On the eve of departure, it’s time for a little Q & A.
These are actual questions we have received about the Ride for Human Rights. For answers to your questions about Human Rights First, see humanrightsfirst.org.
Q: What does a kangaroo have to do with human rights?
A: Here’s a definition that will explain. Human rights should be a concern of every sentient being.
Q: Why not use a real touring bicycle instead of that funny-looking thing?
A: Cyclists debate the merits of bicycle designs. Each has advantages and disadvantages. We prefer a recumbent bicycle for long journeys because it doesn’t cause the hand numbness, neck and back injuries, and saddle sores inflicted by bicycles that force the rider into unnatural positions. Recumbents have a storied history. In 1934, after cycling speed records were set by recumbent bikes, ’bents were banned from major competitions. Had this not happened, Lance Armstrong would have ridden even faster, on a recumbent. We won’t be as fast as Mr. Armstrong because Jeffrey doesn’t have the physique and our BikeE is designed as solid serious cargo-carrying transport, not as a fenderless featherweight Ferrari-like toy intended for youths in Spandex. And our plan is to see our surroundings, not to zoom through the countryside with our backs hunched and our heads down.
Q: Does the BikeE fold?
Q: Is the BikeE motorized?
A: Jeffrey is the motor. Motorized electric-assist bicycles (pedaling required), true hybrids, are practical around town as commuter and cargo vehicles. They are clean and quiet, provide healthful exercise, and extend a user’s speed and range. Recharging a battery is more efficient than growing, shipping, and preparing food to provide the extra calories that unassisted pedaling requires. Yet on this journey we’d exhaust a battery in a few hours. Then we’d be stuck hauling a heavy depleted battery and charger for the rest of the day.
Q: How can you travel fast enough on such small wheels (16″ front, 20″ rear)?
A: The same way a modern bike travels as fast as a big-wheeled bicycle from the 1800’s: gears. And smaller wheels are more aerodynamic, other things being equal.
Q: You are staying at motels, so which will you carry: a knife or a gun?
A: This questioner evidently learned about American motels from films like Psycho and No Country for Old Men. The only defensive device we’ll carry is dog repellent to discourage unleashed hounds that have a yen for cyclist flesh. Dogs cause serious injuries by forcing cyclists into traffic, getting under the wheels and overturning the bicycle, causing the rider to hit obstacles, or biting. We understand that dogs chasing bikes are just being dogs, so we won’t harm the dogs, but we won’t become their prey either.
Q: How will the two of you fit onto one bicycle?
A: Jeffrey is an ordinary person of the sort the BikeE was designed to carry. Joey is a 1-pound plush puppet, stuffed with “All New Material”. There’s room for us both.
Q: Isn’t it a little frivolous to address serious issues like U.S. treatment of refugees through a kangaroo puppet and a crazy guy on an unusual bicycle?
A: We think some silliness is called for. Remember the old Warner Brothers cartoons in which a sheepdog and a wolf punch in and out on a timeclock? Real life, as lived under many of our immigration laws, is just as absurd.
Q: Why do you violate American style manuals by putting punctuation outside quotation marks?
A: Unless the punctuation is part of a quotation, careful lawyers do not put it within quotation marks. And this better comports with how much of the rest of the English-speaking world punctuates. We vary our adherence to this rule as circumstances warrant.
Q: What are the home countries of the refugees and former prisoners who were hosted by Jeffrey’s family?
A: Those countries include, among others, Lebanon, Belarus, Somalia, Uganda, Romania, Algeria, Iran, Burma, Congo. Some guests stayed for dinner. Some stayed for weeks.
Q: Have you planned your route?
A: We have a general idea; click on the map on the right side of the blog page. Good bicycle route maps do not exist for much of our journey. Using road maps, local advice, the Internet and a GPS, we’ll improvise as we go. We’re lucky that some substantial stretches are well marked. More than a quarter of our trip will be in Pennsylvania, which we’ll cross on PA Bike Route V.
Q: How many miles per day will you ride?
A: We plan to average at least 60 miles (100 kilometers) per day. Follow us here and see how we do!