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Running in Purgatory

April 9th, 2011 No comments

I haven’t written much about running lately because I feel like I am in the runner’s equivalent of purgatory. I am still suffering from plantar faciitis, and while I feel like I am making progress, it is just taking forever to heal (no pun intended). I have at least brought back base milage to my training, and with the stretching and cross-training I’m doing I am at least able to maintain some level of fitness without making the problem worse. Also, I have been living in my Brooks Ravenna running shoes (Disclosure: I am a member of the 2011 Brooks I.D. P.A.C.E. team and do receive product discounts on Brooks apparel). They are the only shoes that I can wear that don’t make my foot hurt, and so they are my “go-to shoe” for absolutely everything. This has been essential as I walk a lot throughout the day and before, when I was wearing my work shoes, by the end of the day my plantar fascia was very sore.

With these recovery steps I can go through most of my day, including my run, pain free. It is mostly the pain in the morning that lets me know I am still injured. Unfortunately, without being able to incorporate speedwork into my running I feel like I am running in an endless loop of base miles. As the Bolder Boulder approaches I am even more reminded of the fact that I will not be running a PR this year, for the first year since I started running it. I am doing my best to mitigate the lack of speedwork, I feel that a high cadence when I ride my bike will help with leg turnover. I know that the key to a faster pace is a quick turnover, so I’m trying to train those muscles as best I can without doing further damage. Hill running is also a no-no, which usually is a huge component of my Bolder Boulder training. My solution to this problem also involves the bike, as I think that doing fast climbs where I am out of the saddle work the correct muscles to get up hills. I’ve also started the “100 Pushups” (Amazon Link) program using the iPhone App. I think the added core and upper-body work will help me power up that last hill on Folsom.

I keep telling myself it will heal in time, but right now it is incredibly frustrating to see yet another season slipping away from me, and not being able to train to improve. I know this is a long haul process, and that my best times are still ahead of me, but for now it is frustrating to be pushing miles and not feel like I am getting anywhere. Like Sisyphus I am rolling my boulder, with no progress to show for it.

A Grownups’ Playground

April 5th, 2011 1 comment

PlaygroundSaturday in Colorado we were treated to temperatures in the lower 80’s, our first taste of summer. I figured if I didn’t get outside and take advantage of it I would regret it, so I donned my cycling kit and was out the door. Usually when I go for a bike ride I have a specific route in mind, but this time all I knew is what roads I wanted to ride. Near my place there is a neighborhood of urban ranches, with a network of roads that run through the rolling hills that the homes occupy. The roads are pretty meandering and don’t really lead anywhere unless you know where you’re going, so they are pretty low traffic.  Some of the climbs through these hills are somewhat steep, but short. It’s like a playground for a road cyclist. I decided to take full advantage of the hills and made it a mission to choose the roads that climbed all of them, even if it meant turning around at the top and heading back down for more.

I don’t know whether it was the weather or the route, but this ended up being one of the most enjoyable rides I have been on. It felt great to get my heart racing as I powered up the short climbs, and even better to cut through the wind on descents. Turning onto unfamiliar roads just because there was a hill to climb was satisfying, like I was looking for and meeting the challenges head on. The mix of being up out of the saddle for steep portions and pulling away in the saddle made it a great workout, but not overwhelming. At the end of the ride I realized I hadn’t really gone anywhere, but I had had a whole lot of fun! My own grown-up playground, right outside my door!

Categories: bike Tags: ,

Take the Lane

March 24th, 2011 4 comments

Bikes Use Full LaneI thought it would be good to share about one of the most helpful things I have learned as a bicycle commuter. Hopefully this will inspire other new cyclists to try it, and keep everyone a little safer on the roads. The concept is called “taking the lane” and from a beginner’s perspective it is counterintuitive. Bikes are supposed to stay as far to the right as possible, correct? The answer is no, bikes should be as far to the right as is safe for the cyclist, however there are many instances when the safest place for a bike to be is occupying the entire lane. In the city of Denver the law is clear on how bicycles shall be operated on public roadways.

