When I first sent out this small ode to bicycles in the fall of 2020 a number of people very rightly pointed out that my use of the imperative implies that all people can ride a bike. There are many reasons–including physical ability, the danger and distances of roads designed for cars, and the scrabbling busyness of our daily lives–that people might not want or be able to ride. So, yes, I think that bicycles are a wonderful way to travel. And yes, we need to keep fighting for infrastructure for pedestrians, bicycles, and public transit in our cities built for cars (add your voice to the new Bellingham Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan!). And yes, until there are safe, functional ways for all of us to move under our own power or with public transit, and until our culture and economy value life over convenience, most people will drive most of the time.
You should ride a bike
from Oct. 2020
I could tell you all the reasons not to drive a car. I could tell you about noise, air, and water. I could tell you about environmental justice. I could tell you about war, about fracking, about the existential threat of climate change. I could tell you about the squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, song birds, cats, and crows I pass daily, flattened on the road. Or the coyote, the beaver, the deer, and the fox laid out dead in the ditch. I could tell you about the barred owl I found yesterday on my way to work, about her soft, curled toes, her unruffled feathers, her pale face, her eyes, one closed to the sky, the other open to the pavement, unseeing.
But you know those stories. And besides, a bicycle isn’t an anti-car. It needs no negative justification. You should ride a bike because it’s a delight; because your legs are strong, or will be, and feeling their power is a power in itself; because you can go so fast!; because the air above the creek is cool and wet; because on a warm night the scents bloom around you; because the sky is more beautiful than any ceiling. Riding your bike on a blue summer day is easy and sweet, but riding through a winter afternoon can be its own, uncomfortable kind of pleasure, your headlight cutting a wedge of raindrops into the dark, the wind in your face, the wet trickling cold down your collar. The comfort of the indoors is seductive, but does it make you feel alive? Does it make you laugh with wonder at the beauty of the day and your body in it?
You should ride a bike because you live here, in this place, in this weather, and you cannot love it from a distance behind walls and windows. You should ride a bike just for the joy of it.
Owner | Baker