When was the last time you were caught in a light, misty summer rain and loved every minute of it? How about one of those Southwest-style sunsets that burst hues of orange, purple and pink, making it physically impossible to do anything but stop and be in it? Those are just two personal experiences I’ve had when riding my bike. The particular summer night when I was caught in the light rain, I smiled the whole time and never felt more alive. Those sunsets I’ve experienced, I literally lost my breath and had to pull my bike over because I couldn’t not appreciate what was happening.
Riding a bike has changed my life. From a health perspective, incorporating my bike as an everyday mode of transport, exercise has become as routine as brushing my teeth. The best thing is that it’s become so integrated, I don’t see it as exercise but as a vehicle to get me to my destination. We think we need high-intensity workouts to keep us in shape, when studies have shown that incorporating bicycle commuting into your daily life improves mental health, lowers risk for cardiovascular disease and can actually increase physical performance as much as specific training programs What if you switched out two errands per month using your bike instead of your car? Try it.
I was asked to write a guest piece on bicycle etiquette and safety, but I feel compelled to begin a bigger story; I advocate and fight like hell for safer streets in Columbus. But what does that mean? It’s simple: we need to design cities for people, not cars. For decades, the scales have been tipped in favor of car culture; five-lane-wide streets, one-way roads and very little urban beautification. When you have wide streets with nothing of interest to look at, you get in and get out as quickly as possible. We drive based upon the design of our streets. Think about how fast you can drive on Broad Street then think about how fast you can drive on Gay Street.
When we combine streets designed for speeding cars with human beings going three to four times slower by way of walking or biking, the clash begins. Why? Why is there such hostility to the point of violence?
When we combine streets designed for speeding cars with human beings going three to four times slower by way of walking or biking, the clash begins. Why? Why is there such hostility to the point of violence? Bikes are legally considered vehicles; bikers should be following the same rules. Most of us do. Some of us don’t, and as a bicycle advocate constantly fighting for safer streets, it pisses me off when I see unsafe behavior. But there’s a flip side to that coin; drivers are just as unlawful, sometimes more. Driving has become so commonplace and such a “thoughtless” task that we’ve become lazy and fat behind the wheel; corners are cut because we consider ourselves better than average drivers.
What’s it going to take for us all to play nice in the sandbox? I wish I had the answer, but no matter which way you slice it, you’re always going to have the haters who can’t, or won’t, get along. What I want everyone who reads this to know is that when you see me riding my bike, I’m a twin sister and a daughter, a breathing human being and NOT a “cyclist” or a “pedestrian.” Maybe when we start to see each other as human beings instead of these polarizing, sterile identities, the curtain of animosity will be lifted away—forcing us to reintroduce empathy and acknowledge the individual trying to get to her destination safely, instead of just an object slowing us down.