To My Bike, With Love: Just Do It, Kid
Posted: 8:32PM June 3rd, 2013 | Comments
Although my main mode of transportation in Madison remains my own two feet, I like to think that our camaraderie is growing slow, but steady—wouldn’t you? Even though your chain did fall off abruptly, just moments into my first official Madison commuter ride. Well played. That joke is only funny once, though. Just saying.
To be honest, after those first couple of rides, I still wasn’t sure if we would work out. Harsh, I know. I’ve been leery still of the traffic zooming around us, closing in like a jungle cat that happens to have bad carbon emission breath. Sadly, my desire to drive a giant wedge of safety between traffic and myself seemed to have driven another between us. It would be safe to say my avoidance of anywhere vehicles might be present in numbers greater than one—two if one was a itty-bitty Smart car—posed an obvious obstacle. It’s just that walking seems so much more enjoyable, stable, and less stressful—being off the road and all. And there are the added perks of people watching, window shopping and—last, but certainly not least, in my book—the option of eating a cupcake on the go. You know—the important stuff.
Still, it became clear almost immediately that I would need to get over this fear of riding with traffic fast. Walking more than a few miles is impractical. And, while the public bus system will play a pivotal role in my winter transit, or on days of torrential downpour, I refuse to miss out on even one second of summer bliss—which sadly has such a short visit here in the land of beer and bratwurst. Plus, I couldn’t get this voice out of my head, which coincidentally, but not surprisingly, matched my Father’s, supportively but bluntly saying, “Just do it, kid. You’re making this a way bigger ordeal than it has to be.”
So, as my supplies of the edible persuasion started to dwindle last week, I knew I had to stop being such a chicken—at least stop being one long enough to buy some—because I wasn’t going to try and load myself up with groceries like a pack mule for a two-mile trek. Of that, I was sure of. Not when you are so willing to help with your big, beautiful metal baskets.
We set out early on Sunday, strategically at 7AM. The thing I liked most about that early Sunday morning ride was the comforting calmness that only zero traffic can bring. Your tires against the street were the only sound except for the occasional chirping, emanating from some concealed location, and my own breath, after a hill. The dew still clung to everything, and the sun added a little sparkle—something it can only do in the early morning so alluringly.
The trip was so fast! We were there in no time at all, and in it, I had a revelation of the perfect game plan for building biker confidence—get to know the roads while traffic is at a minimum.
Navigating Madison’s main arteries without the added stress of traffic has given me confidence in familiarity and a sense of preparedness for when we do eventually venture out during prime daytime hours. In addition, this gives me the chance to look like a complete clown as I master the basics: how to start off smoothly from either foot, how to extend my left arm in a turn signal without swerving (being left handed doesn’t make this any easier), how to shift properly while navigating a hill (without losing your chain, again) and how to walk you without your pedal slamming into the back of my leg (anyone who doesn’t know what a klutz I am would think you were abusive).
By practicing on the roads during low-traffic periods, I am proud to say that I, no we, have mastered a frequent 11.2 miles round-trip commute and—what used to be leading the charge in my nightmares—the Capital Square!
So, even though we are a long way off from being best buddies, we are getting there. Maybe if Thoreau had written an insanely motivational essay entitle “Biking” we could move this along faster.
The main thing isn’t that I am getting to know you and bike culture in a city—even though that is obviously important. It is the fact I have become estranged from my car, and car culture, cold turkey after being almost 100% dependent on it my whole life. Even more remarkable—I haven’t missed it once.
Briana Rosenberg is Sustain Dane’s Communications Intern. After graduating from Winona State University, in 2012, with a B.A. in Mass Communication: Advertising, she returned home to work on various freelance projects. Now living in Madison, WI, she is falling in love with the city and thrilled to be working with Sustain Dane. When she isn’t working, or figuring out Madison’s bike culture, you can find her exploring downtown or held up in one of Madison’s many coffee shops, with a Mocha, reading a good book or working on her own writing.