In particular, section 54-565:

Every person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subjected to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by the traffic rules and regulations of this city applicable to the driver of a vehicle,

and section 54-572 (a):

Every person operating a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right-hand side of the roadway as judged safe by the bicyclist to facilitate the movement of such overtaking vehicles unless other conditions make it unsafe to do so.

My take on the concept is that if, as a cyclist, you want to be regarded as a vehicle with rights to the road, then you should be acting as if you are a vehicle. If you ride your bike the way you would be expected to act as a car, motorists will be anticipating your actions and will respond in a predictable way. This way, not only are the motorists anticipating your actions, but you can also to some extent anticipate their actions. This means safer riding.

My favorite example of this is when approaching a stoplight. I always take my lane at a stoplight, regardless of whether there are cars there or not. First, if there are no cars there the sensors generally won’t see you if you aren’t in the middle of the lane. If you are too far to the right, cars will try to turn right in front of you, cutting you off or even knocking you over. If you are too far to the left in the lane cars will try to squeeze by you on the right to turn right, or even to pass you on the right in the intersection when the light turns green. In both these cases it is safer to be in the middle, as if you were a car occupying the full lane. When the light changes everyone is going slowly enough that you can easily move to the right of the lane as you cross the intersection, allowing traffic to pass.

If there are cars at the stop light I always take my lane, and my place in line. I am an outlier in this sense as most cyclists will pass along the right to the front of the line of cars. I think this practice is dangerous. It upsets drivers, because if they have had to pass you further back on the road they now have to think about passing you again. As a cyclist, passing on the right you also open yourself up to someone turning right in front of you and cutting you off. If you take your lane and place in line, suddenly the dynamic changes. Now you are behaving as a car would and the cars in line to cross the intersection understand that you will behave in a predictable way. Once traffic is moving through the intersection it is easy to move to the right when it is safe for cars to pass.

These are two good examples of how taking the lane as a cyclist can be safer, but there are many more cases as well. If I am attempting to turn left I will always change lanes and move into the turn lane to turn. Generally this makes sense as turning left from the right side of the road is never reasonable. If I can’t move over to the left to turn I will dismount my bike and cross at the crosswalk as a pedestrian. That brings up another issue which is to never, ever, ride on a sidewalk. Not only are you now not behaving as a vehicle would, but every single driveway/mall entrance/corner becomes a huge hazard. Cars don’t expect you, and they will absolutely not see you.

I do believe that there are certain ways that cyclists should not behave as cars. This is in the case of high-traffic, high-speed limit roads. Does a cyclist have the right to ride on such a road? Yes. Does that mean it is safe or reasonable for a cyclist to exercise that right? Absolutely not. My feeling is that the top speed of a bike is fairly limited, while an automobile’s speed is not. That means that a cyclist is going to travel just as quickly on a side street where the speed limit is 25 as they would on a road where the speed limit is 45. Most major thoroughfares run parallel to numerous side streets where the traffic is minimal, and the rate of travel for a bike on these roads is essentially the same. There may be more stop signs to deal with, but those really do not impact travel time significantly. A little bit of route planning before your ride can make things so much safer for everyone, so do your homework. Google maps now offers bike directions that generally avoid major streets and opt for bike routes and bike paths, so there are no excuses.

Not all of the situations you will encounter on the bike will be easy to evaluate, but generally if you are thinking and behaving as if you were a car this will be the safest option. What’s most amazing is that I’ve found drivers are fairly tolerant of this behavior as long as you are keeping to the right when the road is open. Just watch how many people give you a little extra space the next time you line up at a stoplight and don’t jump to the front! Now get out there and ride safe!

Categories: bike, safety Tags: , , ,

A Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

March 23rd, 2011 2 comments

A few years ago I was just a driver. I didn’t run. I didn’t ride a bike. Today I am many things: I am a pedestrian, I am a runner, I am a bike rider. Each time I have stepped into the shoes of one of these other activities it has required me to learn new things, and above all it has made me better at the other activities I do. Here are some of the things I have learned walking a mile in other people’s shoes.

