Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Maybe We Should Expand The Second Amendment To Cover Bicycles

In a a Madville Times comment, MC, hints that disaster scenarios prove the necessity of firearms:
However our society seems to be fixated on a culture of killing and death. Given the deep political divides in Washington and Pierre, along with some general dissatisfaction with our government, I might need one tomorrow. As we have seen overseas, situations can change very rapidly.
Future Pundit Randall Parker points out guns might not be the only thing one needs in a diasaster:
I'm reading some after-the-electromagnetic pulse disaster novels where the electric grid has collapsed. Lots of people walking home or fleeing home on foot. In the vast majority of these novels there is no mention of any means of human transportation between a car and walking. So some guy has to walk home hundreds or thousands of miles across a post-apocalyptic landscape to get back to his family. Every person he comes across either is on foot or has some Mad Max truck fuel. What's with that?
Is this bias by the authors due to a total lack of bicycles, skate boards, roller skates, and push scooters in their rural or suburban neighborhoods? Am I so out of touch with life in some American states that I'm mistaken in thinking that large areas have no bikes? I do not think so. In the United States annual bicycle sales at 20" wheel size and above run at 11 to 14 million per year. If we suddenly couldn't get any gasoline easily tens of millions could bicycle and maybe well over a third the population. Throw in skate boards, roller skates, and other smaller stuff and 3 mph travel seems avoidable.
What's even weirder: post-plague novels have this problem. So, fine, most people do not own a bicycle. But if 99+% of the population has just died surely there is a bicycle for each and every person still alive. Hiking is really optional in such a scenario. The average travel speed should be above 10 mph if almost everyone dies.
Megan McArdle adds to bicycle analysis:
Why is it that in this sort of fiction people are either hoofing it, or riding horses?  They never get on a bicycle, or use a wheelbarrow; it's animal power, a home-distilled-ethanol truck, or nothing.  Yet on modern roads, a bicycle is at least as fast as a horse, maybe faster (forget what you've seen in Westerns; horses don't like running flat out for a full day any more than you would.)  Of course, horses have advantages--they're doing the work instead of you--but also disadvantages.  Bicycles don't break their legs, they don't need to be fed, and on a modern road, their gait is a lot smoother.  The bicycle was a radical transportation breakthrough, especially when combined with the paved road, which is why millions and millions of people in poor countries still use them. 
FP concludes:
Update: A practical point for preppers: If you are the kind of guy who keeps a gun and a backpack full of food and camping gear in your trunk (never knowing when civilization will collapse while you are far from home) then you should put a bicycle in there too. If you are keeping all your prepper gear at home then keep bikes at home too.
This brings up another point I do not see in WTSHTF disaster novels: What's cheap to buy extras of before TSHTF to use for trading once civilization has collapsed? Water filters. Bicycles. Think of the trading value of a bike WTSHTF. How about superglue? Stores for a long time with lots of uses. Ditto duct tape.
Both McArdle and Parker make a valid point. If the world does suddenly devolve to a state of nature, we might need MacGyver more than we need John Wayne.


caheidelberger said...

Nick and Tom Cullen rode bikes to go find Mother Abigail after the superflu in The Stand. Break down civilization, and you can bet I'll make a dash for the bike shop for spare tubes.

LK said...

I always move The Stand to the bottom of the TBR pile. I probably should take a look at it