From Wikipedia:

Sustainability, in a broad sense, is the capacity to endure. In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. For humans it is the potential for long-term maintenance of wellbeing, which in turn depends on the wellbeing of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources.

Bicycles contribute to the “long-term maintenance of wellbeing” in that their use creates no pollution and improves the health of those who use them. We believe they are an extremely important part of a sustainable future.

Dedicated transportational bicyclists need to be particularly careful to keep an eye on the long-term sustainability of their riding habits.

Another important aspect of sustainability is each person’s ability to participate in sustainable practices. In the case of bicyclists, that means keeping our bodies healthy and strong so we can “sustain” our ability to ride a bicycle for transportation over the bulk of our lives.

Dedicated transportational bicyclists need to be particularly careful to keep an eye on the long-term sustainability of their riding habits. It’s tempting to push through injury and illness in the short term, only to end up with more serious problems that keep you off the bike for long stretches (if not permanently). We need to allow ourselves guilt-free days off when the weather is unreasonably harsh, work schedules create conflicts, or our bodies are just telling us “enough”. We need to aim for participating at the highest level that still enables us to sustain our green transportation practices over the long-term without causing injury or diminished morale, both of which may lead to giving up bicycling for transportation altogether.

8 Responses to “Sustainability”

  • EdL says:

    An interesting twist on the “sustainability” angle. Hope it isn’t prompted by any mishaps on your end.

    The topic actually hits pretty close to home for me at the moment. Took a spill on a group ride a little two Saturdays ago and cracked a rib. Finished the ride (140 miles) and went to the gym the next day. I felt the injury was more annoying than debilitating, so I just kept up my regular commuting schedule – albeit taking the direct route to and from work rather than the longer route I usually take and proceeding along at a more leisurely pace to minimize the pain any rough part of the road would produce. After a week of escalating amounts of pain pills, my wife (the saner half) laid down the law – no bike riding for a week – I was making things worse, not better.

    I haven’t been on the bike since last Friday and have having to take the El to work, but the injury has markedly improved in just that few days. I realized earlier today that I had worked for several hours and not even thought about it. Part of me wants to jump back on the bike tomorrow, but I know I will be wiser and happier if I just keep taking it easy for the rest of the week. Hard to do, though. My morning commute is the equivalent of my first cup of coffee. Without it, I just don’t feel right for the rest of the day.

  • CurioRando says:

    Right on. As a newbie randonneur I’ve been pushing myself physically and also dealing with my vulnerabilities one at a time: knees, back, ankles. But it has also made me more tuned into my body. I gotta think sustainable or I won’t be able to continue. Bicycles are healing the world!

  • Alan says:

    Get well you guys!

    I have two Achilles’ heels; a worn out knee and a sensitivity to heat. The knee I’ve been managing to stay on top of through religious stretching and taking a day off when it flares up. The heat sensitivity has been frustrating lately. A number of years ago I experienced a bout of heat stroke that landed me in the hospital briefly, and since then I don’t do well if I ride very far in heat over 100F or so. The hot weather we’ve been having lately has been pretty frustrating, but I’ve been doing the right thing and limiting my time on the bike during the hottest part of the hottest days. Thinking long-term has helped ease the frustration and impatience.


  • charles says:

    Well…….I have been nursing my weirded out sciatica/upper hamstring injury now for quite a while and frankly I am getting a little tired of waiting to ride. The problem is, every time I do ride ( less than 5 miles), I pay for it the next day. I am missing the entire summer commuting season. =(

  • Alan says:

    Hey Charles,

    Just curious, are you doing any kind of physical therapy?


  • Ken says:

    Your transportation sustainability paragraph is appropriate for me at this time. I took a bad spill July 6 and am still healing from three broken ribs, a separated shoulder, and jangled organs. As I drive myself to work here in Portland, I pass many bicycle commuters also heading downtown and feel guilty. I will get back on my commuter bike when it is prudent and healthy – meanwhile, I am thankful for my lummox of a car, massage therapy, and pain meds. For me, being sustainable for the long term means not riding my bike for another couple of weeks.

  • Alan says:


    We’re sending good thoughts your way, Ken. Rest up and get well soon.

    Alan & Michael

  • William says:

    Here’s a sobering look at sustainability:

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