My 2013 Resolution: Shut up about how great bikes are

My teenage son has his first job. He is working at the ski resort on the West side of that there mountain. His commute is about 14 miles, one way.

Ted's Bike and Mount Humphreys
My bike ponders a commute to Mt. Humphreys

I’d love to say that he is commuting by bike, but I don’t think the thought has even crossed his mind.

He does not have a driver license, so he hitches a ride from a friend, and leaves at about 6:15 AM — when the temperatures are sub-freezing, and the urge to go back to sleep is almost irresistible for a teenager.

By bike, this commute would be more than two hours — requiring him to leave the house at about 5 AM. Did I mention he is a teenager?

And so it begins.

He’ll be working and making money, and he needs reliable transportation to keep working and to keep making money.

And the mainstream solution whispering — or roaring — in his ear will be that he needs a car.

I have a difficult year ahead of me. Of course I would love for him to try bike commuting. And based on my own experience at his age, I would love for him to avoid the financial trap that is car ownership.

The reason that this will be a difficult year for me is because I can’t really champion any particular solution to his mobility needs — as much as I might want to. That would backfire. I need to always remember that his mobility needs are his problem, not mine. The options as well as the costs.

And of course I believe the logical and financially prudent solution to his mobility needs is for him to bike, walk, and use public transportation — continue to car pool even. When I was his age, I got pulled into supporting a car habit without even giving much thought to the alternatives — because the alternatives, on first blush, seemed too self-sacrificial; too much like a deliberate attempt at social alienation.

Things are different now. Only 60 percent of teens aged 17 to 19 have a driver license — compared to 80 percent 30 years ago. We also live in a fairly bike- and pedestrian-friendly community. The social sacrifice factor is just not the same for him as they were for me.

And this my new year’s resolution: To shut the hell up about how wonderful cycling is, at least as far as my stepson is concerned.

If he asks for help maintaining or upgrading his bike, of course I will help. But I will try to suppress my glee. But inside I’ll be jumping up and down, squealing, Yes! Yes! Yes! Goodygoodygoody!

I will continue to bike as much or more than before — through the winter. I will practice what I won’t preach at home — but what I will continue to preach here on  Commute by Bike.

Think that will work?

Sign up for our Adventure-Packed Newsletter

Get our latest touring, commuting and family cycling posts and sales delivered to your inbox!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

16 thoughts on “My 2013 Resolution: Shut up about how great bikes are”

  1. Kevin Love says:

    Instead of writing about how good cycling is, it is always possible to look at the serious downsides of the alternatives.

    For example, here in Toronto, our Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David McKeown, produced a report on the effects of people being poisoned by car air pollution. It turns out that, every year in just this one city:

    *Car drivers poison and kill 440 people.
    *Car drivers poison and injure 1,700 people so seriously that they have to be hospitalised.

    Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to being poisoned by car drivers. In particular:

    *1,200 children experience acute bronchitis episodes due to being poisoned by car drivers.
    *Children experience 68,000 asthma symptom days due to being poisoned by car drivers.

    Needless to say, there are serious financial costs to all these people being killed and injured by being poisoned by car drivers. Specifically, $2.2 billion in mortality costs alone.

    His complete report may be found on the official City of Toronto website at:

    All these deaths and injuries are in just one city! Every time a car driver turns on a car engine, that car driver is poisoning innocent children.

    Now, on New Year’s Eve, one of the people that I dearly miss is my father, Dr. Robert Love. He was one of the people poisoned and killed by car drivers. Those people killed my father.

    One of my goals for 2013 is justice. That the people who killed my father and so many other innocent victims will be brought to justice and punished as they deserve.

  2. Shanna Ladd says:

    Transportation is a complicated problem. I’m sorry for your loss, Kevin. I have been commuting by bike this year (and would have many years prior had I known) and while I am very happy with how much is possible , I did encounter a few major problems & I am still trying to find reasonable solutions. Being informative, positive and humorous is quite powerful and what a challenge to strike a balance. after a difficult ride (high winds, getting sick or injured) reading inspirational, funny, informative material has made all the difference.
    I’ll be celebrating 8 months of commuting by bike on January 6, 2013, since we 1st suspended our car insurance.
    Here’s a big thank you to those of you who share biking information & humor, thus helping others, like me, reach the goal! and a thank you to those who fight the legal battles and share information to help improve our air quality and safety. Thank you and Happy New Year!

  3. Matt H says:

    I feel your pain. I just went through something like this, too.

    My son, a 25 year old with his own business (selling triathlon gear, ironically) was sharing a car with his girlfriend, who was out the door to her job at 4 AM. He decided to ride his bike so he could sleep a bit later.

    The problem started when the darkness and cold set in. Although its only three miles, two of the intersections are very unfriendly – even to cars. When I heard that he was nearly hit by a tractor-trailer rig, that was it. He now has our 1990’s vintage GM product.

    I’m proud that he took to his bike – even for a short time. It shows a self sufficiency that in retrospect, I’m not surprised to see. He sees the advantage to his health and wallet. (Especially since the car he now has is a guzzler, and as the owner of a small business, he’s aware of every penny.)

    In our rush to “give the people what they want” we created an infrastructure that does not give options, but forces decisions. The real solution is making our roads more than just “sewers for cars” (a phrase I read someone that really stuck with me).

    Ride well.


