The Bicycle Index
Periodically between day dreaming about new tours and frantically dealing with the latest geopolitical crisis, we think about how to create a friendlier bike environment. Our latest brilliant idea is that we think it is time to create the Bicycle Index. There are many ways to measure the well-being of a country. Of course, everyone is familiar with the GNP measurements. Less known indicator is the Gini Index, which measures the income distribution of a country. There are other indexes out there. One that has been getting more press in the last few years is the Gross National Happiness index which attempts to measure quality of life in various countries. This one originates in Bhutan, a country that seems to care more about its environment than any other nation in the world. Another well known one is the Economist magazine’s the Big Mac Index which is used to measure the PPP – Purchasing Power Parity between nations. Why Bicycle Index? Well for obvious reasons. We all know that bicycle makes you healthier and smarter. Riding bicycle leads to a longer and happier life and rumour has it, cycling even guarantees a better sex life.
So what may you ask is the Bicycle Index? Well we don’t know yet. We have some silly ideas – that the index would correlate a variety of scientifically measured indicators such as how many kilometers (miles for some of you) of bike paths, roads and bike trails there are per capita in a country; how many bicycles there are per capita; how many children ride to school; how many bicycles accidents there are in the country; how many people over 80 ride a bike regularly; how many bike shops the country has; the amount of pollution the cyclists have to breathe on their cycling commute and so on. You get the drift. Why do we think this should be done? For one, it could employ a few more bureaucrats and we all know that every government is obsessed with creating employment. For another, it will give cycle tourists a good indicator where they can find Nirvana. But mostly we think that, once it is created, innovative minds will find a proper use for it. To paraphrase an old expression, ‘once you build it they will use it’. I, for one, would be really happy to create a new app for it. Of course the index can be used not only for countries but also for states, provinces, cities, counties and all other administrative territories. Unfortunately we here at TDA do not have the skills to create such an index (no PhD candidates around here), we are throwing this out into the ether hoping that it will land on someone “to do” list. And once the bicycle Index is created we think that another Index called ‘Bicycle Happiness Index’ needs to be created.
Cyclists know that cycling makes us happy. But government officials, tourism consultants and drivers who do not cycle are a bit challenged on this. So a Bicycling Happiness Index will give them a quick tool to help them understand. And what would be the parameters that would need to go into Bicycle Happiness Index? Well, such good indicators as the smoothness of the road surface for the roadies, the frequency of maintenance on the trails, the amount of elevation that need to be conquered, the amount of sunshine per year, the amount of wind behind one’s back, the frequency of wonderful pit stops whether that would be wonderful Italian Frappuccinos (or whatever it is called) or a great beer, the number of hotels with bike friendly hosts, the number of traffic jams you will bypass and so on. And for all of you cyclists out there who have no need for bicycle “Happiness Index” remember the old adage – money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can buy you some great transcontinental tours.