Occasionally someone asks me why I ride my bike. Why do I ride my bike everywhere? I gave this some thought. I know why I started initially, but do I still have the same reason now? I started because I could no longer in good conscience drive a car and contribute to increasing rates of asthma and other diseases caused by pollution from cars, and I didn't want to consume non-renewable resources unnecessarily. Those things are still important to me now, but I realize that I could take the bus. I would like to see public transportation service improve for those people unable or unwilling to ride bicycles so that more people will stop using cars (and no, electric and hybrid cars aren't the solution. De Clarke explains why very eloquently), but I really do prefer riding my bike.
One reason I prefer my bike is I'm not tied to a schedule. I realize this is actually a reason motorists prefer their cars to public transportation also. Right now, the bus that stops near my house comes every 15 minutes during the week during the day, but in the evenings it only comes once an hour. On weekends it only comes once an hour during the day, and in the evenings on weekends it doesn't come at all. What if bus service increased in frequency and improved on weekends, so consulting a schedule wasn't even necessary? What if it came every ten minutes from 6am to 1am, 7 days a week? Would more motorists switch to using the bus? Very probably. Would I?
Well, no. I'd do everything I could to encourage more people to ride the bus, but the fact of the matter is...I'm a cyclist. It's something that's just a part of who I am now. It's my identity.
Cycling is something I need to do. I'd say it's an addiction, but that sounds so negative. But if somebody made me try to stop cycling, things would get ugly.
I like how I feel when I'm riding my bike. Cycling is the only exercise I have ever enjoyed. When I was a kid, I hated gym class. I was a total klutz. Not only was I always the last one picked when choosing team members, but the team that didn't get stuck with me laughed and jeered at my team for their misfortune. "Ha ha! You got stuck with her!" I simply wasn't any good at any sport, and my classmates' jeering ensured that I would view exercise as torture.
I did actually walk everywhere I went as a kid, and I did actually enjoy having time alone with my thoughts, but I didn't even think of that as exercise at the time. I rode my bike occasionally, and I enjoyed it, but I didn't really think of that as exercise at the time either. Exercise was defined as what we did in gym class. Being tortured. Years later people would occasionally recommend exercise as a way to alleviate depression. My reaction was along the lines of "Are you completely insane?"
So needless to say, my purpose in purchasing a bike was not to get exercise.
Our school system makes a grave error in designing gym classes to be oriented solely around team sports and competition. I am just not any good at throwing or catching balls. I am utterly hopeless at gymnastics. I am not a fast runner. And I am simply not competitive by nature. Years of being miserable in gym class conditioned me to reject exercise as a bad thing. This was wrong. Classes should be designed to appeal to all types of students. There should be gym classes that have non-competitive exercise, that don't have team sports. Maybe some days students could go for hour long bike rides. Other days they could go for hour long hikes in the woods. I would have really enjoyed a class like that.
I know now that exercise really does help alleviate depression. When I ride my bike every day, my body feels better, and my mind feels better. I never would have guessed it, but it's true. I ride a bike because I need to ride a bike. Riding my bike makes me feel good.