Bike Confessions, Obsessions and the Art of Neighborly Love
[[image:tonya_mini.jpg::inline:1]]My constant refusal to drive to the east side of the San Gabriel Valley to ride road bikes with my significant other caused undue amounts of stress on our relationship.
Published January 28,2008 by C.I.C.L.E.
By Tonya Bray
Bicycling is a big part of the future. It has to be. There's something wrong with a society that drives a car to workout in a gym. ~ Bill Nye the Sci-ence Guy
[[image:tonya_article.jpg::inline:1]]My constant refusal to drive to the east side of the San Gabriel Valley to ride road bikes with my significant other caused undue amounts of stress on our relationship. There was inherently something wrong with always driving to ride, when all I had to do was get my kit on and ride from the front door. But wanting to see a person had to become more important than my self indulgent desire to be more a more environmentally friendly individual. Either way, I had a guilty conscience. Drive unnecessarily and be a co-creator of the bad air even I would have to breathe, or stay at home and ride alone, and punish myself and my significant other for “green” reasons.
Cycling has many faces to me: the social and fun rides I do with groups, the intimate, long rides I do with my boyfriend, those hard and long ca-thartic training rides I do only by myself, and of course, the eco-friendly ride to the market. But driving to ride has oft been a part of the experi-ence for me. Some rides I have always been able to do from my front door. Living in Mammoth, in the summer at least, was one of those places where every single ride was from the front door. Where I currently live, I can do so many different rides from my front door, that driving seems not only insane, but just plain wrong.
I am never one to judge others for driving to ride. Location is key. You may live in the middle of the city, not right next to the mountains. You may live in a dangerous neighborhood, or have to ride through one to get to your ride. For this I cannot blame anyone for driving to ride. However, for me, it seems most unreasonable. But I do it. I did it. Until…
There was a shift in my current reality. I was longing for something dif-ferent. I have rarely chosen the easy route when it comes to life. Forgo the easy job with the certain career path. Nay, choose the long and un-even road rife with potholes and bridges that have been blown out, not to mention bits and pieces of map that rarely tell the entire story. Hence, I decided to sell my Xterra. This decision stemmed from my involvement with CICLE and that longing for a mountain to climb, in the absence of an actual mountain to climb. Would Everest have been an easier task?
Not to diminish the great heroism and beauty of the late Sir Edmund Hil-lary and Tenzig Norgay, but I think it almost easier to climb Everest than to sell your car outright. It was of course, a decision I made, to see if perhaps I could survive without a car. I have found out many things about myself, about people and about the culture of the car in this very short month of being without. When you decide to go on this car-free expedi-tion, I can only offer you some encouragement and empathy. Please note that when you decide to go car free, you need to look at your 2-mile radius, check out how many places you can get to in 2 miles or less, and then decide if this is the right decision for you. I do in fact live 4 miles away from the most significant stores in my life, so it comes as no sur-prise that my car-free mountain is a big one. But Come along with me anyhow, we’re anchored in, and I’ll lead this cerebral expedition…
1. When you sell your car, you will spend less money. While most ca-free advocates will tell you how much money you will save by not paying insurance, fuel and so on which are all true, the reality is that you simply purchase less of everything. You think out why you want or need something, and nothing is bought for naught. Every-thing is necessary, whether for survival or for your happiness, but no decisions are made without thought.
2. It is not about what you don’t have, but what you have. While this is essentially a Buddhist idea, it is so important to the car-free life. When I realized that each little trip on my bike was fun, my whole perspective of “I do not own a car” shifted to “I am car free.” To ride down to the mail drop box, to ride to the drug store, to ride to Trader Joe’s, to feel the air, this was freedom. I often think about the reason so many women choose cycling as their main recreation. It is the freedom, and I have felt the freedom of riding my bike to the market. I am not spending money as I drive, but burning calo-ries as I ride.
3. Thinking, calculating and the total lack of instant gratification. It wasn’t until I stopped and wanted to go to Trader Joe’s at least 3 times a day that I realized the crutch shopping had become for me. Being one who works out of the home, and has for so many years, the shopping trip is essential to my day. The human interaction, the act of gathering. That act of gathering. I was at once thinking about each trip, and calculating the time, the miles, the weight of my bag. It was no longer, boy I want to go to Trader Joe’s and buy some chocolate, some lettuce, a Kalamata Olive Loaf this instance. My life was being planned now, by the sunlight and weather, mainly.
