Why do you think it is that we never forget?
Riding hails us back to early childhood, when learning to ride is a project assigned to a parent night after night. How we feel secure feeling their hand on the back of the seat. How they scream with pride as we ride away from them, down the street, ALONE. Moving by our own power, free to wander.
Some of us, after learning to drive, abandon this activity, relegate it to the young. But there is no question, bike riding is here to stay.
Cities, such as Milwaukee, have created bike paths along old railroad tracks. One of ours is called the Oak Leaf Trail and most of us who grew up here never heard of it. The poetic beauty of it all- repurposing the tracks from a more “advanced” industrial form of transportation to serve the rudimentary bicycle and its growing number of enthusiasts. What this means for riders like me is that I can go anywhere in the city by bike and the path is completely FLAT! I can ride from my house to Urban Outfitters on the East side in less time than it takes to drive. I can glide over busy streets with a smile on my face, not sitting miserably inside of a car, waiting for the light to change.
This city caters to us, opening up rustic beer gardens with shared picnic tables and clean bathrooms. Copenhagen offers two designated bike lanes and a ramp to rest your foot when you are stopped at a traffic light. Along with ÜberX, you have a choice of Über Bike, meaning the car that picks you up is equipped with a bike rack.
In Madison, where I live during the week, bike paths abound. My work is 3.6 miles from my apartment. There is a designated bike path all along University avenue, nearly all the way to my Middleton office. But riding to work is fraught with other issues. I’ll get sweaty! How do I shlep my clothes, shoes and makeup so I can change when I get there and look like a doctor? How can I ride on a real bike path with actual hills? I lie in bed full of doubt, searching for any excuse to get out of it. I check the weather, hoping for rain. Hey, there’s a 30% chance at 4pm, how will I get home? I think of Eleanor Roosevelt saying ‘Do one thing every day that scares you.’ I try to come up with other scary things I can do later in the day instead.
After the first time, I decided I would ride after work instead, it was just too much. Yet, there is something so utilitarian about using the bike to get to work, how I feel when I get there, like I have a secret no one shares. Kind of like my standing desk. Reducing my carbon footprint feels damn good too.
I know I won’t ride every day. I just hope to consider it as an option and try to ride whenever I can overcome the thoughts in my head. Because when I do, I get home in the evening and know I have my exercise in and anything else is just cake!
I don’t give a crap about fancy attire or name brand bikes. I don’t need 27 gears. I remember when I was buying my hot tub years ago, everything was about the jets- how strong, how many. I barely use the jets now and prefer the Japanese type soak, without the noise. That’s the way it is with the bike. I want a “city bike”, with a bell and maybe a basket. I want to feel comfortable and safe. I’m grateful to be out there in the world.