Age, Dignity, and Bicycling
I've used this photo in a post before but like it so much I thought I'd re-post it (It's borrowed from Sustrans).
I thought I'd re-post this photo because I was thinking recently--contemplating, really--about what the hell I'm doing. What I mean by this is why, at nearly 50, do I still prefer to walk or ride a bike than drive in a vehicle. Not always, but most of the time. Being a middle-aged guy on a bike in an American city is no easy task at times...I am fully aware that most riders are half my age. And by riders I mean people that use their bikes as transportation (and in all weather conditions) and not as a once-a-month jaunt in the park for recreation when the sun is shining. Even on this blog--whose readership I think is divided equally between those who come here for cooking and baking and those that are here for bike related posts--the bikers are much younger than myself. I guess what bothers me--and this is not the phrase that really articulates what I am trying to say but it's the best I have at present--what bothers me is not that I am older than many (or most) riders I see...it's that there are not more people "of a certain age" out there on bikes.
At what point, I wonder, do people abandon their bikes for cars? I know when I was growing up we all had bikes...now most my age it seems are in cars. If I had a dime for every time someone told me something like, "back when I was in high school (or college or whenever) I used my bike to get everywhere," I'd be a rich man. I sometimes tell them that they can still do it, at least part of the time...but I usually don't. Sometimes I really feel it's just the stigma of an adult (in America) using a bike as their main mode of transport. That is the silliest thing I can think of because coasting on a bicycle with the wind on your face is way more fun, and often more dignified (I think) than sitting on a car-couch and pressing a gas pedal. I really and truly believe that if more people hopped back on that old 10-speed or mountain bike that they have collecting dust in their basement or garage they would remember what it was like...the joy and feeling of freedom it gave them.
Now here's a quick story of what prompted me to write this little rant:
I was in a local bike shop today pricing studded snow tires (yes, they make them for bikes). The owner of the shop was helping another customer. He had just purchased a lock, and it was the type you could program to have a personalized numeric combination. He was having trouble with it and asked for assistance. What would you like the combination to be, the owner of the shop asked him? Why don't you set it to the year I was born, he said, that was a good year...set the numbers to 1920.
After the guy left I asked the owner if he still rode a bike. Well, he said, he gave it up for a while because of balancing difficulties and his hips started bothering him so bad he had to use a walker. So he recently bought an adult trike and because of the exercise he no longer needs the walker.
Inspiring beyond words.
Sometimes when I ride bikes it makes feel like a kid and I wonder if I'm just being immature. But then I come to that slight incline in the road or the wind shifts to my back and I coast and I come to my senses. It's taken me a long time to figure out I want to be "when I grow up" but I think I finally have. When I grow up I want to be an old man...an old man that still rides a bike.