Here we are, halfway through #30DaysofBiking and I'm just now getting to really post about it. That's probably because one of the challenges of bike challenges is getting out of the saddle long enough to actually write about what's happened/happening, and its easier to reflect on the saddle when you're in it rather than when you're out of it.
For someone like myself 30 Days of Biking could easily become "30 days of Frustration" or "30 days that I'd rather not" even though everyone* was shocked that I would sign up, "don't you bike every day already?" I was asked no less than fifty times. The answer to that is a simple "no, actually, I don't usually bike every day," because I'm not required to leave my home on my days off. In fact, most days off I prefer to be AT home, not that I'm a homebody at all, but I miss my cats and its only been recently that my dog has been willing to get back on the bike himself. Not to mention my husband bikes to work and back everyday, which means he's not at all enthused about another ride later so I have to do any rides before he makes it back. Moreover, sometimes my job means I'll be at a different site that it might not be practical to bike to (one site, I can't even find the bike parking, another is just too far even for me), so that means after taking the bus home I have to construct some reason to ride my bike, which I want to point out cuts into the time I spend with my beloved cats.
I was aware there would be issues going into the challenge, so I girded myself with a personal challenge: Make Every Ride Joyful. It didn't matter if I went a mile or just up and down the driveway (which I've done quite a bit because have you seen how darn cute my cats are?) or if I went to the mailbox, or down the street to buy some goods from my favorite medical dispensary. All that matters is that I am in the saddle and happy to be there. If I can just be, I can be happy. For a lot of cyclists the posts about miles rode, or obstacles cleared, can be daunting, but not me, I'm not in it to prove anything more than I really like cycling. As a result, I've been in the saddle at least once these past fifteen days, and I believe I'll be able to complete it.
I'm probably not the only one thinking of the kid who got a bike because I signed up. Is she short like me? Does she chafe at constraints and long for independence as I did? Does she like to stand on her saddle and ride the dragonfly like I did? (okay, still do) Or is she a racer, born and bred to fly with the wind? I wonder how old she is, if she had poor parents like mine, lots of siblings she takes by bike to places, or few siblings and many friends. I hope lots of friends.
But throughout this tread of thought I always smile, even if the girl has different hair, different skin, different background, it doesn't even matter if the hypothetical she is actually a he. That kid was just like me at that age. Any kid I see on a bike I think, "just like me," as I pedal onward, "just like me, they hate headwinds," or "just like me, longing for two wheels instead of four," even those kids on saddled scooters, a.k.a balance bikes, I think, "just like me, can't wait to be free,"
There aren't a lot of activities that make me feel that way about my fellow humans. I often feel disconnected to strangers ever since leaving my small-but-amazingly-cool hometown. Other people's kids are just that, Other People, emphasis on their disconnection to me and connection to others. But when I see a kid on a bike that changes. Suddenly, they could not be any more like me if they had been created from a 3-D printer. Suddenly, they are just like me, complete with a need for warriors to stand up for them. Okay, warrior is hyperbolic in terms of writing to your local representative about transit options, going to meetings, etc.. but you get my meaning I'm sure.
When its somebody else on a bike, recumbent, fixie, foldie, roadie, upright, fatbike, bakfist/cargo, or hybrid, they are like you. Even if they ride differently, they are like you. In the community of cyclist we run the gambit of the Kilometer Queens and Lycra Kings, to the box store biker who got their ride with their last hundred bucks. We don't always agree on things like lights, to what gear to wear, and oh my gosh you want to see a community turn on itself like piranhas? Bring up helmets. I dare you. I mean respectfully bring it up, the crazy will happen on its own. Or headphones. Now that debate will spark some ire everywhere (I'm on the pro-headphones-at-a-volume-you-can-hear-others-at camp, which is very small and scrappy). The same cyclist who cries in vehement agreement when you bring up bike racks will turn into a troll when you bring up shedding that reflective vest. Yet, all of us, from the handkerchief-on-the-ankles to the gel gobbling racer are really and truly the same folks. We may vary in how we ride, or why we ride, frequency, models, shape, age, and gender, but we are a community unlike the motorist.
We are the same because we made that choice. We didn't get into our cars today (if we had them), we didn't walk if we were able, we didn't bus though that was, and always should be an option. We bought a vehicle, deliberately, and the vehicle needs us to be its engine. You chose to be a cyclist, which is a conscious choice in this country.
Perhaps someday biking will be as ubiquitous as car ownership, perhaps someday motorists will have to hold 30 days of driving. Perhaps, one day, 30 days of biking will turn into another challenge, driven by the common nature of biking. I'd like to live in that world. Where ever kid is just like me at that age, where biking is the norm, where we are all just the same and find joy at last in our differences (probably the only way I'll ever look forward to a lumin debate). Until we are all cyclists you'll just have to accept that when I see you on the street I'll smile, and attempt to wave or ring my bell to say 'hello friend!' because we are so few I that would not have even one of us discouraged.
Ride how you want to ride, my friend, whether that means the wind in your hair and stories in your ears, or all lights on and, yes orange! on your chest. Don't let someone else's opinion keep you from what makes you a confident cyclist. Sure I say orange is for convicts not cyclist, but what does your heart and mind tell you? Ride how you want to ride my friend, but don't discourage your other riders. Let them proclaim their love, discuss respectfully if you disagree, and in the end if you can't agree on the topic, at least finish it by agreeing on the fact you both love to cycle.
Study after study concludes the more cyclists there are, the safer all cyclists are, so please, do me, and yourself a favor; don't forget the joy in your ride, don't take the joy away from others. And, above all, get on your bike and ride, because that, if nothing else, will make a safer world for a child.
Isn't that alone worth riding for?
*everyone being every person I know who doesn't have a bike or doesn't bike as often.