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SPOUT | Rant, React, Chat, Blather

Wake Up and Watch the Picnic


Ban Ki-Moon, please take note: I hereby nominate the bicycle as Universal Symbol of All That Is Right With the World.

Bikes reflect innovation and entrepreneurial energy. I've seen bicycles delivering chickens in the Dominican Republic and pedicabs hauling chattering children to school in India.

Working with titanium, carbon fiber, bamboo, plywood--just about anything--designers fashion commuter bikes that pretzel into suitcases and recumbent bikes that ride like lightweight La-Z-Boys.

As with any prized possession, we accessorize our bikes obsessively (see "Two Wheels, Not Four"), festooning them with GPS trip meters, baskets, bells, cup holders, and travel trailers. We attach racks for babies, surfboards, and parrots. We install LED headlights powerful enough to stare down Escalades.

Google around and you'll find there's plenty of traction for the bike as a symbol of, as the blog puts it, "progress, renewal, and promising times ahead." My personal symbolic interpretation isn't as deep as poet Nikki Giovanni's "love and life and bicycles are about trust and balance" or as overtly political as the Indian politician who rode around Uttar Pradesh flying his Samajwadi Party's red and green bicycle flag.

What I like best about bikes is that they make people happy, in the same way that slobbering, tail-wagging dogs do. They, too, come in a hilarious array of breeds, each designed to fit our needs, from the utilitarian sheepdog (delivery bike) to the psychological shih tzu (brakeless, fixed-gear urban affectation). Suited businesspeople and fedora'd hipsters career down city streets grinning. More than a few Sierra Clubbers clomp into work each morning wearing bike cleats. Soon enough, their endorphin-fueled blush evolves into clear-eyed focus.

This passion is not lost on the world, which is scrambling to accommodate. Kansas City has installed bike racks on buses. Los Angeles painted a bright green bike lane through its downtown. And cities worldwide are embracing not only bike paths and bike-share programs but also ciclovias--turning streets over for hours to pedal-powered celebrations fusing fun and function.

Come to think of it, I hereby declare universal support for this symbol I've run up the flagpole. No one, after all, could be so crabby as to oppose an icon that makes people smile while they're saluting. —Bob Sipchen, editor in chief

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