2010/01/10

Bicycles and hauling trash, recyclables and delivering packages

Back during my youth I read a book, which I believe is the same one advertised here, "Bicycles in War" (1974, Hawthorn Books). The book demonstrated that bicycles, while they're not as dramatic as gasoline-powered vehicles, nor can they carry as heavy a load as quickly, are nevertheless very highly useful items that can serve a great many important purposes. The most interesting use to which they were put in the book was to carry items down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to Vietnamese forces battling American troops in that country. It wasn't possible for Vietnamese porters to ride the bicycles with such heavy loads on them, so they simply pushed the bicycles down the trail. It may very well be that the bicycle trailers shown here, had they been in use then, might have solved their problem and might have made pushing the bicycles unnecessary.

As I continued to use bicycles for transportation as well as for pleasure riding right up until the age of 40, I was especially interested to see this piece in Daily Kos. Seems that the group Pedal People has been hauling trash to the landfill for the town of Northampton, Massachusetts since 2002 and in that time, they've hauled an estimated 341,000 cubic feet of trash. Yes, it snows a lot that far up North and yes, the group hauls through just about any sort of weather. They can continue to haul trash during the winter.

I did ten years in the Navy (PN3(Ret) USN, 1991-2001), but I've always had a romantic attachment to the old wooden ships that got around by using wind power. The only pictures of metal ships I have on my walls are the ships that I actually served on. All the rest of them are wooden sailing ships. For that matter, my photo albums contain pictures of all the bicycles I've ridden. Not sure I have all of my cars documented. Bicycles have the same advantage that the wooden ships did, they get around by means much more natural than by burning fossil fuels. As a result, not only do the bicyclists used by Pedal People carry trash quietly, they do so without creating pollution.

Obviously, they haul loads more slowly than metal trucks do, but hey, once the trash leaves your curb, why do you as the customer care how long it takes for the bicyclist to reach the landfill? And if it takes a whole battalion of bicycle riders to haul trash and deliver packages as opposed to a few drivers of gasoline-powered vehicles, why should a customer care? The US is suffering from unemployment and underemployment right now. We could use a job for people that not only gives them some spending money but that helps to keep them in better physical shape.

And yes, Philadelphia has a bicycle-hauling service, The Pedal Co-Op.

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