Jul 042011

Some of the ways riding a bike makes me feel independent and free:

  • Competence and self-sufficiency: I can fix most basic mechanical problems that would stop me from going down the road. Not all, but I can patch or replace the tube to repair a flat tire, get the chain back onto the derailleur, and fiddle with the brake adjustment if it’s rubbing. Note that I cannot perform any of the equivalent tasks on a car.
  • Convenience: When I feel like taking a ride, I can just go. I don’t have to think about whether there’s gas in the tank or a parking place when I get there. (Personally, I’m fueled by caffeine, chocolate, and the farmers’ market.) And while I appreciate having a good transit system and utilize it in the winter when I can’t ride or when I need a lift up a steep hill, with my bike I’m not tied to anyone’s schedule but mine.
  • Financial freedom: Speaking of gas…. Freedom from knowing what gas costs! Seriously, unless I happen to glance at a station as I bike past (I try to wave at the poor drivers) I couldn’t tell you the price of gas. I understand it’s quite steep.
  • Mobility: It’s much easier to get around in heavy traffic, and that’s without breaking any laws. If I hit a heavy construction zone and cars are backed up, I just switch to the sidewalk as a pedestrian and keep moving. I can get through spaces where a car can’t pass if need be, and I take up a lot less room so it’s easier to maneuver.
  • Freedom to choose a different path: You can take this one metaphorically, and I do mean it that way. On my bike I experience a greater flexibility of thought about how to get from point A to point B. If you’re a driving commuter, when is the last time you drove on different streets just to see what’s on them? Or because that little store looks intriguing and you can stop and check it out quickly without a big hassle? Experts say that trying new things helps keep your brain young; biking is my brain-aerobics every day.
  • Freedom to see through new eyes: Closely related to the path-finding is the way I now think about transportation. For one thing, I don’t take it for granted. For another, I think more broadly about all the ways people and goods move around and I recognize auto-centric thinking, speech, and limitations all the time. I have ridden away from a very confining box, and it’s not the car–it’s the thought patterns that allow themselves to be constrained by its boundaries.

Free yourself. Ride your bike.

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