Two years ago, I bought my dad’s old bike. Two months ago, I pumped up the tires and decided to ride it work. It’s not the first time I’ve ridden my bike, but it is the first time I’ve used it to cross the Olentangy River. It’s got to be the nth smallest river in America to not be called a creek, but a big, bike-unfriendly road leads up to the crossing intersection.
It takes less time to ride my bike the two miles to work than it does to drive. This is because the walk from parking garage to my office is ten minutes long. My change wasn’t driven by a compulsion for efficiency, though. Crankiness crept in as I drove. I’d wake up in a good mood, and then…I would start to rush. Then, I’d get personally antagonized at my commute time, as well as by any terrible drivers in front of me at a light.
Three weeks into biking to work, I biked the whole way in a light drizzle. My top was soaked and I had to ditch it for my cardigan, fully buttoned. My mood was pretty high. It felt like a laurel of success. I didn’t tell anyone that I’d had to stash my blouse in my backpack.
Here’s the thing about biking — I’m new, so I don’t want to try a bunch of new routes. I want to know where I’m going, because I use a pre-conceived notion of the safety of each chosen street. I also get sweaty. Because of this, I don’t try to go many places on a bike. You know how that happens, in a car, though, the “going many places like you’re a jet setting celebrity within five square miles on one trip” deal? You go from home, to a shopping center, to a gas station, to a friend’s house, to the grocery store, to back home? That just can’t happen for me on a bike. I’m not comfortable yet. This had a side effect: I realized that I rush around, and always try to fit in a lot. It’s not inherently bad.
You know the feeling when you were a little kid, and you went on a centrifugal force machine, or just spun around 100 times in an office chair? And it felt hysterically fun, but when you stopped, you felt a little queasy as your innards readjusted to standing still? That’s sort of how it feels fitting less in, because of biking more. I wondered why I was running so many errands (it’s because I don’t have a personal assistant, duh). I wondered if it was making me happier, or adding value to my life, instead of keeping me occupied. Thoughtlessness comes with the automaticity of busy. That sounds pretentious. It also assumes you have enough support and/or freedom in your life to choose to not be busy every moment, which is a privilege.
With my new bike routine, I’m slowing down. Perhaps needing a car to get everywhere means that it’s not worth it. It’s going OK so far. I’ve been bike or busing to work for over a month now, and only driven five times. I haven’t noticed myself missing out, even though it has meant not popping by happy hours, the strip mall near my house, or the far-away grocery stores. I hope I keep it up. Time will tell.