Factors of Five

One of the side-effects of Cycle Oregon is that I’m in better cycling shape than I have been in quite some time. Riding 70+ miles per day for a week will do that. So, after a week of sitting around eating pizza and recuperating, I decided to tackle one of the bigger outdoor goals I’ve had since moving to Bend – to bicycle the “Cascade Lakes Loop”.

Without going into detail, the ride is a 100+ mile loop that starts here in Bend and does a counter-clockwise loop out around Mt. Bachelor and through the lake region of the Cascades, eventually returning through La Pine and Sunriver, two quaint little towns to the South. It was exhausting and fun, featuring glass-smooth blacktop, unbelievably washboarded-out dirt roads, chilly morning temps in the 30’s, and eventually absolutely perfect 70 degree weather. Well worth doing!

So, why the funky title for this post? As you might imagine, spending 7 hours on a bike gives you time to think. And so I found myself contemplating the speed with which we travel…

  • Walking: 2.5-4 mph
  • Bicycle: 12-20 mph
  • Car: 60-100 mph
  • Plane: 300-500 mph

It seems that the factor of 5 is an important technological discriminator in terms of how/when we adopt new forms of travel. One can conclude that the next widely-adopted form of travel will operate at speeds of 1500-2500 mph (mach 3-4).

Which is cool from a, “Gee Whiz!” standpoint, except… well… as speed increases, so does stress. Or so it seems to me. I mean, walking is easy. Bicycling is sorta easy except you do risk significant injury. Driving involves insurance, road rage, motorcycle cops, and auto mechanics. And planes? Well, full body searches, annoying strangers sitting next to you, crappy airline food, and finally the ever-present knowledge that your life depends on a horribly complex web of technology operating perfectly. Thus, there seems to be some sort of conservation of stress at work.

I’m not sure if there’s any real conclusions to be drawn from this, but I do know that cities that encourage walking tend to be friendlier, more inviting places. Contrast San Francisco and Paris to Los Angeles and Phoenix.

I rest my case… and my legs.

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