Tuesday, October 8, 2013

So Much Love

When I was around four I got my first two wheeler bike. It was orange, had tiny 12" wheels, upright ape-hanger handle bars, a double crossbar, a small banana seat, solid rubber tires on metal rims, and spokes as thick as your baby finger. I vividly remember falling in love with that bike when it saved me from being stung by a wasp. I pedaled hard, and she raced me to safety.

My next bike was red with white fenders. Today it would be retro-cool with its curved crossbar and wide handlebars. I think my poor father replaced eight or nine back tires on it, and our street was streaked with long, black skid marks. To this day I get a charge out of coaster-brake skids. There's just something satisfying about jamming your foot back on the pedal and sending the back of the bike around in a long, screeching arc.

A black Raleigh Rampar BMX, a red 10 speed of unknown manufacture, a copper Apollo ten speed (which is still in my basement), a black Raleigh Ozark, and a stunningly-painted blue and white swirl GT Tequesta, all led me to my current bike, my beloved green Brodie.

When I was ten I got my first skateboard; a Hobie Weaver Woodie.

In an age where all the kids had yellow "banana" boards, and the world (outside of California) had not yet heard of Tony Alva, Stacey Peralta and the Z-boys, this thing was the bomb. This board led the way to a Tony Hawk board, a Skull Skates, and most recently it's led to me "borrowing" my son Kaden's longboard for errands.

Today I am a 42 year-old supposed adult. I have a job and responsibilities, a family, a mortgage; all the things that go along with being "grown up". I have a truck that gets us up and down the ski hill, pulls the tent trailer, and on days when I can't ride, I reluctantly use it to get to and from work.

I say reluctantly because I have never gotten the same joy from driving, as I have from riding and skating. There is something indescribably freeing about swinging your leg over the seat, standing on the pedals and making yourself move. Every single day I get a little reminder of what it was like to be eight-years-old and having the freedom to glide my way to school.

While there are challenges with commuting by bike - weather and traffic are at the top of the list - the payback you get from riding is immense. You cannot cycle to work and arrive in a bad mood. It's just not possible. You might be cold, wet, tired, or sweaty. Maybe you crashed along the way. But you'll still get off your bike, park and lock it up, give it a little backwards glance, and grin as you head through the door. You'll feel a great little rush of nostalgia mixed with anticipation every single morning when you arrive. I keep waiting for it to wear off, but after 38 years of riding a bike it never does. 

Maybe we're getting away with something. Maybe we've tapped into something that keeps us young at heart, as well as keeping us young in body. I do not know a single person who rides their bike on a regular basis, who wishes they were doing something different. 

My question for the night is this: How can something that universally makes people happy, create so much angst among non-cyclists? 

Granted, we're caught up in election fever right now and the collective brain of Red Deer is operating under the dual narcotics of power and manufactured outrage, but the amount of anger being directed at cyclists is astounding. Put the issue of our bike lanes aside and the anger is even harder to understand. 

People are demanding that cyclists ride on the sidewalk/off the sidewalk/only on Waskasoo Park trails. They are downright pissed that there are some folks in the world who choose to commute in some other way, than by driving a car.

I'll let you in on our little secret. Here's what cyclists think of people who drive their cars to and from work and school. NOTHING. We don't give them a second thought, beyond the normal attention paid to them in traffic. Riding a bike is fun. That's it. While drivers are getting fueled on their daily dose of crappy pop music, bad news, and road rage, we're having a ball. You see while drivers get in their cars and listen to the kids yell at each other, and deal with other slow moving cars, and peer through foggy windows, and look longingly for parking, and wait in line to buy gas, and generally arrive at work exhausted; we've had some fresh air, some exercise, and that daily reminder of how we felt when we were kids.

I love my bike. I love every bike and every skateboard I've ever owned. If choosing to grab a little bit of childhood each and every day on my way to work makes me somehow a bad person, I can safely ignore the accusers. And so can you. 

Give it a try. Pull your bike out of storage, strap on a helmet, remind yourself how to make the appropriate hand signals, and head out to work. The eight-year-old inside your brain will giggle with delight. And you know what, you just might as well.