While the country searches for answers to its many problems, take another look at your bicycle.
There's a road out there and it stretches into the distance. It's a road that leads to more roads, creating a web of concrete that crosses the country's spine. It connects suburbs to downtowns and zigzags back out again to exurbs. It's out there waiting to be explored. And it was made for a car.
But in this economy, as more and more citizens change their idea of what happiness actually includes, we would do well to rethink the road we're on and how we take it.
I've been on the road in my car; my dreams spread out before me like points upon a map. I am still on the road, but I'm looking at it a bit differently. And this perspective is priceless. I'm in the city, living without a car and making my way by bicycle.
Pickups zip by on my left, swerving in front of me to take a tight right turn. Shoulders crumble and crack beneath signs proclaiming bicycle routes. A compact car full of teenagers honks as it flies by.
On your right, there, that's me, pedaling quickly on my way to work. I'm wiping sweat from my brow at a stoplight as the sun beats down. And when the light turns green again, I'm breathing heavily as my legs pump up and down. It may be hard work at times, but my ride is invigorating. And with money tight, it sure beats paying to bike inside at a gym.
On these roads built for metal beasts of burden, more and more bicycles are appearing. Across the country, bikes come and go in steady streams. A commuter with a backpack full of work clothes on her way to the office; a student meandering home from classes; a father biking to the store for tonight's dinner. Americans, despite the omnipresent sprawl, are rethinking their cityscapes and how to get around them.
People still tend to rely on cars or trucks to get them to their destinations outside town. And I gladly catch a ride with a friend headed to the mountains for a day of hiking. But small, important changes are occurring.