National Bike Month seems an opportune time to get back on my own bike and give it a whirl. How about you?
The first evidence of a wheeled vehicle in my life is a 35mm film of me and my brother. He was pedaling a go-cart down the sidewalk and I was racing after him pushing a 4-wheeled doll carriage. Next, I was seen on a red Radio Flyer tricycle much like the one shown in the picture. I could almost catch my brother but not quite.
One Christmas my brother and I both received red Huffy bikes. Mine had tasseled handlebars and training wheels. His had a banana seat. We have movies of my dad running up and down the cul-de-sac we lived on trying to keep both of us, mostly me, upright on our new bikes. This was before bicycle helmets were common.
Biking to School
Like most kids in those days, we were expected to walk or bike to school except in extreme weather conditions. On rainy days we were equipped with rain slickers, galoshes, and umbrellas.
When I was in 4th grade I was hit by a car a short distance from home. The accident occurred around Easter and I remember receiving more than one Easter basket while I was in the hospital. I thought that was cool. One side of my face was messed up so Easter photos showed me in profile that year. I still have scars but fortunately not on my face. I do not know what happened to the driver who hit me.
I can still remember waking up in the ambulance and thinking, “how am I going to finish my California report?” All California students are required to research and write a report about California, usually in 4th grade. In my day, one wrote to each of the 58 counties requesting information and received it by mail. Reports were handwritten. I did finish mine.
The 1 ¼ mile trip each way to junior high was the most difficult school bike commute. It was downhill on the way to school and uphill all the way back.
Biking at College
My bike for college was a used Schwinn men’s 10-speed that I spray painted sky blue.
I shared an apartment about 4 miles from Arizona State University. I had a car but biking was often more practical, even in Tempe, AZ where temperatures can easily top 100°. The campus parking lots were far from my classes and usually packed. There was a 10-minute break between classes and at times my classes were so far apart I could not have made it without a bike.
I was an interior architecture student and sometimes rode to school with projects strapped on the back of my bike. This worked fine except the one time I got in a wreck with another bicyclist and my project (it was a 3 legged bridge made out of tiny wood sticks meant to hold a brick) ended up as a pile of sticks. The professor gave me a D—it was obvious that I had built something.
Biking as an Adult
When our kids were learning to ride bikes, I bought a Trek mountain bike which has been sadly underused. Even though I like bike riding I have fallen out of the habit.
We currently live in a small town about a mile from the ocean and often run errands on foot. The town is not particularly bike-friendly with a lot of hills and narrow roads. Our driveway is exceedingly steep as is the street we live on. The prospect of riding a bike down the driveway and street is terrifying, and the thought of pushing the bike up the street and driveway is daunting. I suppose I have let these excuses deter me from trying.
National Bike Month has inspired me to challenge myself to get back on my bike during the month of May…starting today.