Perpendicular Thinking

A challenge to think in an entirely different way:

Let’s suppose, as a thought experiment, that tomorrow morning every adult American woke up and decided to ride his or her bicycle instead of getting in the car.  (And if they didn’t have a bike, went out and bought one.)  What’s more, they all decided to drive their bikes in the same manner as they drive their cars (but more law-abiding): in the roadway, acting as an equal to the motorists (the only motorists left are those who drive buses, trucks and other vehicles that carry lots of goods or people or handle emergencies).  And they kept it up, day after day.

What would compel people to do that?

Answers can be totally outrageous.  Actually, I’ll be disappointed if there aren’t any outrageous ideas.

Answers cannot be any of the usual stuff:

No bikeways of any kind.

No new laws

No new signs

No education programs

No advertising campaigns

OK boys and girls, let’s see what you’ve got!

45 replies
  1. NE2
    NE2 says:

    An energy-dampening field from a visiting UFO
    A typo in the dictionary that switches the definitions of car and bike
    Rapture of all motorists (because they’re obviously more righteous than cyclists)
    Discovery of mentally-initiated matter transportation (bikes would then be for exercise)
    Outrageous enough? 🙂

    • fred_dot_u
      fred_dot_u says:

      Don’t you think that without exaggeration, people should now be afraid of their vehicles? If they were capable of recognizing what a motor vehicle represents to society in general and to individual safety specifically, they should be terrified to operate one!

  2. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Terrorists have distributed miniscule explosive devices into random underground gas station tanks and told the media. They’re all radio-controlled and will simultaneously detonate, igniting random auto gas tanks everywhere. (Hello! NSA spiders, this is a fictional scenario!)

  3. JAT in Seattle
    JAT in Seattle says:

    I’m thrown off by the word compel, because all I can come up with is an alternative history in which all the G.I.s didn’t return from WW II to take back their jobs and move to the suburbs and do all that breeding and the establishment of the consumer society…

    But since your question is what would compel people to abandon their cars for bicycles (and drawing on the record of human behavior regarding smoking…)

    Researchers at Johns Hopkins discover irrefutable evidence that driving your car gives your loved ones cancer, and bicycling keeps them safe.

    You see how I didn’t say it gives YOU cancer. (and lord knows I do most of my driving in furtherance of my kid’s transportation needs, he said rationalizing wildly…)

  4. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    (Violating one of my own rules; hey, it’s all in fun…)

    Motorists are all required to wear helmets, while bicyclists are not.

  5. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Oil boycott. And since Mighk violated the rules already, for my second item – motorists required to drive in bike path or sidewalk if available. 😉

  6. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    The microbe I’ve been cultivating for the last decade has finally passed all the tests. It only removes combustion from gasoline and diesel fuels, with no effect on home heating oils or plastics manufacturing.

    Mighk, you forgot that every motorist is required to have a cyclist travel ahead of them with a lantern… (grin)

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      Actually we DO need something that will eat up all that plastic blowing and floating around the world. There’s a huge mess of it in the middle of the North Pacific.

      It appears as though bacteria did make an impact on the oil in the Gulf.

  7. Eli Damon
    Eli Damon says:

    A rumor spreads I am God incarnate and that mass bicycle driving is part of my divine plan. Or does that violate the “no education” rule? 😉

  8. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Here is my scenario:

    Tonight, there is a revolution that overthrows the corrupt and incompetent government of Saudi Arabia. As the saying goes:

    “The liberals may be able to win an election, but only the fundamentalists can win a revolution.”

    One-third of the world’s oil supply is taken off the market. And the fundamentalists now ruling Saudi Arabia make it quite clear that the taps will stay turned off.

    Seeing this, the theocrats that rule Iran decide that now is an excellent time to stick it to the hated West by turning off their taps also. Another 16% of the world’s oil supply comes from Iran.

    Together, that’s about 1/2 the world’s oil supply.

    In the USA, petroleum products are restricted to industrial, military, public transportation and emergency vehicles. Zero is made available to private cars. Even this lower level of oil use requires the US government to draw down its Strategic Petrolium Reserve.

    OK, there’s my scenario.

    Does everyone agree that this could actually happen? That tomorrow we could wake up and read in the morning paper about a revolution in Saudi Arabia?

    • Mighk
      Mighk says:

      Yep. Could happen.

      Iran may be the more immediate concern. There’s been serious concern that Israel might take a pre-emptive air-strike against Iran’s nascent nuclear program, and that Iran would respond by mining the Strait of Hormuz. At least a quarter of the world’s oil gets shipped through that strait.

      Changes that the wider world might present are interesting as well as plausible, but I’m more interested in ideas that might lead us to new strategies that we could implement ourselves. (Preferably cheap, legal, and non-violent ones.)

    • khal spencer
      khal spencer says:

      Not outlandish. That part of the world is at least as volatile as Eastern Europe in 1914. A recent picture I downloaded shows a huge dent in the side of a supertanker where some terrorists in a small craft tried to blow a hole in it as it traversed the Straits of Hormuz, not realizing that modern tankers are double hulled. But a revolution in Saudi Arabia is not out of the question, and a domino effect in the middle east isn’t either.

