Today, in honor of Bike Everywhere Month, I am posting, “Quack! An Ode to Bike Commuting” by a wonderful friend of mine. Sarah Milici spins her wheels in Seattle, Washington.
The problem is I get excited about ducks. And hummingbirds. Rabbits, too. Seals, of course. On the bike path, I quickly pull over with a little yip, stop, and watch. This is most annoying to the bikers behind me who get concerned that there is something wrong and that I am in need of assistance. “Thank you,” I respond to offers of help,”I am fine. Just a tad too enthusiastic.”
When I used to primarily commute to work by bus, and very occasionally car, I would not notice much beyond the hum of traffic and the interplay of humans. Riding a bike, I notice more of the world. Autos and humans still, but also the wind on my skin, the sound of the waves slurping rocks, the smell of earth after the rain, the darkness and shadow created by the sun and trees. I make sure now, when I am outside, to listen for the quieter, but still present soundtrack of bird calls — hidden underneath the city sounds; something I never listened for before biking.
I hopped on a bike after about a twenty year hiatus after pondering what I could do to further eliminate my carbon footprint. I realized my bike commute and bus commute would be of a similar length. I remembered that I was never fond of biking and that the idea was silly and seemed impossible. So, I bought a bike and began.
It was surprisingly easy- the majority of my trek is flat and on a protected bike path. Though, on the part that is on the road, I had to adjust. When next to cars, I would try to make myself as small as possible- hugging the right hand side of the road with my bike. Cars would zoom past and my stomach would lurch. When I spoke of this to a friend, I was told to learn to let myself be seen. Bike in the middle of the lane. Taking up space is safer. It is hard for me to do this, but I am learning. As a part of the dance of traffic, it feels less precarious and more structured.
Getting to work, I feel strong. My body gets me across the city. My body takes up space. My body can help save the planet. In a world in which puts focus on how a body looks as opposed to what a body does, my body feels like rebellion.
I am not a expert with my nose to the handlebars, tearing through the city in sweat and spandex, conquering hills like a champion. I sit upright. I wear normal clothes. I pedal slowly. I walk up hills. I sing the Miss Gulch theme song from the Wizard of Oz. I might still be a bit wobbly. Kind co-bike commuters will shout helpful tips as they pass me. Others will often ask me if I am lost. I am not (usually) lost, just easily amazed.