  4. I continue to believe the best message is sent through just continuing to model the desired behavior – ride your bike outfitted as it is with the things you need to make it functional. Lectures won’t work as they will certainly be discounted by a teenager as old-world advice from a 50 year old. I was a good, well-behaved teenager but no advice offered by my mother was relevant to me at the time. Just by quietly doing what you are already doing solidifies in your son’s mind that he does have an alternative to car ownership or car dependence. I’m sure he has plenty of peers or will in the future who will make bike commuting look cooler in his eyes than someone our age ever could.

  5. Kwin says:

    As both the father of a 17 year old and a victim of the car trap from my youth I feel your pain. Karen is right; example will open more doors to the mind than explaining — Emerson wrote “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

    Although I didn’t start out trying to set an example for my kids, after a few years, I happily realized that that’s what I’m doing —

  6. Shanna Ladd says:

    Karen, so true. I spent very little time with my Grandma but by the way she lived her life made a very deep impression on me and has inspired me in the choices I make today. And it was also watching my daughter getting around on her bike that inspired me to make this major life change. (she didn’t give me any lectures!)

  7. BluesCat says:

    I dunno, Ted. An alternate bike route home from work takes me by the student parking lot of a big high school. As near as I can tell, this truism still holds: the flow of testosterone in the American male of high school age is STILL somehow directly connected to high performance internal combustion engines.

    Somehow, I just can’t see a young fellow cruising his bicycle up by a couple of cheerleaders and opening up with a pickup line of “Hey, Baby, I’m environmentally friendly!”

    When it comes to acceptable transportation, here’s more goin’ on here than just responsible economics!

  8. Charlene Paulus says:

    Who will pay for transportation expenses? May be a very expensive job if a car is involved. I applaud his work ethic but if you end up paying for a car, his job might cost you more than he makes.

  9. Jeff Gardner says:

    We all build most things in our lives upon inferior or incorrect information. We all spend inordinate amounts of time defending those decisions, and resist ferociously improvements upon them.

    Your son will makes the correct, most rational decision for the knowledge he has at this point in life. He will make rational decisions upon better information and awareness when he is ready to do so and probably not a minute sooner. Just like the rest of us. Until those parts of his journey unfold, probably the best you can do is be certain you are not altering the reality of his decisionmaking in any appreciable way — subsidizing gas and maintenance, licensure if he accepts it and insurance if he pursues that.

  10. I think that you need to ride to his work to visit him. Go eat lunch with him on his lunch break or something. Ride there, and show him that it can be done. Do the ride on that e-bike thing of yours. Lead by example of action, not remonstration. If a conversation does develop, ask him leading questions:
    “So, how are you getting to work today?”
    “Hmmmm, I don’t know.”
    “Well, can you list all of the options?”
    “Borrow your car”
    “What else?”
    “You drive me”
    “Come back to this planet; what else?”
    “Hitch a ride, walk, bike, e-bike, take a cab”
    “Ok, great! Which ones can you afford?”
    “Hitch, walk, bike, e-bike if I can borrow yours”
    “I think you’ve done well! Pick one and be on your way son!”

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      Great idea!

      Uh. Except that last bit from the base of the mountain to the ski resort — the last seven miles — has an elevation gain of 1,500 Feet (467.6 Meters).

      I reckon I would could do it once.

      I just think it’s a helluva commute for anyone. The problem is that it’s an ideal commute for encouraging the notion that car is necessary. It’s really great argument for an e-bike — maybe an even better argument for a free employee shuttle van that picks up workers in town and drives them up the mountain.

  11. Ted, so you just confirmed what I always tell my wife when she confides feeling guilty about driving the car instead of riding her bike: Sometimes a car is the best tool for the job. Some trips are better served with motor vehicles than bikes or even e-bikes.

    In that case, your 2013 resolution is very appropriate. Thanks again for the great blog…

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      Or: If a car is the best tool for the job, you live too far from your job.

      It’s kind of hard to believe that a ski resort can employ a bunch of teenagers at low wages, and expect them to drive 14 miles up a mountain.

      The economics of it make no sense unless one of these is true.

      • the transportation costs are subsidized (by parents) and/or shared with a co-worker
      • the free season pass on the mountain — worth $749 — makes it worth it for avid skiers and snowboarders (of which my stepson is not, yet), or
      • the employees don’t bother to think of the economics of the situation

      Frankly, I’m so happy to have him working that I won’t make a fuss. His living expenses are subsidized (for now). I suspect that if/when he had to pay for his own housing, food, etc. He’d quickly realize what a bad deal it is. He’s a smart guy.

  12. Ted, what you described is the dilemma that so many working Americans face: Go where the jobs are, but due to the suburban densities which dis-incent moving closer, the only way to get to a remote job is via automobile. As for your son getting another job, I don’t know about your area, but my 16 yr old is competing with grown men for jobs, so I bet he will take the first job offered him, no matter how far from our house…

  13. BluesCat says:

    bergerandfries – Boy, I’m right with you about the dearth of job opportunities for young folks.

    Back in prehistoric times, when I was growing up, we had — get this — Paper BOYS who rode BICYCLES to deliver the morning paper! As I recall, they could have a route when they were as young as 13 and it wouldn’t violate any of the child labor laws.

    The guy who delivers my morning paper is a home owner, in my neighborhood, who does it as a second job as a result of his employer cutting back his hours on his first job!

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      When I was in my early 20’s I knew a guy who supported a family with three, four or maybe more paper routes. His system was amazing. He had a graduate degree, but preferred the freedom — including the freedom to smoke on the job — over the other jobs he was qualified to do.

      He made a big impression on me for the creative way he brought his personal priorities to his work choices. And how he managed to do the job for times more efficiently than anyone else.

Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


20% off ALL Ortlieb Bag Closeouts! Shop Closeouts

Scroll to Top