After a short hiatus from riding every day to whatever store fancied me (mainly again, due to weather, ie rain), I took advantage of the clear blue skies and 70+ degree Southern California weather to get a few errands done. I was having difficulty with my new car free life. But I had to get back on the horse and get out there.
My first stop was Office Depot. I am the not so proud owner of a cheap printer that goes through cartridges like a 7 year old through a bag of Skittles. I have a coffee can whose second job in life is to hold my batter-ies and printer ink cartridges for recycling, I grabbed the can and took out 4 cartridges to carry with me to Office Depot. Of course, I am going to get my free ream of paper, and buy my ink cartridges with a 4$ dis-count because I am good and I recycle. I am informed at the register that they no longer give you a free ream of paper for recycling your car-tridges, AND they only give you $3 off rather than 4$, AND they take up to 3 cartridges, but only give you 3$, not 3$ per cartridge. What a rip off. As I rode away with my heavy ream of paper, and still carrying a few ink cartridges, I wondered why on earth I didn’t just go down the street to the local office supply store, Webster’s. The reason was because I thought I’d get a better deal (the free ream of paper and discount). What I got was this:
1. Treated like cattle
2. I had the opportunity to give Office Depot free money (Please if you don’t know this, they get paid for recycling ink cartridges, and the dis-gusting horror is that they actually have a recycling bin, where you can give them free money, and not even get your discount.)
3. A sterile, controlled, choice-less environment in which to shop for of-fice supplies. Instantly, however.
At Webster’s what do I get?
1. A warm friendly staff who works hard to find what I am looking for.
2. I may have to wait (oh my God!) if I want something they do not have in stock.
3. It’s only a mile from my house.
4. Put money into my neighborhood.
5. Unlimited choice, as long as I can wait a day to get what I want.
My next stop was Best Buy. I have the whole Best Buy Rewards program and Personal Shopper and all that BS. I had to take in my camera to get it repaired per the warranty I paid for. While I will not say that this was the worst experience in the world, compared to going to a locally owned camera shop, it was. Here is what I got at Best Buy:
1. Greeted by the Security Guard to have my product tagged (ok, I under-stand why, and the guy was really sweet).
2. Stand in one line for 10 minutes only to find I had to go to a different counter.
3. The whole time I am standing there waiting to find out that I have to go to a different counter, the clerk is talking to a colleague and un-packaging my camera, without even knowing what I want. He throws away my bag, which I have to ask for it back before hopelessly looking for the line I was supposed to be in.
4. The second counter the person was cordial, but was hard to deal with. They just want to make you feel uncomfortable bringing something back in the store. Even though I paid for a warranty and I was clearly within the bounds of this warranty.
SO I leave, go to Trader Joe’s and talk to the cashier who rode on the Art + Ride with CICLE, and rode to Webster’s to buy Hallmark cards, and then ride home. After 3 hours of pedaling a little over 10 miles, I am ready for some lunch.
This was actually a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon, al-though I did forgo the wonderful mountain bike ride up Brown Mountain with CICLE friends, I did get a chance to think about why I ride, why I chose to sell my car, and what difference it will make in my life and the lives of others.
Getting back to the original quote… what I have learned from being car-free is that we do many silly things as car owners. We think not. We sim-ply do, like drones, I recommend to everyone to try to go car-free, at least for one day, do all of your travel by bike or by foot, and forgo the car. I guarantee it will make you think, think about what you eat, how much you eat, why you eat. What you buy, where you buy it, and why you buy. And Think about why you drive, how much you drive, and what if you didn’t drive, just this once?
If you choose to challenge yourself by riding your bike once a week, twice a week, every week. How many calories more will you burn? How many people will you make smile? (Little kids always smile when they see a bike!). How will you personally enrich the lives of the people who live in your neighborhood? You shop in their local stores, give them business, put money into your neighborhood, pay for their salaries, and look at what could happen.
YOU, on your bike. You could affect change in your own neighborhood. Really! The view form the top is wonderful. It feels great, your body re-charged and refreshed, your systems flowing, your lungs clear, money flowing through the hands of your neighbors. Take one small step to-wards the top of the mountain, and ride your bike to run one errand, to-day.
Try this, too. Get together with your significant other, and ride bikes to your favorite restaurant. Believe me, this is so much fun and so reward-ing! I love riding with my boyfriend. It gives us something fun to do to-gether, and of course something to talk about.
We all ride for different reasons, but at the end of the day, I think every-one who rides a bike realizes that what Bill Nye the Science Guy says rings true:
“Bicycling is a big part of the future. It has to be. There's something wrong with a society that drives a car to workout in a gym.”
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