      Closer to home, Venezuela is another wild card, making Canadian tar sands a critical reserve. Anyone planning an invasion?

      Trouble is, unlike WW II, it would be tough to ration gas. We are spread out in Megaburbia. A deep and prolonged oil crisis would be catastrophic. Think food and medicine shortages, starvation, and poverty as our entire mechanized society ground to a halt.

      Its the stuff of Jared Diamond books, folks. Better plant your Victory Garden, because you gotta eat to pedal.

      • Will
        Will says:

        Unlike WWII america, a large % of people could now work from home. They have the tools and the connectivity to do it.

  9. Will
    Will says:

    Ban on driving. Set up barriers, turn people away. I think its fun when all the big festivals pop up and they close robinson down. Its pretty novel walking down the middle of that street.

  10. bencott
    bencott says:

    how about fear and persecution? it’s used systematically and to great effect to keep cyclists off the roads. just harass motorists as much as they harass us, get law enforcement and public officials on our side, and no one will want to be seen in a car.

  11. Robert Davidson
    Robert Davidson says:

    Radio Station sweepstakes – “bumper” sticker for bicycles
    Discounts for cyclists at stores
    Vehicular Cycling courses count as continuing education credit for transportation engineers(!!!). This could help unwind poor decisions given a couple decades.

    It is difficult to think of a cataclysmic cause of mass vehicular cycling some possibilities:
    Exhaust pipes are rerouted into vehicle cabins.
    Earth Liberation Front activists are offered free sniper courses.

  12. Will
    Will says:

    We could just go around and knife every car tire we see. Get enough people and people won’t be driving anywhere.

      • Kevin Love
        Kevin Love says:

        I have. I loved it! Although blowing pins through straws would not work in real life, snips of ordinary barbed wire make a cheap and effective calthrop for car tires.

        I also like the Yehuda Moon comic where Fred went around flattening car tires.

  13. NE2
    NE2 says:

    How successful has London’s congestion charge been? Downtown Orlando probably isn’t big enough to make it work here though.

  14. kenaero
    kenaero says:

    Terrorists set off an EMP all electronics not hardened ala all cars, are destroyed. Only way to work is an old carbeurator equipped car or a bicycle.

  15. Wayne Pein
    Wayne Pein says:

    Mother Nature would benefit if the external costs of internal combustion engines were internalized. If the exhaust was expelled into the passenger compartment that would really internalize it!

    RANTWICK says:

    Oprah, Sean Connery, David Letterman, Lady Gaga, Stephen Hawking, Mylie Cyrus, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kenny from Southpark have to make sincere, heart-wrenching appeals to the public to stop driving on the same day.

    RANTWICK says:

    Wait! A law whereby any operator of a multi-passenger vehicle must do so while in the company of a poo-flinging monkey. Mass transit vehicles
    (except those designated for monkey transport) excepted.

    • Will
      Will says:

      What if they open the window and let the monkey fling poo on the cyclists. Then we’ll have a problem. And the streets will look like how they did when horses were a major form of transport.

  18. Greg
    Greg says:

    The middle east runs out of oil.
    Making canada and the US the richest oil reserves in the world. Oil becomes so valuable we choose to sell it rather than use it. This drives americans to riding bicycles. Every american gets an education for free if desired (Canada already does this). The dollar value increases the yen, euro decrease, and americans live happily ever after, half the world stills wants to kill us they just won’t have the money to carry it out.

    The only thing that will drive americans to the bicycle is to increase the cost of gas, somewhere around europes rate ($8 gallon)(boy do we have it good).
    It must start with the younger generation to make the cultural shift.

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      It’s the US that will run out first. Indeed, in just few more years, the only oil exporting nations will be Saudi Arabia and Iraq (and maybe Nigeria).

      That’s why we invaded Iraq; they have huge untapped reserves; the secret Cheney energy task force had a map (since released) which showed how the big oil companies were going to divvy up the Iraqi fields. They literally thought the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms and share their oil. Remember?

      • Will
        Will says:

        We have 70 years worth of oil in our country at current consumption rates. At what price is the question. And that’s using our current reserve figures, We’ll find more oil. And we’ll start running are cars off electricity and hydrogen.

        As it stands right now, we get more oil from canada then the persian gulf.

  19. AndrewP
    AndrewP says:

    Health care providers realize that cyclists who ride an average of 30 minutes a day have 99% less chance of filing any heathcare claims. Heathercare rates for cyclists plummet to absurd levels.

  20. Ryan from
    Ryan from says:

    A pandemic breaks out. The infection rate reaches 100% in 48 hours. The disease has but one symptom: an adult Canadian Goose flies out of the subject’s rectum every hour. The affliction baffles modern medicine. All attempts to treat the infection end in frustration.

    Yet, in the midst of the chaos, for reasons never explained, the cycling community is unaffected (and slightly amused). The word spreads quickly. One hour of cycling per day prevents “The Dreaded Emergence” from taking place! Soon, every street in every city and town across the world is packed with dedicated cyclists. The era of fossil fuels is over.

    That, or peak oil. And peak oil was already taken.

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