I’m not one of the spandex-wrapped folks you see speeding by on svelte road bikes. Although I admire their dedication, athleticism and sleek forms, I’ll never keep up with them. But I am a guy who journeys far by bicycle. I do pedal – a lot!
Traveling by bike is never tedious – it’s no more work than is astronomy. And just as telescopes reveal hidden wonders of the night (and day) skies, my bicycle delivers astonishing scenes I’d miss at highway speeds, ensconced in a steel-and-glass cocoon.
When I first encountered a young cyclist traveling cross-country, I asked why anyone would do such a thing. He gave three answers:
1. “Bicycles equal freedom. They carry you places automobiles can’t. They reward traveling light, liberating you from the clutter we stuff into cars.”
2. “You experience things from the seat of a bike that you don’t behind the wheel of a car. Small things. Big things. Important things. You experience details that blur at automobile speeds. You’re in the open, more engaged with your surroundings.”
3. “And you stopped to talk. How cool is that? You wouldn’t have otherwise, would you? People are friendlier to folks on bikes. With the least encouragement, they smile, they wave, they share.”
I resolved there and then to see for myself. Weeks later, I had stopped on a highway shoulder to answer a phone call during one of my first long rides. Minutes into the call, a driver paused to offer help. Moments after she drove away, a second stopped.
It’s true, people are nicer to folks on bikes. Trips to work or to the store, once negotiated by car amid angry traffic and snarled parking lots, are now excuses for delightful cycling adventures, and refreshing exercise, to boot. Given the option of cycling, why drive?