This I Believe

Patti - Marquette, Michigan
Entered on April 15, 2007

I believe in human powered transportation, specifically, riding a bicycle. Many years ago, after enduring a string of inconvenient, unpredictable car breakdowns I decided to make a change. Since most of my destinations were less than 2 miles from home, I could get to these places dependably by riding a bicycle, and I liked the idea of building daily exercise into going to work. Initially, bicycle commuting was a seasonal mode for me. The region where I live receives relatively high snowfall, so I would put my bike away sometime in December and wait until the snow stopped falling—which would usually be April—before resuming my bicycle commutes. However, I gradually started extending the bicycle riding season until I was comfortable enough to ride through the winter.

Now, riding my bicycle is like the mission of the mailman: through rain, sleet, snow, ice, high winds or any combination of weather, I shall ride my bike. There is an element of compulsion, or a bit of craziness that drives me to do this, but I have found the advantages of being a regular bicycle rider to be manifold. A bicycle is affordable, rarely breaks down and is easy to maintain. Most of the bicycles I’ve obtained cost less than $50, used. For winter, I navigate on a bike with fat, knobby tires. I don’t have to park far from my destination; in fact, as a bike rider I’ve come to feel entitled to a close parking spot.

I am healthier mentally and physically because I ride a bicycle. Pushing the pedals helps keep my cholesterol low and sends fresh oxygen to all the cells in my body. The psychological effects, however, are probably what most impel me to pedal my way around. While riding a bike I feel a sense of emancipation. I am dressed for the weather and conquering the elements. I know the shortcuts and where the curb ramps are. There are some places easier and quicker to get to on a bike than via car. Sometimes I bicycle leisurely, taking note of birds singing in the bushes, fragrant flowers, crunchy leaves on the road, and snowmen in winter. Or, when I need to work off tension or worry, I pump in high gear, using maximum muscle power.

Whether I ride vigorously or jauntily, the effect is the same: I feel better at the end of the ride and take pride in knowing I can get to where I need to on my own power. The bicycle is a beautiful invention for getting from one place to another; it is economical, quiet and nonpolluting. Riding a bike is guaranteed to impart a sense of well being to the user. In fact, it’s hard not to smile while peddling down the street.