Bike Activist

29 October 2004 at 13:08 (General)

This afternoon I’m going to attend my first meeting of critical mass (link is to a very old site, they now meet in Hindmarsh square at 6pm). This involves riding slowly through the city, taking up a car lane, in a peaceful protest against unsustainable forms of transport.

This morning I rode to uni wearing my canteen bandana and a dust mask. Prior to this I’ve never considered myself a bike activist but it hits me deep within my lungs each morning as I inhale the exhaust fumes of an executive’s Mercedes or a Pajero transporting too fewer people.

Our society needs to get it through its thick head that the world cannot afford to move 2 tonne of steel 5 kilometres down the road each morning on the way to work. Australia is the second fattest nation on earth. A great way to start to rectify this would be to stop bitching about the state of the roads, the cost of fuel and the road toll and get on your bike. Cars are the epitome of our greed.

Wasting resources is not something we have a right to. If we continue in this fashion and countries like China continue to develop we will see more dramatic consequences. Morally it’s wrong: our way of life is not a standard the world could support for the whole of humanity. If you continue to enjoy nature from the seat of your Land Rover your grandchildren will never have the privilege.

I felt like a bit of an idiot wearing a dust mask. It did nothing to prevent me overdosing on CO2, CO, SOx and the various flavours of noss (NOx) and who knows what else. Although, on occasion I have had a bus “accelerate” in front of me or I’ve been stuck behind a truck and hit by a dose of macro-cabon, nearly all of the toxins my lungs sample are very small and gaseous.

I’m thinking of following Wayne Witt’s example and getting a respirator mask. I assume he’s correct and there are masks that can weed out O3 and NOx and other HC as well as particle pollution. Even if there is just some benefit i think it would be worth while.

but, before you point and laugh or stare at the bloke wearing the gas mask consider this from the aforementioned site:

“For 17 days [when Atlanta hosted the 96 Olympics], traffic was restricted in the city, and reduced by 21 per cent.

That in turn lead to a 27-per-cent reduction in ground-level ozone. What they found was that hospital admissions for respiratory-related illness decreased by 42 per cent.”

For those more scientifically inclined there is this paper which takes a closer looks at what we’re breathing.

This article makes me glad I wasn’t cycling a decade ago: “Lead in fuel has been proven to cause brain damage in children living in areas with high levels of pollution from gasoline-fueled vehicles.” Despite the recent changes, I don’t have high expectations of benefits of long term exposure to the shit motorists expect us to breath.

Anyway, I will let you know how the cycle tonight pans out.

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