I have a bike now. When I picked up my dusty 80’s street bike from a cobwebbed corner of my parents’ garage, I really wasn’t expecting much. I’d hardly used it for a decade and I thought it’d been superseded by the mountain bike I bought from a friend a couple years ago; since I was going to campus, to a place that was basically full of sidewalks and smooth roads, I thought it would be better for that environment (also, less likely to get stolen). Since the time when I first brought it here, it’s been in continuous use for 3 weeks now, with the exception of one two-day period, early on, when I didn’t see the point. Now, I do. Riding, instead of walking, makes me less tired at the end of the day; it makes me safer at night, when I can zoom through dark parts of campus; and, last but not least, it’s just fun, and can make travel feel like an adventure instead of a chore.
I’ve read about the bike culture in the Netherlands, particularly Amsterdam, and there are many parts of it that I ‘get’ now that I didn’t earlier. Having a cheap, beat-up bike really does seem good enough, all of a sudden; for going through the equivalent of a few city blocks at a time, having a platinum ultra-machine seems like overkill, like keeping a horse to cross your backyard. Also, those cruisers, the low-slung, old-fashioned looking bikes with the wide handlebars and the basket in back, seem like a really practical, beautifully thought-out choice now, instead of merely fashionable.
It’s also great to have a venue like the UH campus where I can ride around safely without having to worry about the risk of cars. Finally, it’s been nice to see something that had been left for dead shine like new; my bike feels like it matters to me like my car once did. It’s not for everyone, of course, but learning to use my bike again has been like being a kid rediscovering an old toy I never stopped liking.