Now that it’s a few days into the new year, you’ve probably recovered from your hangover and moved on toward the first steps of your resolution. This is the time when gyms across the country make use of overflow parking, as a huge percentage of New Years Resolution-makers choose fitness and weight loss as a promise to themselves for better health and more sweaty Facebook pics of them crushing it on the elliptical.
I’m going to offer an alternative resolution to everyone else who loves their city or community, and loves the idea of getting more in touch with their surroundings. These two steps are approachable, even for the person, like me, who often lacks discipline of any kind. You with me? OK!
1. Bike one more day per week than you already do
If this means you bike once a week, bike twice. If you don’t bike at all, but you have a two-wheeled beast sitting in your garage collecting dust, take it to your local bike shop for a tune up. When you’re bike is running sweet (always nice when your equipment is in top shape!) take a 15 minute or more ride around your city or neighborhood once a week.
Whether you already ride occasionally and you’re going to add a day, or you’re gonna commit to riding once per week after not riding for some time, don’t worry about speed. Don’t worry about riding on the sidewalk or the road, just ride. Don’t worry about a helmet or not, just ride slow, watch for cars ANYTIME you approach a road and be very safe. You can gear up or you can ride in what you have on, whatever makes you feel comfortable and free. That’s the point. Spandex isn’t necessary, nor is speed or a performance. Just ride. Look around, experience your community, take in the positive vibes of being outdoors and enjoying where you live. Be safe, but do what it takes to feel free.
2. Whether you bike once a week or 7 times a week, make sure that one ride per week is purposeful.
This is the big one. Cycling began as a viable mode of transportation. It was heralded as one of the key components of freedom and independence during the women’s movement. Susan B. Anthony once said the following…
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.”
Even today, it is a chosen, and in many cases necessary form of transit for a small but growing percentage of Americans, especially in our urban centers. What these cyclists will tell you is that, while cycling is seen as a recreational outlet today, it can also be a viable, enjoyable and efficient mode of transportation.
However much you ride, make one trip per week purposeful. Meeting some friends for brunch nearby? Take your bike. Need something at the drug store? Take your bike. Having guests over for wine and cheese? Strap on a backpack or a bike basket and bike to the local liquor store.
While I cycle for transportation almost exclusively, I would never expect anyone to immediately make the same leap. Instead, it’s about tiny, incremental moves that help us all realize that the car isn’t the only way to get around. We can make an alternative choice that is better for our infrastructure, better for our environment, better for our communities, and might just make us feel more accomplished. There is nothing quite like the feeling of “human powered” transit.
And hey, I get it, most of my neighbors here in New York State are looking outside at the snow, feeling the bitter cold, saying “aw hell no.” You don’t have to start this resolution now… wait till April or May when the weather begins to turn. There’s no rush to begin this resolution, it’s one that’s always there for you.
The idea is this. Whether you live in a suburb or a city, your bike can be a beautifully simple and fun way to experience your surroundings. Furthermore, your bike can be a form of transportation for short trips to the store or meetings with friends. The resulting feeling can be one of accomplishment, knowing that your bike can be a tool, helping your get things done. And hey, we can all use the extra exercise, right?
Sometimes we urbanists advocate for dreams that seem unreachable, irrational or downright silly. We like to believe that’s what all innovators face when they champion new ideas and new data. The truth is, these ideas will never be realized to their fullest potential unless more citizens take the tiny, incremental steps toward a more sustainable tomorrow.
So take this two step challenge, and share your feedback with the UP! We’d love to hear your story!