirely car-obsessed.
However, a few months later, gas prices started to sink back to more “normal” and reasonable levels. I still continued to ride my bike, but I found myself opting to drive for reasons such as, “It’s too windy,” or “I have too many errands today.” All of a sudden, I went from cycling 180 miles a month to a pitiful 50 miles if I was lucky.
At first, I blamed the lack of bicycle lanes on my decrease in riding. But I had found plenty of alternative streets to ride on that weren’t heavily trafficked, so I knew that wasn’t the real reason for my lack of riding. I then decided it was the weather that kept me off my bicycle. Yet, I live in sunny California where the whether is mild most of the year and a light-weight coat is all one needs to stay warm.
I knew the real reason, but it was hard to admit it. I was LAZY. Lazy because it was all too easy to hop in my car and drive to work. Lazy because it wasn’t costing an arm and a leg to fill up my tank. Lazy because there just aren’t many other bicyclists riding on the streets subconsciously encouraging me to ride my own bike.
Once I realized that I was the problem, I decided I wanted to fix it. I’ve begun riding my bike more often, but I still find myself making excuses for not riding as much as I could. So, what is the reason more people, like me, don’t ride their bikes? It’s not the lack of bicycle lanes and it’s not the weather; it’s the fact that it’s just too easy to drive. Cheap gas has created this problem, which has also created suburban sprawl (another topic all together). If our gas prices were double the amount, more people would have to figure out alternative modes of transportation, and the bicycle would be one option. An example where bicycle riding is more prevalent is in European cities where the cost of gas is much more expensive; it makes more sense to ride.
I’m not necessarily saying we need a huge increase in the cost of gas as there would be a trickle down effect that would increase the cost of practically everything. What I am saying, is that convenience and easy access to low cost fuel has made us, or at least me, lazy.
So will the 12,400 employees of Ikea begin riding their bikes to work? What do you think?