Bicycles as Witness

Those who know me know I was led, almost 40 years ago, to give up having a personal automobile, and the many blessings that resulted in my life as a result.  Including nearly daily running, and making it possible to develop my photographic skills and collection of photos by being immersed in our environment as I walked, instead of being sealed up in a car.

But that also sensitized me to the tremendous damage all those cars were causing, burning all of that fossil fuel, dumping tons of carbon dioxide into the air and oceans, and the effects on temperatures, air and water quality, and weather patterns.  I was also aware of the injustices of industrial society’s squandering of non-renewable resources taken from other countries and future generations.  Meaning those peoples didn’t benefit from those resources, yet suffered, disproportionately, the negative effects of fossil fuel extraction and air and water pollution.

One of my life’s frustrations has been my inability to convince others  to reject personal automobiles.  This has been especially frustrating for my relationships with Quakers.  I was often, wrongly, judgmental.  But I am also acutely aware of the special problems posed for those living in rural areas, and other places without public transportation.  I knew I would be facing these challenges myself when I moved to Iowa.

Bicycles have been the best alternative I have come up with, so far.  I used bicycles extensively when living in Indianapolis.  Here is my bicycle at our weekly Peace Vigil.

Jeff Kisling Indianapolis North Meadow Friends

And Quakers from the meeting I attended there, North Meadow Circle of Friends, Gilbert Kuhn and Anne Reynolds, would often ride their bicycles with me when we would go to events and visit our friends at the Kheprw Institute (KI).

This is Don Laughlin, a member of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) and life long environmentalist, demonstrating his bicycle powered electricity generator at Yearly Meeting.

Don Laughlin Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative 4

Yesterday I wrote about Quaker organizations that promote the use of bicycles.  In that post I asked Friends to send me photos of themselves and their bicycles, because I know many Quakers do use bicycles.

Even as most of us are forced to use automobiles, one way we can reduce their use is by using bicycles when possible, and trying to do so more often.  One big advantage of that is it provides a VISIBLE WITNESS of how we are trying to address environmental justice issues.

Just since I wrote yesterday’s blog post asking for photos, I have received some responses.

Pam Marguerite sent the following comment:  That’s amazing! I live about 3 miles from my meeting, and usually bike when it’s nice out. Friends and I are planning a 49 miles bike ride next month in honor of our all turning 49 this year, but it will be a lot to work up to it (and it will probably be mostly flat)
I will try to take a picture of my bike at the meetinghouse next week!

My friend and fellow Bear Creek meeting Quaker, Liz Oppenheimer, shared my message with those who she knew who rode bicycles.

Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting

Quakers from Central and Southern Africa Yearly Meeting shared that blog post on their Facebook page and added this amusing comment:  Not sure we can manage bicycle racks at our meeting places…

And my sister, Lisa, Bear Creek meeting member, sent the following photos from San Francisco, including bicycles on the ferry, where she is visiting her son Justin with her daughter Alice and other son Eric, and they rode across the Golden Gate Bridge:

I have begun to build a collection of these photos online here.  I would love to include your photos, which you can send to

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