Why I Ride

I have been an avid bicycle commuter for a number of years. Most of my riding takes place in the seasons where snow and ice do not render the ground too slippery for my comfort level. Still, I strive to get in quite a few months of two-wheeled bliss.

Sometimes I ride to get to work-related meetings and events, and sometimes I just hop on my 24-speed mountain bike and head to the River Valley, just for the fun of it. Cycling gives me the opportunity to get outside, get some fresh air, and get some much-needed exercise. It also gets me where I want to go, with reasonable speed and safety.

Cycling has taken on even more importance in my life through my involvement in the activist community. Bicycles and activism go hand in hand. Or, more accurately, bottom on seat. In addition to creating a more intimate interaction between myself and my surroundings, here are some reasons (both practical and radical) why two wheels are better than four:

  • Cycling is better for the environment. This one should be a no-brainer. As one of my favourite bicycle “bumper” stickers says: I get the equivalent of 1000 miles per gallon, and I don’t pollute.
  • Another no-brainer: it’s good for you. Fresh air. Exercise. The pleasure of wind blowing in your face while you watch people cooped up in their cars. A win-win situation all around.
  • A bike-centric lifestyle flies (rolls?) in the face of tradition. So many people associate bike riding with something little kids do. Seeing grown people riding around everywhere for utilitarian purposes (as opposed to performing tricks or racing) really shakes the dominant paradigm for these narrow-minded folks.
  • Cycling counters the materialism that runs rampant in our society. How? When I use my bike to take care of errands, I have to make some very conscious choices about where I am going to go, and what I am going to get. I can only carry so much and am limited by distance on any given trip. As a result, I buy less, spend less, and ultimately consume less.

Further to the point above, cycling saves a load of cash in the face of rising gas and oil prices. As well, I don’t have to worry about insurance or depreciation. The cost of the occasional repair or tune up usually comes nowhere near that of filling up an entire fuel tank on an average sized vehicle.Of course, riding a bicycle everywhere, all the time, throughout the year is not a choice everyone makes due to various practical considerations. Even still, cycling can usually be incorporated into one’s lifestyle, assuming one is physically able to do so. Give up driving once or twice a week. Plan a weekly family ride through the River Valley. Ride, instead of drive, to errands of shorter distances. Bicycle-based lifestyles can build over time. Besides, it’s fun and addictive — in a good way.

Paula is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer. She owns a driver’s license, but not a car. You can reach her at: starvingwriter@hotmail.com.