One of the first things I learned when I started walking and taking the bus instead of driving is that drivers are jerks. I don’t mean that the people who drive cars are jerks, I mean that a nice person behind the wheel of a vehicle is a jerk. The problem arises from the very nature of a personal vehicle: the vehicle is designed to get “me” from point A to point B as quickly as possible, and anything that stands in “my” way is a nuisance. This means that speed limits are ignored, red lights and stop signs missed, crosswalks blown through. Above all, slow moving vehicles must be passed at all costs, regardless of whether they are keeping up with traffic or not. The solution is to get out and walk, ride a bike or take the bus. After you have been narrowly missed by a car speeding through a crosswalk, or found yourself repeatedly catching up to vehicles on the road even though you are “slow moving,” you’ll start realizing that impatience never really gets you ahead, it just makes you unsafe. That knowledge makes you a better driver.

As a runner I learned that cyclists are jerks. They don’t mean to be, but runners and cyclists are different “social groups” and the two do not mix. As the naive runner that I am, I wave at every bike that goes by. The looks I get are those of bewilderment and disgust, “How dare you wave at me, a cyclist!” At some point I realized that they are never going to wave back. “On your lefts” are few and far between, because really it is a “bike path” and other users just need to watch out. Passing within inches, two abreast on the path is acceptable because they don’t want to interrupt their conversation to drop back to single file. The solution is to get out and run! After you have been buzzed by a bike going 30mph with no warning you’ll remember to give that “on your left.” After you, as a cyclist, have been snubbed by all the other cyclists on the path just because you’re running, you may give a little wave to runners as you pass.

As a cyclist I learned that runners are jerks. Half the time they are wearing earphones, so if you shout a warning they won’t hear you, and then jump out of their skin when you pass as if they are shocked that anyone would be riding their bike on the “running path.” The other half of the time they hear you shout, but do nothing to acknowledge it, so you are forced to assume they are wearing earphones, or just oblivious. In addition, the popular response to hearing “on your left” is to actually jump to the left directly into the path of the bike. Running in the middle of the path is acceptable, as is running two or three abreast taking up the whole path, after all no one can possibly be moving faster than they are. If they are running with a dog, the dog will be on the opposite side of the path on one of those 40′ long extend-o-leashes, invisible to the naked eye and razor thin. The solution to this is to get out and ride a bike! After frustratingly trying to pass 30 people who do absolutely nothing when you shout “on your left” you may give a little wave the next time you are running and a cyclist gives warning. You may also stick to the right, and opt to run without headphones, making the “multi-use path” just a little safer for everyone.

The bottom line is we are all jerks when we stay in our own little world and don’t acknowledge the safety or presence of others. We all use the same space every day, whether it be roads, paths, or sidewalks. We all learned to share when we were in kindergarten. But doing the same thing day in and day out makes us complacent, and overconfident in our personal rights. Getting out and trying a new activity makes us better and safer at all the activities we do, and more importantly it makes us better people. Better drivers, better walkers and runners, better cyclists, better at living with each other!

Categories: bike, opinion, running Tags: ,

Meet Jane

March 21st, 2011 3 comments
The new bike

Meet Jane

RunBikeNerd and AgeofMelissius would like to announce the arrival of a new member of our bike family: Jane. She joined us March 19, 2011, weighing 25lbs and measuring 47cm tall. Both her parents are proud and happy!

I have been looking for a bike for my wife for a few years now. Ever since I began rediscovering my love of the bike I have wanted to share that experience with her. Unfortunately, there have not been a lot of suitable options to consider. I wanted to get her a new bike, as while I am okay with making repairs to my bike on the side of the road, it’s not something I want her to have to deal with often. Also, our house is set upon a large hill, so “super cute” cruiser bikes were out in favor of bikes with some gearing. I knew a road specific design would be best for her, but a racing frame with dropbars would be a little intimidating.

