What Bicycling Does and Doesn't Mean [From BA 42-200]

Billie Samuels Leaving to Ride To Melbourne Best of Boneshaker.jpg

"Bicycling is at its very core an alone journey, and when you undertake it, it will be because you and no one else decided to do so."

from BA 42-200

In the end, you have to come to cycling yourself. Your government can’t force you to do it; your friends can’t make you want to get on and pedal; and your employer could probably not care less. Only you are in the saddle when no one else is watching. Bicycling is, therefore, at its very core an alone journey, and when you undertake it, it will be because you and no one else decided to do so.

But it is important to remember that no one likes to be preached at from the street corner or in the bar, and we ourselves are no evangelists. We ride, which means nothing other than: we ride. Symbolically speaking, there is no righteousness innate to cycling. True, it may pollute less or be healthier for one’s body, but it is not a religion. Bicycling is always only ever a form of transportation.

And yet, in a very real, very tangible sense, every single thing leads to and causes something else. We are always either growing or we're not, but we never stay the same. If we turn too sharply when the road is slick, it will certainly have an impact on our trajectory. If we run a stop sign, it has an impact in the minds of those drivers with whom we share the road. If we ride one more day a week, it will impact our health and the environment around us, even if it is almost impossible to immediately see either of those changes happening. Despite all this, bicycling isn't “the answer” to anything other than how you get where you’re going.

Winter is here, as you well know, and with it snow and ice and that awfully biting wind. But if you ride, we'll do the same. We always have a choice and there is so much movement we can make happen with just our one body! There will no doubt be people mad at us for choosing the bicycle (and they will be vehement and confused and secretly jealous in that anger), and yet we can still ride. Because when we're on a bike, we think about how far we’re going, what it is we’re carrying, and how important it is to take such a trip in the first place—if nothing else, the act of bicycling makes you all the more resourceful.

There is much we have not yet confronted—both in the saddle and out—but this much we know is true: New York is full of bicycles with enormous front racks, big enough for a 26” pizza or several bags of groceries; people all over the country are using hand signals when they ride, people we didn’t even think existed; and sometimes chain tools end up in our toiletry kits, even if we don’t remember why.

These are all encouraging signs of something simple, but nothing more than that. The bicycle is always there for us to ride.

Evan P. Schneider