Home » The Amazing Way Bicycles Change You: Anthony Desnick at TEDxZumbroRiver (Full Transcript)

The Amazing Way Bicycles Change You: Anthony Desnick at TEDxZumbroRiver (Full Transcript)

Anthony Desnick

Anthony Desnick – TRANSCRIPT

I was a lot less nervous during dress rehearsal when they were only eight people here. So, they told me that I was going to die and I went on a bike ride.

My own history in cycling, — and I’m going to ask for a show of hands to see if this resonates —, is: I learned how to ride a bike when I was about seven years old, my range went from the backyard to the block. Couple of years later it went to a few more blocks. By the time I was 12 or 13, I was riding around the entire neighborhood. My bike was my source of freedom, it allowed me to escape from my parents and it allowed me to interact with my friends without my parents being in the next room. It was just a wonderful source of freedom!

Then I turned 16. I got a driver’s licence, I had access to a car, and now I had a new definition of freedom. It’s hard to see with the lights, but how many of you would share that sort of history and story with your own biking? Raise your hands. Oh my God! Almost everybody. We also had social media in my day. We didn’t do it on our phones, we didn’t do it on our iPads, or our computers because we didn’t have any of those. We still were able to find out where our friends were.

Today, if you go on Facebook, almost every day on my feed there’s a map of St Paul with a little dot at the airport saying: “@ MSP Airport on my way to Chicago.” “On my way to Paris”, “On my way to Timbuktu.” We’re always trying to impress one another with where we are going or where we’ve been. And we’ll see pictures from all of those places over the next few days.

In my day we also knew where we were going and we knew where we were, and we knew that. We knew where the bikes were! We knew where Danny, Timmy, Tony, we knew where they were because we saw their bikes outfront. I know that this is a scientific community here in the audience, probably many of you are scientists, and you all love data, and you love big data, and I’m going to give you, not big data, but I’m going to give you a few data points that will help frame the discussion that we’re about to have 600 000 – This is the number of people who die every year in the US from, what are wholly preventable, sedentary related illnesses.

33000 – This is the one that makes me crazy. This is the number of people who die every year in car crashes in the United States. And it’s been about this level for decades. I’m going to ask you in the audience, how many of you have lost somebody, who is a friend or a family member, to a car accident or a car crash? About a fourth or a third of you. That’s a lot of people! If you listen to the news, we don’t hear very much about this, there isn’t a lot of outrage, in fact, it seems to be an acceptable number based on the fact that there isn’t a whole lot of things that we’re doing about it.

I also want to ask you, how many of you have had friends or family died as a result of domestic, here in the US terrorist attacks? Okay, almost nobody, yet when you listen to the evening news, you don’t hear about– Car crashes don’t lead the story, but yet if somebody is killed by somebody from the ISIS, or by Al-Qaeda, it leads and it sticks for a few days. It’s part of the 24-hour times three news cycle. One, the number of people on this stage right now whose life has been saved by the bicycle. 12 – This is the number of pounds that the average person loses after one year of commuting by bike. 15 – This is the number of minutes that physicians tell us we should spend doing moderate exercise every day.

When I think about exercise I think about people getting in the SUV or the pick-up truck driving down to the health club, driving around the parking lot so that they can find a spot close to the entrance, and then going up to the escalator so that they can use the StairMaster. And so that they can ride on the stationary bike I’m guessing because you’re laughing, that there’s some truth that you see to this, and it saddens me, frankly. 50 – This is the percentage of trips that we take in our cars that are under two miles. Easy to bike, easy to walk. 48% – That’s the mode share in Minneapolis, the number of people riding their bikes to work every day, it’s about 4500 people. It’s increasing every single year. When I’m riding my bike I can really see that.

100 000 – This is really interesting. Anybody who lives in the suburbs but would like to live in the city, but they can’t afford it. Sell the car, it’s worth a 100 grand in mortgage value. Now you can afford a house that costs $100 000 more, in the center of the city, if you want to be in a walkable neighborhood, a bikeable neighborhood, and have access to the things in a neighborhood whilst not using a car.

Eight – That’s the number of euros in the Nordic countries that they have determined is a return on a one-euro investment in bicycle infrastructure in their cities. The effects to the environment, the impact on medical costs —from driving as opposed to biking — is a huge return on investment.

And then the last number. 19 000 000 – This is the number of bike trips that are taken every single day, not in the US but in The Netherlands. I started out by telling you that there might be a story about me and my own life and my own health. I was a patient at Mayo clinic from 2007 until now, but I followed my GI doctor up to the twin cities when her fellowship was over. And when my papers came with me or my records came with me, I saw that she had written during my last visit: “Patient appears younger than stated age.” Yes! This is a thing that every one of us wants to see, specially those of us who are older than 60.

I have Crohn’s disease. The official term I’m told is: “Duodenal Crohns with stricturing disease.” It’s made my life miserable. In ’07 I had a couple of surgeries, the disease spread very rapidly after the surgeries. In ’08, both doctors here at Mayo Clinic and doctors of Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle said: “If the disease continues to spread the way that it has, you won’t be able to absorb any nutrition in three to five years.” It was a pretty miserable time in my life, most of my feeding was done through a backpack and a picc line through what is called TPN, I don’t even know the — Is it a Latin or English name for it? I just knew that the backpack was my friend because it fed me.

What did I do? I did what anybody who is terminal, or has been told that they’re terminal, does: I went for a bike ride. First, about a block, because I was very weak. Next day, two blocks. Third day, around the block. And after some months I was riding for some miles. After a couple of years of riding like that — I made a few changes in my diet, but fairly minor — after a few years of that I was able, against medical advice, — sorry Dr Party if you’re here — to take myself off of the really massive immunosuppressants that I were on. They were kind of dangerous. They didn’t really have any bad side effects for me.

It didn’t matter that much, I just didn’t liked the idea of taking them so I took myself off of them, left only an acid reducer and that was it. And since, I’ve been getting better and better and better I still have Crohn’s disease, it’s a chronic disease that we live with forever and there’s a flare here and there, but for the most part I’m better and I tribute the lifesaving to the bicycle. This is Laura and Sam. They both have Crohn’s disease, they’re married.

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