This year I found the Novara Express from REI. In truth, this frame probably has more in common with a cyclocross bike than a road bike, with clearance for wide tires (it comes with 700×32), and V-brakes. It also has spots on the frame for mounting a rack and fenders, making it a great potential commuter bike. But they’ve pared down the weight as much as possible, with an aluminum frame and carbon fork. The gearing is fairly conservative, with 48/36/26 up front and 11-28 in back, should make short work of any of the hills in our area and potentially a good setup for touring if that was a consideration. Finally, it is equipped with a nice flat handle bar, with comfortable bar ends for longer rides. This gives it a nice relaxed geometry, but still aggressive enough to be efficient (unlike the sit-up-and-beg comfort bike designs).

I actually think this is a remarkably well designed bike. It is not intimidating for riders who are only looking for recreation, or just getting back into riding, yet its features are flexible enough to allow more serious use if commuting or touring become an interest. It seems like a really fun bike to ride, and I hope it will give my wife many years of enjoyment!

Categories: bike Tags: , ,

What Does a Bike Mean to You?

March 4th, 2011 5 comments

Lately, as I have been getting out on my bike more, I have been thinking about the feeling of freedom that I get from riding. I love thinking back on my first memories on a bike when I was growing up. Whenever I climb on a bike I know that those memories formed the enjoyment I take now in riding.

I was fortunate to grow up in Edmonton, Canada, a city that grasped early on what an advantage a bike/bus infrastructure could have for its citizens. It’s a fairly small city, but it boasts a huge trail system and a wide array of bike routes to access those trails. Having those kinds of resources available in a city that was fairly safe to travel around meant that a kid with a bike could get pretty much anywhere they needed to go (at least in the summer).

Spokey Dokeys Bike Beads

Spokey Dokeys

My first bike was blue. It had a banana seat and coaster brakes. I attached “spokey dokeys” to the spokes so that it made a happy plinky sound when I rode it. I can still remember the exact moment when my Dad let go of the handle on the back of the banana seat and I was riding on my own. Freedom was no training wheels, and suddenly I could ride the whole length of the block without stopping!

It was the early 80’s and the BMX bike rose to power among children at the time. My parents got me one and it was my first exposure to a bike that had a hand brake. You could ride a BMX almost anywhere, so sidewalks weren’t necessary anymore, and with its rugged frame you could drop it pretty much anywhere if the need to play came upon you. Freedom was confidence in your bike, knowing it could take you places!

As the 80’s drew to a close the mountain bike was coming onto the scene, and bikes with gears were all the rage. How many gears your bike had was a status symbol, and I saved my money up for an 18-speed mountain bike from Consumers Distributing. I remember it being huge, I could barely stand over it when I got it, but it lasted me all the way through high school. This bike really made the river valley trail system in Edmonton available. There are some steep hills going into and out of the valley, so the gears got put to good use. This was my first exposure to saddle soreness as I increased the length of my rides. One park in particular was always a favorite destination, at the edge of my boundaries, 7.5 miles from my home. Freedom was the whole park system, and bike rides could last through much of the long summer days!

With happy memories come some regrets, and it is for my fourth bike that I feel the most loss. This was my first bike purchased at an actual bike store. It was a Giant Sedona mountain bike with 21 speeds and the newest “grip shift” technology. I rode this to and from university for a good couple of years but I was hard on it and at some point it started slipping gears when I was trying to put the pedal down. Eventually the chain broke, and the tech at the bike store gave me the bad news that replacing the chain was not going to solve the problem. The cassette had been worn down by the worn chain and now the bike would slip gears even with a new chain. I could not afford a new cassette, so with only the new chain and an unreliable drivetrain my bike fell into disuse and ended up on the balcony of our first apartment. A cycling friend of mine ended up fixing it up for me as a birthday present, but by then the rift between my bike and I had grown and it was just too much hassle to take it out. Eventually, when we moved to California we put the bike on our patio as we had no room in our small apartment for all the boxes. The next morning when I looked outside the bike was gone, I can only hope that it went to an owner more appreciative of it than me.

