By Sal Ruibal
Living in the Washington, D.C. area can really mess up your grip on reality. When you think of all the trillions of dollars that pour into and out of this medium-sized city on the Potomac River, it can make your own lot in life seem really, truly insignificant. A billion is chump change.
One of my favorite things to do here is take visiting friends on a night bike ride along the National Mall.
(For the brain-dead, the National Mall is a huge open space with museums and monuments that stretches from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. There are no J.C. Penny stores or Macy’s, no Starbucks and no Sports Authority.)
There is plenty of authority, however. Heavily armed authority.
There are monuments to just about every shooting war you can think of and statues of generals who ran those wars. There is a Jimmy Carter Peace Institute but I’ve never seen anyone in there. The military dead are across the Potomac in Virginia, where the tens of thousands of silent grave markers won’t disturb your vacation.
But there is no statue of a bicycle.
Yeah, in the Air and Space Museum there’s a section about the Wright Brothers and first flight, but just a note that they were bicycle-makers.
There needs to be a bike monument, but what would it be? Well, we know it won’t be a Lance Armstrong statue. If there had been one, it would have already been pulled down and dragged down Pennsylvania Avenue like Saddam Hussein’s headless statue in downtown Bagdad.
In the land of the free and the home of the brave, the bicycle represents freedom to move under your own power, beholden to no power but the strength in your legs and the balance in your mind.
I can think of just one person who should represent the incredible freedom of thought and movement of the bicycle: Albert Einstein.
Albert was all about balance: E=MC2.
He was also a gentle person who loved cycling and children. His humble statue just off the Mall is a giant grandpa with an open lap for children of all ages to snuggle in.
There is an iconic photo of Einstein riding a bike that should be made into a statue on the National Mall. It doesn’t need to be in a granite hall or a soaring tower, but maybe just the gentle man on his bike with a dozen empty bikes behind, allowing us to throw a leg over and ride with the gentle genius.