Nothing beats riding a bicycle in the city. Zipping through gridlocked traffic on a bike is like being a cowboy herding cattle. The bovine pace of the cars presents a sort of game in which you must strategize your movements. If a car ahead cuts to the right, you weave left; when they go left, you swerve right. When they bottleneck at the intersection, you ride right between them, all the way up to the light, catching it just as it turns green. You then fly through the intersection, beating the vehicular herd to the next light. Generally speaking, you can navigate city terrain much easier atop a bicycle. Whether you’re just rambling around town or trying to get somewhere fast, the bicycle is the ideal conveyance for the urban wrangler. You take up very little room while not polluting the air. Plus, there’s always a parking space. Why would anyone want to drive in the city?
May is National Bicycle Month, and I would like to reflect on what bicycles mean to me. I remember the morning when I had the training wheels taken off my first bike. While waiting for my dad to come outside and show me how to ride like the big kids, I tried to balance in place atop my light blue Mongoose BMX. I made several attempts to steady myself without pedaling, not yet realizing that it was the motion of riding itself that kept you balanced. Once that basic concept was learned, I never looked back. My elementary school was close by, and I would ride my bike there and back on nice days. And my younger brother and I would explore our hometown far and wide on our bicycles. Later in life, my older sister got me into riding road bikes in the city. I worked as a bicycle messenger in Boston for several years, one of the coolest jobs I ever had.
I have never owned a car and don’t intend on getting one any time soon. There are plenty around. In fact, I don’t even have a driver’s license. Never really needed one. Getting a license has been on the back burner for many years, but more important things keep popping up. Like most people, I tried to get one when I was a teenager, but after not passing the test a few times (I don’t test well even when I know the material), I gave up. After moving out of my hometown, I’ve always lived in cities: Baltimore, London, Boston… then Baltimore again. You don’t need to drive when you live and work in the city. People sometimes ask, “But what if you find yourself in a situation where you need to drive?” Well, then… I’ll drive. It’s not like I don’t know how to drive. I just choose not to. Attaining certification does not guarantee competence, nor does its lack imply ignorance.
I love riding my bicycle. It’s fun, even though it can be hard work at times. But that’s part of why it’s so cool. Riding a bike combines work and play into one activity. This harmony parallels that of the actual equilibrium required to ride. There’s an overall balance and rectitude that goes hand-in-hand with riding a bike. I feel better when I’m riding. More myself. My thoughts slow down and take on a rhythmic quality. I am more alive, more a part of the world. After a long ride, I feel as though I have accomplished something great. I sense it throughout my body and in my mind. Riding bicycles is more than just a pastime–it’s a way of life. So saddle up and get out there while the weather is nice. This May, let’s take to the streets during Bicycle Monthand represent the radical two-wheeled riders of the world. Ride on, you urban cowboys and cowgirls! Ride on!