One would think that choosing to ride a bike instead of driving a car would be the biggest no-brainer eco-friendly move of the day. What mode of transportation could be more “green”? Calories are the only fuel needed and your breathing–which you would be doing anyway–is the only CO2 emitted. Cut and dry. Done deal.
Well, not in our world. Last fall, I volunteered my husband to take our son to his friend’s house. His friend lives, at most, a mile away. It was a gorgeous day and my son loves nothing better than to ride his bike. If he could bike while sleeping, he would do it. (This is the same son who, at the start of summer break, thought spending his time outdoors was going to be boring).
Off they went, happy as could be. I watched them from an upstairs window as they rode their bikes past the front of our house. They disappeared behind the foliage and I found myself smiling.
That smile went away when my husband returned a bit later than I had expected, shaken–with bloodied knee and scrapes on thigh and arm–vowing to never take our son to a friend’s house again.
[Side note: In February of last year, I shooed the two of them out of the house to play broom ball at a friend's house. About 10 minutes into their non-rigorous fun on the ice, my husband spiral fractured his leg and was laid up for WEEKS. Not only that, he contracted a serious infection.)
Craig had to hit the brakes hard to avoid running down my son and FLEW off the bike, landing palm to pavement. His wrists REALLY hurt.
The next day, after a night of restless sleep, Craig went back to painting houses with my brother (a recent paying gig just 2 weeks old–oh, didn’t I mention? Craig was laid off in December by Citigroup). With each day, the wrist pain worsened and he finally decided to make an appointment to see his doctor, who I’ll call Dr. P.
Dr. P used to practice out of our local hospital, a mere 3-5 miles away. But he started his own practice exactly 33.3 miles away. Why was it so important to see Dr. P, you ask? Craig trusted this doctor with his life. Dr. P had seen Craig through three wrist surgeries–the last a bone fusion in November ’08– AND consulted both of us during Craig’s infection trauma. Craig’s leg surgery was at our local hospital, where he then contracted the lovely infection. (In case you’re wondering, his prior wrist surgeries–on his dominant hand–were from a very bad accident 2 1/2 years ago. An accident that totaled his Jeep wrangler and the other driver’s Excursion… hands down, the other driver’s fault).
Craig continued with the painting gig until his appointment on Thursday. He returned home sporting two–not one, two–casts from palm to elbow. Both wrists broken. The left wrist break was worse because, with the fusion, that wrist really didn’t give on impact. Ouch. One of the first things I thought of? I’m back to cleaning the kitchen and cat boxes. UGH!
I’m not really sure the exact environmental impact of this accident–if anyone wants to figure that out for me, be my guest. I’m pretty worn out to research it myself. What I do know is that had there not been a bike accident, the 66.6 mile round trip to see Dr. P would have been unnecessary. Of course, Craig had to return again 3 weeks later for cast removal and, hopefully that will be the end of it. Tack on the X-rays of both wrists and the materials to make the casts. I’m fairly certain the cast materials are neither earth-friendly nor recyclable, but I could be wrong. And I would assume Dr. P wore at least one pair of bad-for-the-environment disposable rubber gloves during Craig’s visit.
Of course, Craig has probably made up for his planet-harming bike ride in other ways. For one, his December 2008 layoff eliminated the 40 mile, 5 days a week commute. Thank you again, Citigroup. And I think he showers less since he doesn’t have a job. Less laundry.
Back to the bike. For the rest of you mortals, bike riding is the best alternative when running short errands–and it’s great exercise. Take your bike to work if you can find a safe route. As long as you prepare for your ride, be on the alert and wear a helmet, chances are you’ll be making a positive impact on the environment.
You can calculate your household’s impact on the environment at ClimateCrisis.net.
Update: March 15, 2010
The bike ride carbon footprint expanded today. I’m sitting in the surgery waiting room–my husband just got the titanium rod removed because he’s been in pain. Another trip to the hospital. He’s staying the night so I drive my car back home tonight and back to the hospital again tomorrow to pick him up. Ugh! Everything should be fine. He’s in recovery “phase I”. Cheers!