I have always been quite conscientious of the ecological footprint I leave when I travel. I usually prefer catching public transport to uni or work, and I have more often started walking to the train station and local facilities. But there are some places that are a little too far to comfortably walk (45 minutes?) yet seem too short to drive to. And to reach these places, it has long been my ambition to ride a bike.
I’ve procrastinated for years, but I finally decided to make a concerted effort into trying my foot at cycling. My brother has a helmet he doesn’t use, I discovered two bikes in the shed that I hadn’t ridden since primary school (aside from that one misadventure where I rode to a playground and split my leg open), and I put a shout out on facebook for any spare bike locks the universe had. Having obtained the necessities, I got up early to prepare for uni, allocating a little extra time to wipe off the dusty, grimy bicycle so that it might carry me to the train station. Sadly, psyching myself up for days, I discovered the tyres were flat and would not safely carry me five metres.
After I drove home that afternoon, I found a bike pump and managed to inflate and re-align the tires successfully, which was an adventure in itself. Climbing onto the seat, I wobbled around the paved bricks in our back yard for a few moments, when I quickly discovered that I had great difficulty turning. I could balance and go straight well enough, but unless the turn was very slow, I’d very nearly topple the bike trying. I decided I would get some extra practice and rode around the tiny back yard for a good twenty minutes until I felt more comfortable.
Finally the moment was upon me where I would test my skills on the road. I decided to cycle to my local library (perhaps a seven minute walk away) to return an audio book, and maybe if I was feeling up for it, a ride down to a local electronics store to replace the battery in my car key. Packing my messenger bag with water, the book and my keys, I left my first aid kit at home deliberately deciding I wouldn’t need it. And so, in my jeans and a tee shirt, I set off.
It was exhilarating. I felt so triumphant, so independent, so free! It was scary trying to pull into light traffic, but I picked a sizable break in the stream of cars and trusted they would give me enough room. I was determined that I would consider myself an equally important vehicle on the road, worthy of adequate space and right of way. Everything went fine, though the first time a car overtook me without really changing lanes was both terrifying and exhilarating. I felt so grown-up!
I pulled into the library and locked up my bike, a novel and delightful activity. When I got inside, I couldn’t contain my joy and shared my success with the librarian, who humoured me kindly. I borrowed a new audiobook (which is amazing, by the way- “The Family Frying Pan” by Bryce Courtenay) and picked up a reserve Bethwyn had made on my card without informing me, then packed my messenger bag and hit the road again! High off my success, I cycled the long way to Jaycar, uphill and through traffic (though I may have taken a short-cut or two across the pavement rather than waiting for traffic lights). It was exhausting, and my butt definitely hurt by the end of it- I think bike shorts are definitely in order if I ever plan to cycle more than ten minutes-, but I made it! I got the battery changed and triumphantly rode home, now confident in my ability to navigate traffic.
Rather belatedly I realised I probably should have stretched or warmed up before trying a new intensive exercise. Although I was a little sore the next day, it was mainly my butt that hurt from the unyielding seat. One thing I’ve been a bit worried about is a car that yelled out “FOOTPATH!” to me as they drove past, clearly agitated at the inconvenience I was causing them. I felt guilty at first, but since then I’ve become more comfortable with my place on the road. I’m really proud of myself for doing something for the environment and consciously lowering my carbon-output to nearly 0 (excepting the increased levels of CO2 from breathing slightly harder). I know it’s an inconvenience to massive cars, but the world needs people who show more acceptance and support of ideas that ultimately cause more good than harm; I think the benefits of cycling outweight the two-second delay in having to overtake someone.
So that was my first (and so far only) adventure on the bike! I’ve since bought flashing tail lights and head lights, and a new bike lock (whoa, I had no idea how expensive they would be), and I’m excited to start cycling to the train station every day to get to work. Maybe some day I’ll ride to uni, or even to Bethwyn’s house! That’s the dream~
Peace everyone! May your travels be light!