When it comes to getting around without carbon-emitting transportation, walking or crawling come immediately to mind. Right after those is the bicycle.
We won’t get into the argument of who invented what would become known as the “bicycle,” only that he or she was almost certainly insane.
Early bicycles were either so flimsy or clumsy — and roads so horrible — that death was always imminent. Steering was nominal, the tires solid rubber, and the frame so spindly that having the entire contraption collapse under a rider who hit a pothole was common.
What some people claim as the first bicycle was actually called a “Velocipede” by the French nobleman Marquis de Sade — oops, I meant Comte de Sivrac — in 1791.
The English later got into the act with what they nicknamed the “penny-farthing.” Yes, farthing. Not the other thing, although that too could be accomplished, depending on how much strain one put into pedaling.
Enough history. Centuries later, we have modern bikes, which are, of course, still dangerous — not because they aren’t built tough but rather because larger vehicles have grossly outnumbered them.
Biking is considered a legal form of transportation and, as such, there are rules and laws intended to keep them safer. For example, it’s illegal (yes, it is) to run over bicyclists simply because they can’t pedal as fast as you can drive.
Actually, it’s more of a theory than a law. No matter how many laws are passed to protect cyclists, other vehicles remain larger and sometimes are driven by creatures with a limited ability to pay attention.
A good comparison would be running a marathon in which all the other runners — thousands of them — are rhinos, elephants and bison. Your odds of making it to the finish line are significantly diminished.
Even so, I bought a bicycle recently. I’m still learning how to operate the varying speeds and gears, sprockets and reflectors. Oh, and a helmet. With all this safety stuff, I don’t mind telling you that I feel a complete sense of terror.
Bikes and I don’t get along. I didn’t learn to ride one until I was 9. This late start was due to living in a downtown apartment in a large European city. It wasn’t until we moved to Boise — after considerable bruising, road rash, and injuries from accepting dares that would have insulted the intelligence of even a presidential candidate — that I finally learned how to ride a bike.
That lasted until a got a motorcycle, upon which I nearly killed myself. After that, I got a car. I figured I was done with bicycling. It no longer was cool.
It still wasn’t cool when I got back on a bike for two years as a Latter-day Saint missionary. Bikes were inherited by order of a transfer to another area.
For example, you hoped that the elder whose place you were taking had a better bike than the one you left to the poor slob taking your place.
Note: No amount of faith or prayer ever caused this to happen.
With so much time spent riding a bike, I actually got good at it. Before long, I was able to do really un-servant-of-the-Lord-like wheelies for an entire block. I may have gotten better, but the bike had grown weaker.
One day, the front wheel came off as I was returning it to the ground. I plowed a trench with my face. Dozens of people applauded. I was too woozy to tell if it was because they were happy to see a missionary crash, or the literal miracle of my being able to stand up again.
I plan to take it easy this time around. I’m old now. I’ll start out slow and then go slower.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.