I am back on the bicycle. The accident and ensuing recovery time, (and some work in China) postponed a return. Nonetheless, I’m undeterred. It’s good to be back on the saddle.
The Social Cost of Accidents
One of the reasons we give for why motor vehicles produce economic inefficiencies, is their social cost. Some of this is easy to understand. The congestion on motorways ends up being a type of cost that is imposed on other drivers (who reciprocate this- everyone loses). Without congestion fees or other similar economic incentives, we end up with too many cars on the roads. Another is the emissions from the tail-pipe. This produces local pollutants (microscopic particulates, carbon monoxide etc) as well as global (greenhouse gases).
Another social cost is accidents. If someone causes an accident on a road or motorway, they rarely pay the full cost of this. Other than the injuries and fatalities that underpin our value of statistical lives (around the $NZ5m mark per life), it generates other external costs. Everyone else is forced to slow down or halt. Roads are blocked. People can’t get to work or school or to meetings on time. All these people experience costs too- the cause of these costs does not have to pay for them.
The social cost of accidents was brought home for me too. I didn’t get the details of the motorist that caused my crash. So I ended up having to pay for a lot of replacement gear. That included a new (sort of) bicycle, definitely a new helmet (you can’t use one that’s been cracked in an accident), some new lights, and, well, because I don’t want to do this again, an action camera for the handle bars. That’s on top of losing a week of work while I recovered from a concussion.
The New Bike
The new bicycle isn’t technically a new bicycle. It’s an old one I found on TradeMe. It had been sitting unused in a garage for about 10 years. One of the reasons I like to get gear that is second-hand rather than new, is to reduce the environmental cost of my consumption. Reusing gear that’s already been produced, uses less resources than making something completely new. Even if we accept a bicycle doesn’t have quite the same manufacturing footprint of a car.
That also means taking very good care of what I do own so replacements are infrequent. So one of my first tasks was to give the bicycle a good clean. 10 years of old grease on the chain and cassette were not optimal.
The Cassette – Getting Cleaner
This is quite good therapy for when you are recovering from a concussion.
One of the reasons for keeping a chain and cassette clean is to improve the life of both. Tiny grit, mixed with old lubricants and oils, work away at the pins of the chain and grind away at the teeth of the chain rings and cassette. It’s also makes the bicycle more efficient, and quieter.
So I’ve added a short video clip of part of my commute with the new bicycle. One reason is to show how fast, even in a relaxed commuting riding-style, a modern road bike can move. Also, this is a really nice way to travel instead of a car…
There’s a lot of good reasons to use bicycles for commuting. The environmental reasons are pretty compelling. Many of the social costs we attribute to cars (congestion, tail-pipe emissions etc) shrink dramatically also. It is in this sense, more efficient. And compared to cars, the running costs are tiny.
Despite all the very good reasons above, there is one very compelling reason why I bike. It’s fun. It really is. Being outside, feeling the sun or the wind or rain on your skin. Stretching limbs that have been resting too long in an office chair. It feels good. This is not a unique experience to me. Recent research has shown, cyclists tend to be much happier commuters.