Bike-riding as an adult is fairly new territory for me. While I've had a bike for decades, I only recently started riding it around Rochester with regularity.
It's now my preferred mode of transportation for errands and work. Sure, I arrive most places with a summery "glisten" (produced by sweat), but guess what? It turns out no one actually cares that much what I look like. Alleluia.
Why didn't I realize this sooner? I could've saved about 1.4 million hours of hair dryer use.
In addition to less time worrying about my appearance, the past four weeks of two-wheeled transportation have provided the following gifts.
— An opportunity to experience Rochester in a totally new way. It's a different community by foot and on a bike than it is in a car. Bike riding affords a chance to encounter the people and neighborhoods of our city in a new way. On porches and front steps. Behind restaurants and warehouses. On trails and in parks. Our community is diverse … a powerful, beautiful truth that wasn't always as evident when I was traveling exclusively in a car.
— A new relationship with time. Bike-riding requires planning in advance and leaving a larger window of wiggle room. Instead of a 12-minute drive, it's a 30-minute ride to work. If I want to run an errand over lunch, I have to pause and consider how many times a day I want to trek back up the hill to Assisi. This has been much more a gift than an inconvenience. I'm arriving places early and without a sense of hurry. Time feels more like a friend and less like a frenemy.
— The chance to use an alternative source of fuel. Instead of gasoline, a few days a week I now use calories as fuel. This has felt utterly empowering, and it's leading me to a much deeper appreciation for the ample amounts of fossil fuels I use in other ways every single day. Biking is creating within me a new awareness of our national and global energy system. I have a really long way to go, but it's a start.
— Daily encounters with creation. A typical Tuesday morning includes sightings of bunnies, turkey, deer, dragonflies, squirrels and a giant array of birds. There is so much exquisite wildlife in our region! Whether it's an extended weekend ride or just the daily work commute, these rides are a powerful infusion of beauty and wonder. Riding a bike is fantastic free entertainment, and the fresh air is a treat, too.
— It's making me a better car driver. Perhaps this has been the most powerful gift of all in the past month of bike riding. I used to be a decent and sometimes distracted driver. I would talk on the phone or sing loudly to the radio or eat food or type addresses into the GPS app on my phone. Let me tell you … the landscape looks a lot different when one is totally exposed on two wheels. Friends, we are distracted drivers, and it is petrifying to witness on a bike. Please please please, we MUST commit together to putting our phones out of reach when we are behind the wheel. No exceptions. Please join me in this commitment.
Rediscovering bike-riding has been one of the best experiences of my adult life, and the party is just getting started. I am grateful to the avid bike advocates in our community who have been paving the way to make it safe to ride, walk, and rollerblade throughout Rochester. What a truly magnificent gift they have given us all!