22 June 2009

get on your bike & ride

An acquaintance recently posted a link, with comments, to facebook, about mag-lev transit. I'm pretty excited by the possibilities of maglev, and mass transit becoming easier, quicker, more extensive and less environmentally hazardous. Maglev evidently is taking off around the world (obviously, in places that are NOT the US), and I feel mildly hopeful. [I also feel a little wistfully pleased - the PeopleMover and monorails at Disneyland were meant to be prototypes for this kind of mass transit...and i guess maybe they are, just 40 years ahead of the rest of us].

Maglev is not the issue here, however.

The acquaintance follows up her maglev ideas with her ideal vision: "Bicycles the rage."

I have nothing against bicycles. In fact, I quite like them. The problem is: I can't ride a bike.
I know HOW, of course. I learned as a little kid, like most american middle-class children, and I have the scars on my knees to prove it. The problem is that both of my knees, but especially my left one, are seriously battered. The orthopaedist I saw two years ago told me I had the knees of a 70-year-old woman. At age 27. I have arthritis, and tendonitis, and no lining in my left knee; the kneecaps don't track properly, either. The motions of going upstairs and riding a bike are probably the most painful things I can do.

Thus: I cannot ride a bike. It's not the kind of thing where I can just play through the pain; the bikeriding produces daylong (or daySlong) pain and discomfort.

This made me think about disability studies. Another acquaintance maintains a children's lit blog; her specialties are Fat Acceptance and Disability Studies. Recently, she wrote about how the able-bodied world doesn't think about all the myriad challenges and obstacles the disabled face on a daily basis. The trend toward bike-riding is one of these.

I don't look particularly gimpy, although I am clearly out of shape. But many times, people have asked me why don't I ride a bike? I am totally committed to clean energy and similar causes, and so I end up around people who think likewise. Many of them ride their bikes every blessed place they can, and some places they can't. I always feel uncomfortable, trying to explain about my knees; I feel like I am offering some kind of weak excuse. I am not visibly prohibited from biking, and the lack of visible incapacitation makes others assume total health and physical well-being.

I am not the only person on this earth for whom biking is simply not feasible. How can we rethink green transportation to include and account for those of us who would like to, but are unable to bike? What are the options, besides diesel buses and gas-powered cars? Maglev is a possibility, but there has to be something that could be as obtainable as a bike [ie, not a Segway, which solves this problem on one level, but is quite costly - several thousands of dollars, it seems, unlike bikes, which can be purchased for $100 or less], and function as a bike, but still be usable by those of us who can't physically command a bicycle.

This post, about maglev and bikes, reminded me quite sharply of the able-bodied prejudice we have in this culture. It's a worthwhile reminder, troubling though it is; we/I need these kinds of issues held up in front of our faces routinely, until we develop the ability to see them on our own.

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