I'm not talking about a gas-guzzling, eco-doomsday SUV machine...
I don't think my SUV is anywhere close to winning any kind of popularity contest in LA either.
I'm talking about a Sustainable Utility Vehicle, as in bicycle baby! In fact, I do commute between home and the vanpool area with my SUV: that's about 10 minutes in the morning and about 15 minutes in the evening. You see, my SUV rides very high, just like those big hummers in music videos. In fact, I ride taller than most cars and medium-size SUVs around me because my SUV is a hybrid -- that's right! It's a full-featured, high-torque cross-over between a mountain bike and a race bike. This means it's got a bit of suspension in the front to smooth out over the potholes in LA's streets -- although the disk on my MacBook Pro laptop has a crash guard feature, I really don't want to take risks with this so the AAA-rating front-end suspension on my SUV is a really nice feature! At the same time, the folks at Helen's in Santa Monica advised me against lugging around the streets a mountain bike unless I really want to shape up to walk the catwalk. So I gave in to the cross-over hype and got myself a fancy Trek 7500 hybrid. With handlebar shifters, this light vehicle just zigs around traffic. With the ocean breeze blowing inland in the evening, I'm driving headwind which gives me an extra dose of much needed stress relief.
Actually, Gabriel and I have the same bike. I reduced my car insurance to leisure driving: less than 50 miles per week! I can average easily one tank a month even on my car and now, my goal is to average 1 tank for 2 months. This year, we have no pay raises at JPL which effectively means a net salary decrease after inflation. PInching every penny matters and I really don't want to feel like being a sucker for billion-dollar profit oil companies anymore.
So, what's good for the pocket book and for the heart can also be good for the environment. Now, if only we could increase the density of bicycle drivers in LA just enough for the average driver to take notice in our 5-minute attention span, then we might have a chance that we won't have to worry so much about loaded jerks driving around town with fancy sports cars, talking on their cellphone while at the same time edging us off the road. I mean -- is there any competition between a Porsche and a Trek 7500?
Well, when I'm really frustrated after a tough day, I can tell you that crossing West-LA traffic to Santa Monica on a zippy hybrid bike can be almost as fast as what a spoiled-rich jerk driving a Porsche can achieve within legal driving conditions. It happened to me a couple of weeks ago.
I was biking on a 1-lane construction stretch on National Blvd between Sepulveda & Sawtelle, the end of the construction zone where the road widens to 2 lanes again. At cold start from a green light, I can outrun a car ... for just a few seconds. Still, that's something to be proud of, sometimes. This time, it turns out that it must have pissed of some dude driving a high-end Porsche. Pedal to the metal, his car roared through the intersection. Man, these Germans really got motor engineering nailed to the perfection. Less than 2 miles later, I zig-zag through neighborhood side streets where I don't have to inhale so much toxic exhaust from congested boulevards. It just happened that as I passed by one of the side streets, I noticed that the Porsche that roared through National & Sawtelle just pulled into a driveway to excitement of kids waiting for their daddy to come home.
Home sweet home vs. hybrid sweet humility. Isn't it amazing how many advantages there are to eco-friendly bicycle driving? It's even sweeter than beeping your zipcar with your iPhone.