My current bike

A Proud Bike Owner Again

The happy ending to this story is that after 10 years of having no bike to call my own I found this little beauty. It is a 1992 Marin Limited Edition road bike, with all the original components. The lime green color was just the frosting on an already awesome cake. When I first got on this bike I was blown away by how quickly a bike like this can move. Suddenly, a 14 mile commute to work seemed possible with this bike, and moreover it was perfect for taking out for a ride on weekends. Quite a bit has changed on this bike since I got it, and a lot of me has changed as well. One thing has stayed the same: when I get on my bike I am reminded of all the bikes before this and how each brings the same feeling of freedom. Each time I push off from my driveway it is like my Dad is there letting go of my saddle and I am riding without training wheels for the first time. Each time I stop I am squeezing the brake of my first BMX. When I shift I think of the first bike I ever had with gears. And every trip is an adventure, a test of how far I can go on my own two wheels.

Categories: bike Tags: ,

Always Keep Your Drivetrain Clean

March 1st, 2011 No comments

In the first installment of my bike maintenance series I’d like to address the most important piece of maintenance you can perform. It is also the easiest. Like the camshaft in an engine, the chain is responsible for transferring the power generated by your legs directly to the rear wheel. If you think about how much force you can apply to the pedals it’s actually pretty amazing that the chain holds up as well as it does. That being said, here’s the first hard lesson I learned about the chain: it is designed to be replaced often. How often? That depends on how well you keep it maintained.

Chains are susceptible to “stretch.” This is not the stretching of the links as one might think, but the wearing of a little grooves in the pins of the chain by the rotating “rollers.” As each pin gets a tiny groove worn in it, the sum of all the grooves over the length of the chain can be quite large. You can easily measure this with a ruler, by placing the 1st ruler mark on one of the pins and seeing where the 12″ mark of the ruler lies. If the 12″ mark is right on a pin, then your chain has not stretched. If the pin is 1/16″ over the 12″ mark, you need a new chain. If it’s over that you may even need a new cassette. I usually go around 1000 miles before replacing my chain, but I measure it regularly to be sure. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way when I was young, and I will not soon forget it.

So how do you keep a chain well maintained so that it will last as long as possible? The answer is frequent cleaning and lubrication. What I am going to say here is probably a heresy in some circles, but I learned it from a longtime bike commuter and I trust his judgement. Cleaning/oiling your chain should be the easiest thing you do, because if it’s not you won’t do it as often as you should. I do it once a week when I am riding regularly, and always do it immediately after riding in the rain or on wet roads.

Dirty Chain

Eww, Nasty!

Unfortunately, cleaning a chain the way that most people will tell you to is a pain. This usually involves a special chain cleaning tool (an expensive uni-tasker), or removing the chain to soak it in de-greaser (messy and wasteful). If you aren’t lucky enough to have a chain with a “master-link” removing a chain with a chain tool can even do more harm than good! The secret to an easy chain cleaning is to use the oil itself to clean. Remember what we are shooting for is to lubricate the junction between the pins and the rollers located inside the link, that’s where the main source of chain wear is located. The only way to get in there is with a good penetrating oil, and to work the rollers around the pins lubricating the inner surface. The oil should be thin enough to be drawn into the roller by capillary action. Don’t even think about reaching for the WD-40, that stuff will mess your ride up! Get a good chain lube from a bike store. I was recommended ProLink by my commuter friend and it has not let me down.

