Special to Emmaus Patch By Chrissy Cilento, Emmaus High School Junior
One day when all the world’s oil supplies have been depleted and cars can no longer run on gas, Bob Swaim will still be speeding down roads past all of us in one of his bicycles. Affectionately called "Bob the Bike Guy," Swaim has a collection of about 250 bicycles, and every single one is different. He boasts that his collection is the weirdest and most diverse in the world, and judging from what students saw last week when he came to visit the school, I’d say he’s right!
Swaim was invited to Emmaus by Environmental Science teacher Steve Baier, who recognized his collection as a great opportunity to teach Environmental Science students about sustainability of fuels and environmentally friendly transportation. Art classes were invited as well, so that they could see that art isn’t just confined to a canvas or pottery wheel, but can even be found in vehicles. Even though Swaim’s visit was only meant for art and environmental science students, other teachers ended up taking their classes on mini field trips, so that by the end of his visit, World History and English classes were all gathering around in the courtyard, ooh-ing and ahh-ing as Swaim showed us his collection.
A retired math teacher from Coopersburg, Swaim never had a professional connection to bikes. After his daughter left for college, he became interested in bikes and began collecting them until his collection reached the monumental proportions it’s at today. Each bike in his collection comes with its own story and place of origin, ranging from Germany to California. By no means are Swaim’s bikes merely for decoration: Swaim rides about 20 miles per day using his vast collection.
Swaim’s passion for biking doesn’t just come from the sheer enjoyment of the wind running through his helmet, though. He recognizes biking as an excellent way to promote health and environmental awareness. His 20-20 theory proposes that if we switch from using cars to bikes, as a country the United States will save about 20 percent of our healthcare cost and 20 percent of our energy cost. In addition, we’d all feel more energetic and hopefully get more things accomplished in our day because we’d feel more awake. Instead of droning from the front door to the bus stop every morning and sleeping from there to the school, by biking, kids would be forced to wake up and smell the fresh air, while getting exercise at the same time.
While Swaim’s dream of having everyone ride bikes everywhere sounds great in theory, he recognizes that it can’t happen instantaneously in today’s motor-driven world. As a bike rider, he’s experienced firsthand that cycling around on roads where cars are predominant is no treat. Sometimes cars can be disrespectful or reckless, which makes for a biker’s nightmare. In order to alleviate bikers’ struggles, he calls for more room for bikers, envisioning building beltways alongside every road for pedestrians and bikers like himself to enjoy.
For Swaim, bikes provide a source of history, diversity and education. Even as a retiree, he continues to nourish his love for biking daily by riding and volunteering to come talk to groups like us about what he thinks biking can do for society. He kept us all entertained and enlightened with his variety of bikes and knowledge. Hopefully, if Swaim’s dream of expanded biking come true, the world will be pedaling in the right direction.
Chrissy Cilento, a junior at , plans to study journalism in college. She is a periodic contributor to Patch.