My teenage son has his first job. He is working at the ski resort on the West side of that there mountain. His commute is about 14 miles, one way.
I’d love to say that he is commuting by bike, but I don’t think the thought has even crossed his mind.
He does not have a driver license, so he hitches a ride from a friend, and leaves at about 6:15 AM — when the temperatures are sub-freezing, and the urge to go back to sleep is almost irresistible for a teenager.
By bike, this commute would be more than two hours — requiring him to leave the house at about 5 AM. Did I mention he is a teenager?
And so it begins.
He’ll be working and making money, and he needs reliable transportation to keep working and to keep making money.
And the mainstream solution whispering — or roaring — in his ear will be that he needs a car.
I have a difficult year ahead of me. Of course I would love for him to try bike commuting. And based on my own experience at his age, I would love for him to avoid the financial trap that is car ownership.
The reason that this will be a difficult year for me is because I can’t really champion any particular solution to his mobility needs — as much as I might want to. That would backfire. I need to always remember that his mobility needs are his problem, not mine. The options as well as the costs.
And of course I believe the logical and financially prudent solution to his mobility needs is for him to bike, walk, and use public transportation — continue to car pool even. When I was his age, I got pulled into supporting a car habit without even giving much thought to the alternatives — because the alternatives, on first blush, seemed too self-sacrificial; too much like a deliberate attempt at social alienation.
Things are different now. Only 60 percent of teens aged 17 to 19 have a driver license — compared to 80 percent 30 years ago. We also live in a fairly bike- and pedestrian-friendly community. The social sacrifice factor is just not the same for him as they were for me.
And this my new year’s resolution: To shut the hell up about how wonderful cycling is, at least as far as my stepson is concerned.
If he asks for help maintaining or upgrading his bike, of course I will help. But I will try to suppress my glee. But inside I’ll be jumping up and down, squealing, Yes! Yes! Yes! Goodygoodygoody!
I will continue to bike as much or more than before — through the winter. I will practice what I won’t preach at home — but what I will continue to preach here on Commute by Bike.
Think that will work?