Apply the oil to the inside edge of the chain

Apply Oil Here

Once you have your oil of choice you want to soak a good amount of it into your chain. Apply the oil to the inside edge of the chain and run the pedals backwards to work it in. This initial application of excess oil should flush out the small grit that is inside the rollers and draw it to the outside. I usually follow this up with running a rag lightly under the bottom of the chain to get the excess off, and then I will pedal forward running the bike through all of its gears to clean the teeth. Now wipe the chain down well with a rag to get all the dirty oil off, you can run the pedals backwards for this too and hold the chain in the rag to give it a good cleaning. At this point the teeth of your chainrings and cassette are probably covered with dirty oil as well, so I go over them with the rag too, working the edge of the rag in between the rings. Wipe down the derailer cogs as well as these can get pretty dirty, I usually hold the non-chain side tightly with the rag and run the pedals backwards to clean them off.

Work the rag in between the rings to clean the cassette

Wipe off the cassette and chainrings

If this is your weekly maintenance, things should be pretty clean at this point, but you may need to repeat the soak-drive-wipe cycle again if things are really dirty. Once the oil starts coming clean you should be in pretty good shape to actually lubricate the chain. I do this by applying a drop of oil to each roller. It helps if you have a point of reference to start from like a master-link. Could you just squirt a bunch on the chain and run it around a bit? Probably, but remember once the oil goes on it starts flowing out of the chain, not into it, so you may miss some links. By oiling every roller you assure that the lubricant is where it should be right from the start. Once you’ve finished the whole length of the chain, dab the excess off the bottom of the chain with a clean rag. I also put a drop of oil on the inside of each of the derailer cogs. They are not under extreme tension, but they do make a lot of noise when dirty.

All done!

All done!

With that you should be done, and the whole process doesn’t take longer than about 15 minutes. That should be easy enough to get you doing it all the time, which is the goal. Remember, chains are cheap, but a stretched chain can ruin a $100-$200 cassette in no time at all. Don’t neglect this important task!

Feel free to respond with any suggestions or questions you might have!

Always Pack Your Own Parachute

February 28th, 2011 No comments

I feel pretty strongly about bicycle maintenance given that we are often riding our bikes on roads with other traffic, and most of the time we will ride far enough away from home that getting back without a bike is next to impossible. Also, the mechanical systems employed by a bicycle are fairly vulnerable to damage, but by that same token easily accessible for maintenance. It is my feeling that anyone who uses a bike on a fairly regular basis should be able to learn the routine tasks necessary to keep a bike in good working order. The analogy I use is to skydiving, where skydivers “always pack their own chute.” They need to know that the task has been done correctly every time they jump, and while the situation may not be as extreme on a bike I think the concept is the same. How do we know our machine is working correctly and safely if we have not taken the time to understand it ourselves?

I was lucky when I bought my bike in that I got it used, in semi-decent condition. I was able to ride it essentially right away, but it required some work to get it really running smoothly. I jumped in with both feet! Fortunately, since I hadn’t paid too much for the bike I was not in fear of messing anything up. Since then I have learned to replace/fix the tires and tubes, clean and replace the chain, replace the grip tape, replace the brake hoods, true the wheels, adjust the brakes, and pretty much disassemble/clean/lubricate the entire thing. The best part is none of these tasks were very hard, and all of them have given me a sense of satisfaction in knowing the condition of each component.

I learned most of these things through other cycling friends and internet resources (Sheldon Brown’s website for example), but a lot of these either give you too much, or not enough information. My plan over the next year or so, is to post a writeup of some of these tasks as I have to perform them on my bike. Hopefully, with helpful questions and suggestions from readers, I will be able to be a resource to the community of people just starting out on their bikes.

Please feel free to leave a comment with any things you would like to see in this series, and I will try to address these first!

Categories: bike, maintenance Tags: ,

Hitting the Open Road

February 25th, 2011 No comments
Inspiration Drive

Take me home, country roads

I couldn’t bring myself to ride on the trainer the other day, and as it was not that windy I had no excuse to not get out and hit the open roads. Since a great deal of my riding is done commuting to and from work I often forget how nice it is to get out on the bike without a bag and just ride. Now for all the difficulties that come with my place out in suburbia, there is a huge advantage for exploring on the bike. Within 3 miles of my house there lies the vast open plains of the Colorado frontrange, with country roads that stretch for miles.

