Point A to B–Enjoy the Journey; Ride a Bike
Rolling smooth, quiet and efficient in a Prius recently, I found myself impatient to get to the grocery store–despite its proximity a mile and half away.
When we use autos for transportation, our destination becomes an end goal before we start the engine. The vehicle is a means to an end, where the time in transit becomes aimless, making us feel rushed, hassled and annoyed–stressed.
It’s the bitterness of sweet technological advancement. Many of us spend the majority of our time inside, sedentary and transferring attention from one screen to another–getting into a car can pose yet another task to undertake.
The good news is getting from point A to point B does not have to be a pointless burden in itself, confining you in another seat surrounded by screens, gauges and structured rules to follow. While unnatural at heart and disturbing in mind, our current infrastructure sets us up for sedentary, technologically infused lifestyles.
We want to be free, our bodies instinctually want to be outside, breath fresh air, absorb sunshine and be active.
The freedom of pedaling liberates. It speaks to instinctual yearnings and treats our well-being.
Any health conscious individual or doctor–even those who only know how to fill a prescription–will tell you to get outside and move to improve your health.
There’s a direct correlation between time spent sitting and premature death. The Health Promotion Journal of Australia found, second to tobacco smoking, physical inactivity to be the most significant behavioral cause of ill health in society (PDF).
Australia is one of many countries realizing the large health care savings from increased bike commuting and are investing in initiatives to get more people cycling–a revolution of revolutions, in both meanings of the word.
It’s hard to overcome inertia, no doubt, but once you create a new routine personal benefits will rain in, while the good you’re doing for healthcare and environmental crises ensue without further effort. Let’s not forget no gas and free, up front parking.
Mental health plays a powerful role. Studies found that people who commute by auto are generally stressed, while those who bike or walk enjoy their commute. Many people don’t realize stress is a potent health saboteur, and that cycle-commuting may be the secret ingredient to a happy life.
I’ve spent years in urban and peri-urban settings without a car or restriction, but with freedom. When I have a car, it often remains parked and my feet take to the pedals because biking is simply more fun and makes me feel alive.
Not only do I love riding my bike, but have come to prize the time. A ride to town center or simply a scenic joy ride awakens the body and stimulates the mind as fresh air fills my lungs and oxygen pumps through my blood, feeding my muscles propelling me forward, feeling the ambient temperature in totality, free from a man made word and into a realm of personal freedom.
Pedaling turns the task of transport into a journey itself enjoyed.
Driving a mile to town irritates me, but when I pedal, the alternate scenic route welcomes me to roll through its roadways and absorb its artistic landscape, or provide a backdrop to think, while movement is habitual. The duration and distance are longer, but the trip always feels short.
Focusing on my body, I feel it working and appreciating an opportunity to move, creating mutual thanks with the mind. Tuning into my bike, I know all its quirks and can monitor its well-being as it tears along.
Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia.
~ H.G. Wells
It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. ~ Ernest Hemingway
We all don’t have the luxury of picturesque routes, but living in cities, in its own way, is more stimulating.
As countryside brings out creativity by nudging opportunity to exercise your own mind, the city feeds you stimulus with every revolution of the wheel.
Streets are full of people, autos, benches and more–an obstacle course to never let down your guard. There are people to watch, shops to note, smells to match and a vibrant feeling of immersion in the web of life.
If the potential chaos of maneuvering traffic worries you–fear not. Studies prove driving a car is far more dangerous, and many cities are becoming bike friendly, with gracious drivers and dedicated bike lanes.
Although reports, studies and factoids on the issue are relevant, powerful and bordering boundless, I’ll digress. For more articles on a gamut of bicycling boons, visit Bikes Belong health statistics page.
For now, let us share the joys and uplifting merits biking brings. How our days unravel in terms of good or bad rely upon our expectations and where we set the bar of acceptance–an area worthy of setting a ‘low’ bar, because let’s face it, if we wake up happy as long as there’s daylight and air to breath our day’s forecast is clear skies compared to the storm of perfection and clutter the western world is drawn to expect.
Biking as a means of commute or errand transport naturally reframes our expectations from task analysis, efficiency and stimulus overload to raw connection to body and world, encapsulating our mind in an adventure:
Mental blueprints for getting somewhere are rearranged, making your destination what you do in between pedaling.
Getting there isn’t a task, it’s a pleasure that fuels the body and stimulates the mind every time you set out, while getting your health in check so you can continue enjoying what life offers as years pass.
Photo credit: electric bike blog
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.
~ Albert Einstein
Like many challenges in life, doing what’s right and what’s best is hard, even if we really want to. Assess your situation and find a pair of wheels, any wheels. Even if you’re out there on a bike covered in cobwebs in your pajamas, as long as body and bike are functional you’re all set. You can always upgrade if so inclined.
I’m no fanatic and don’t hammer out 40-80 mile rides on the weekends, but I do love riding my bike and do so nearly every day, both to get places, for the joy of it, and sometimes even use errands as and excuse to get out–maybe return that book to the library a few days early.
One sunny afternoon a couple years ago I was pedaling a dusty old bike a friend planned to throw away with a T-shirt wrapped around the handlebars wearing basketball shorts I woke up in and flip flops.
Passing a guy decked from head to tarmac with expensive gear–helmet with mirror attachment, spandex, bright cycling shirt, gloves, clip pedals, Camelback and a bike easily worth a few grand–I heard his breathing catching back up.
He pulled beside swearing jovially: “What the hell? You’re out here on a bike that looks like it came from the dumpster, no fu••ing shirt, no fu••ing shoes, and I can’t keep up with you!” I laughed and didn’t tell him that the bike was indeed recently saved from a dumpster.
When we parted ways he thanked me. “For what?” I asked, honestly unsure. “For getting me inspired to bike more,” he yelled as we veered separate ways.
Inspiration catalyzes motivation. But don’t worry if it doesn’t find you. Emotional instincts to move outside and higher intellectual brains of reason are human gifts enough to overtake inertia and revolve into the bike lane.
Do you bike to commute, for fun, on mountains, roads or trails, or had a hankering to find a nice set of pedals? Please share comments and experiences–we’d all love to hear.
Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.
~ H.G. Wells
Photo credit: Century Cycles Blog