BluesCat is a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, who originally returned to bicycling in 2002 in order to help his son get the Boy Scout Cycling merit badge. His bikes sat idle until the summer of 2008 when gas prices spiked at over $4.00 per gallon. Since then, he has become active cycling, day-touring, commuting by bike, blogging (azbluescat.blogspot.com) and giving grief to the forum editors in the on-line cycling community.
Ahhh! Take a deep breath. Fill your lungs with that rich, statistic-filled air.
‘Tis The Polling Season!
Of course, anymore, it’s always The Polling Season. Used to be we were only subjected to the flood of current percentages every two years or so. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter if some politicians are trying to lie their way into office or not, you can’t even turn on the TV without hearing something like “A recent poll by So-and-So Hugely Respected Group has shown that 62% of Americans believe the other 38% of Americans are absolutely clueless about 100% of the issues.”
The polling process has invaded every nook and cranny of our lives; a mother can’t pack a lunch for her kids, and a businessman can’t buy a fleet of trucks for his business, without feeling compelled to consult some Big List of Blessed Numerals in order to feel they are doing The Right Thing.
Even as independent as I am, I have learned I am not free from the Lure of Magic Internet Percentages. Resistance truly is futile because I have discovered some grist for my own polling mill.
It was a few months ago, when I took my main commuting bike into the shop, and they told me the rear wheel was quite a bit out of true. We agreed the culprit was the weight of all the bags, accessories and my own weight. I thought this was great idea for an article about forcing your bike to carry weight which goes over a total of 200 pounds, and when I pitched it, I made the mistake of mentioning I was a svelte 170 pounds. As I recall, the editor at Commute by Bike responded sorta like this:
“Yer kiddin’, right? At a measly 170 pounds, yer gonna trot your Skinny Cat butt out there as some kinda standard for the size of the Typical Bike Commuter?!? Sounds like your resources are from the Caspar Milquetoast Society! Guffaw, guffaw! In our experience, real bike commuters tip the scales at 225 pounds — or better — stark naked and bone dry!”
(They’re such brutal taskmasters over there at CbB.) I was crushed. Could I be that out of touch with the real world? I felt like Puny Banner, out on the beach and unable to morph into The Hulk when the Bad Guys started kicking sand in my face. Then I remembered the inspiring, immortal words of the late, great Bill Bixby:
“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!” I’ll get ’em! I’ll get angry and take a poll!
In the All-American, Stack-the-Deck spirit of the Texas Voter ID program, I needed to carefully select who would get to vote in my poll.
As a recumbent rider, it was important to me that I give other ‘bent riders an opportunity to be heard; we’re kinda like Moderate Republicans: everybody knows we’re out there, but nobody can see or hear us because of all the verbal and visual noise created by those Falling-Off-Their-Barstools-to-the-Right.
To that end, I made sure to post my poll on one of my favorite recumbent rider’s sites, as well as my own blog and one of the major bicycling sites sponsored by bicycle shops.
I also would need to have more than one question in my poll. It would never do to to simply ask, Hey, bike commuters, whattaya weigh? then find out the data didn’t support my claim. It would be like the Democrats saying “We represent everybody,” only to discover a Gallup poll which shows those folks who are listed under the politically-correct euphemism of “Non-Hispanic Whites” overwhelmingly favor the other guys. I needed a bunch of questions which would camouflage my real purpose.
I thought up seven questions, put my poll up on the three sites on June 20th, sat back and waited.
Over the next two months I got 21 responses. Pollsters call that an “adequate sample,” and all it really means is you got somebody to respond to your questions. Here are the results:
Question 1. YES or NO – Do you use a bicycle for any type of “Utility Cycling”? (i.e. Running errands, commuting, anything OTHER than recreation or sporting.)
If the respondent answered “YES” to that question, they were invited to continue on and answer the other six questions.
Question 2. How many total miles a week do you typically Utility Cycle?
A. 30 miles or less – 5 respondents
B. 31 to 100 miles – 14 respondents
C. Over 100 miles – 2 respondents
76% of respondents utility cycle more that 30 miles per week.
If we stay conservative (not the same type of “conservative” as Paul Ryan, now) and just say 31 miles-per-week times 52 weeks per year, this means over three quarters of utility cyclists travel around 1,600 miles-per-year.