Now when most people think about riding in Colorado, they probably think of climbing over mountain passes, or flying down twisting canyon roads, but it’s a fact of life for me that most of these rides are inaccessible for routine rides. Riding out here in the country offers up spectacular views as well as a great workout. There are no flat roads, everything out here is rolling plain. Unlike a mountain pass that allows you to settle into a steady rhythm as you work your way up, these hills never let you fall into a pattern. They are not quite steep enough to give you the excuse of going slowly, so you need to put in the effort of keeping up a strong pace over the top. When you do make it over, the cruise down to the next climb is never quite long enough to catch your breath.

The reward for your hard work is the escape to a different kind of Colorado. Beyond the hustle of Denver bike routes, outside the segregation of Boulder’s bike lanes and paths, here you ride with the traffic. You will pass a llama farm, offering hay for sale. You will see a rusted gas station sign, a memory of when these roads were the only way to cross the state. You may see another cyclist riding, but then again you may see no one at all.

These are my training roads, the routes that I can easily access from home. From my perspective, the idea of having to drive a car in order to ride a bike is counterintuitive. My friends may be telling stories of their rides up Flagstaff, or through the Boulder foothills. Others are mountain biking on the numerous front range trails. But my home is here, and here is where I will ride.

Denver viewed from the E470

Downtown Denver in the Distance

Categories: bike Tags: , ,

How the Bicycle Improves Our Communities

February 21st, 2011 No comments

It’s no secret that I dislike cars. Cars are a necessity in this age, unfortunately, but I believe the isolation they foster is a major contributor to the loss of community that is present in urban society. Rather than make this post about a negative, I want to view the positive: that the bicycle and “alternative” forms of transportation are the keys to restoring this.

My generation is accustomed to instant-gratification. We want something, we buy it online. We want entertainment, we turn to our instant-queues and on-demand. We want to get somewhere, we hop in our cars and are there in almost no time. It’s no surprise that the concept of riding a bike to our destination, or taking public transit, is not even a consideration. These activities take too long and we are impatient. But what is often considered to be a waste of time, is actually a huge opportunity for personal interaction with our neighbors and community members.

When I ride my bike to work I pass through many neighborhoods. I am mostly riding on side streets and bike paths, so these cut through the hearts of the communities that lie on my way to work. There are few cars, and most of the interactions I have are with people who are out walking or exercising. Many of these people I see at the same time every day, greeting them with a “good morning” after my “on your left”. I see people working in their yards, caring for their houses and proud of their neighborhoods. I see children walking to school, playing and racing each other as they go.

By the time I arrive at work I feel energized! Apart from the satisfaction of arriving at my destination under my own power, there is a sense that I have been somewhere. I have taken part in a very human thing: enjoying the presence of other people. This is why we first gathered in villages, built towns and cities, we crave these interactions and the sense of community. As more and more people jump in their cars, remaining effectively isolated for the entirety of their journies, we lose this aspect of our humanity.

While I believe that there are many ways for us to recapture this, the bicycle is by far the most efficient way of placing ourselves back into our communities. As more people choose to ride, either for commuting or for fun and exercise, more bicycle routes will be planned and built. At first these will link schools and parks, benefitting our children and allowing them to grow up more invested in their neighborhoods. This will rebuild the community that we are losing, not all at once, but one bike ride at a time. My choice is to show my kids that they can get wherever they need to go by riding their bikes, and to not be afraid of saying “hello” to people as they go. My choice is to lead them into what I hope will be a better future by example, by choosing to ride my bike to work and using public transportation.

You can foster this growth as well! Find a bike store, fix a bike yourself, find safe bike routes to the places you visit most often. By increasing your comfort level with this mode of transportation you will be more likely to choose it as an option. Invite your family to join you on your rides, ride to an ice cream store! Ride to work once a month, or even once a week! The great thing about a bicycle is that anyone can ride one. Your journey to a better community starts with a single pedal stroke!