Bicycles and spinning wheels

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My latest column is up at Grist — it’s the tenth and last in the “Bikenomics” series I’ve been writing for them.

Many of the columns are about how bicycling creates wealth for individuals, employers, and the government, whereas relying on private automobiles makes a few people and institutions very rich and systematically screws the rest of us.

I believe this is an important point of discussion, and am happy that it’s out there, being vigorously discussed. But my heart isn’t really in economic growth and wealth creation. I don’t know what ruined the dream for me — probably some combination of learning to dumpster dive and all the late nights in college reading postcolonial theory — but the bud has dried up and fallen off that rose.

Twitter helped a lot with this one. I asked for a nice-sounding counterpoint to wealth, and someone came up with “wellbeing,” even while we were debating the merits of my cynicism in 140 character bursts.

The column got some nice responses, too. I liked this comparison: “Bicycling could very well be like Gandhi’s spinning wheel – a self-reliant path to prosperity.” Another commenter, linking to an old cartoon from the 1930s hits the nail on the head, even if he is making the exact point I’m trying to get away from.

Here’s more about that spinning wheel, by the way. Bicycling isn’t a perfect metaphor, but it makes for good thinking.