America, Lets Get Back On Our Bikes: Part 1
When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.
– H.G. Wells
So… for the past 8 weeks I have been surviving in American Society, living in a suburb of Southern California without a car…For some, the thought of not having a vehicle might raise the hair on their neck, but for me it was quite liberating! Sure there were times when a car would have been nice or more convenient but I survived.
Now, before I go on I must preface that I am a professional triathlete as well as a coach of age group triathletes, so I am fortunate enough to work out of the house. However, every morning I did have to get to the pool where I would begin the days training regime. Fifteen or so minutes each way provided lots of time to observe how my small little 5km area of Costa Mesa moves each morning. This is different to my normal twenty minute drive I have when back in N.J., where I am usually distracted by morning sports talk radio.
Most days the sun was shining on my face, which helped make it easier to get out the door rather than get in the car. A few mornings it was quite cool and it even rained on me couple of times but the cool water on my face actually felt soothing and quite peaceful! It took me back to when I was a kid and wasn’t old enough to drive. With my heart pumping as I raced to get home and into dry clothes, a smile came over my face. Do you remember what that felt like when you were a child? Exercise…ah it felt so good but you didn’t realize how happy it made you.
Now, the neighborhood I was calling home is primarily a Mexican American neighborhood so many of the locals also road their bikes as a means of transportation. California is a very cycling friendly state with a bike lane on almost every street. But not only did I see my neighbors riding around town on their mountain bikes, the streets were also covered with cyclist on their fancy commuter bikes. As the weeks went by I would start to recognize the same people coming and going, me on my way to the pool in the morning while they were off to their place of employment… Then again in the afternoon when I would be coming home from my training ride, I would see my fellow riders on their way home after a day at the office. There was a certain glow on their faces, or twinkle in their eye! Much different from the look of frustration and or misery you see in the driver next to you on the freeway as you both sit in traffic. I couldn’t help but think, why aren’t most people commuting by bike??
Now I realize this just isn’t possible in certain parts of the country as the roads may not be as bicycle friendly as they are in California or many people live too far from their place of work to ride their bikes. But how about for short trips, like to the gym, grocery store, or hell even the liquor store?? Grab a backpack and go!
It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.
– Ernest Hemingway
Check back tomorrow for Part II!