If the AAA figures for the expense of operating an automobile are accurate, it costs $0.45 per mile for a small sedan and $0.75 per mile for a large, 4×4 SUV.
So, 76% of utility cyclists who own a small sedan are — at a minimum — saving around $720 a year, and if they own a big SUV they’re saving a whopping $1,200 a year!
Even if you only have a small sedan, you could save enough money by utility cycling to be able to afford a nice, new bicycle every year!
Question 3. How many days a week do you typically Utility Cycle?
A. 1 day per week – 5 respondents
B. 2 to 5 days per week – 17 respondents
C. 6 or 7 days per week – 1 respondent
I was a little surprised to learn very few utility cyclists ride every day. That single respondent in the “6 or 7 days per week” category? That’s yours truly.
Some may argue “I find it very hard to believe you hop on your bike almost every day, Blues. Do you calculate sick days, vacation days, too-lazy-to-do-what’s-right days, and so forth?”
Yeah, I guess if you wanted to be all prissy and technically correct about it, if I factor in all those “off days” I bet it may be slightly less than 6 days per week.
But, heck, this is an election year poll! You don’t really expect anybody to be perfectly honest, do ya?
4. Which of the following best describes the type of bicycle you use for most of your Utility Cycling?
A. Road Bike- 5 respondents
B. Hybrid Bike – 2 respondents
C. Mountain Bike – 3 respondents
D. Recumbent (includes Velomobiles) – 6 respondents
E. Other (includes Comfort bikes, BMX bikes, E-Bikes, etc.); please describe the bike – 5 respondents
Notice how successful I have been with promoting my cause? Just like Bill Clinton selling Barack Obama with irrefutable numbers, I have shown that almost one third of utility cyclists ride recumbent bikes!
The 24% of cyclists who said they use “Other” bikes ride everything from city bikes to cargo bikes like the Surly Big Dummy to cyclo-cross bikes to Frankenbikes. That last bike is any kind of bike outfitted with any kind of components (which will do the job) from any other kind of bike.
I believe what this really shows that literally any kind of bike will work for commuting. There isn’t any “best commuting bike.”
5. What accessories do you feel are absolute necessities for Utility Cycling? (Choose as many as apply.)
A. Helmet – 19 responses
B. Lights – 19 responses
C. Cycling Computer – 10 responses
D. Backpack – 8 responses
E. Rear Rack and Panniers – 10 responses
F. Rack Bag (front and/or rear) – 7 responses
G. Handlebar Bag – 3 responses
H. Seat Bag – 9 responses
I. Fenders – 7 responses
J. Tool Kit – 14 responses
K. Spare Tube(s) – 15 responses
L. Pump – 15 responses
M. Other (please describe) – 6 responses
It was gratifying to see helmets and lights at the top of the list, and a little surprising to see so few cyclists using handlebar bags.
The “Other” items included locks (two respondents); rain gear, cold weather gear, CO2 cartridges, and rear view mirror (one respondent each).
6. What is your age?
A. 20 years old or younger – 0 respondents
B. 21 to 40 years old – 7 respondents
C. 41 to 50 years old – 4 respondents
D. 51 to 60 years old – 5 respondents
E. 61 years old or older – 5 respondents
F. That’s NONE of your business, Cat! – 0 respondents
According to my poll, nobody under the age of 21 rides bikes. I guess we can eliminate the manufacture of tricycles and training wheels.
Nice to see nobody chickened out and answered with an “F you, Cat!” (Hmmm, I don’t know how to take that.)
7. How much do you weigh?
A. 160 pounds or less – 3 respondents
B. 161 to 180 pounds – 10 respondents
C. 181 to 200 pounds – 4 respondents
D. 201 pounds or more – 4 respondents
E. That TOO is NONE of your business, Cat! – 0 respondents
Hah! I am vindicated!
Us streamlined, aerodynamic folks of almost-perfect weight account for almost half of ALL utility cyclists.
Let the balloons and confetti drop!
I will graciously accept the CbB editors’ concession speeches!
Naw, I’m gonna rub it in!
Nyah, nyah, nyah-nyah NYAH!