Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bicycles and the Urban Landscape

I've been on a bike since I was about 10, when I got my first 3-speed Sears bike hand-me-down from a cousin. The freedom of riding a bike around my neighborhood in Chicago was a sensation that stayed with me for the rest of my life. I think the only time I haven't been on a bike regularly was the 18 months we lived in Alaska. 

It occurs to me I never write about being on a bike and that's kind of strange. Especially because I'm a true believer when it comes to the benefits of bicycles in the urban landscape.

I was on Janet's bike yesterday when the thin wheels, a muddy street, a gap in the sidewalk, and ill-timed aim sent me for a nice spill. Ouch! I screamed and bellowed my way all four feet to the sidewalk in slow motion, startling the pedestrians into trying to help me up. The great thing about adrenaline is that you don't feel any pain for a couple of hours so I rolled the bike into our neighborhood repair shop, came home, slugged down a couple of aspirins, and only started complaining when poor Janet got home. 

Anyway her bike was well ready for a tune up before my little crash. Today I walked over to pick it up and the bill came to $160 including a new chain, back gears, brake pads and a bunch of other stuff. Not bad when you think of what it would cost you to repair a car. Actually....our wonderful (not) American-built (quality!-not) Ford Taurus station wagon cost us about ten times this amount each year as it limped toward its 70,000 mile death. We threw it out when our youngest kid went to college and never looked back. Goodbye insurance payments, parking hassles, and those awful repairs. Actually when Janet took it in the last time for repairs the click and clack guys asked her what zip code she lived in. "02139?" they asked..."You don't need this thing any more!"

It's true, we have two Whole Foods, a co-op and a Trader Joes all within walking distance. When we have to have a car we get a zipcar or rent one if we're going away for a weekend. Living five blocks from the T we can get public transportation to the airport and anywhere else in the city. Pretty luxurious and oh, the time we're NOT on the road commuting!

So, where was I? Oh, bicycles. Silent, lightweight, practically self-propelled, emission-free, carbon-neutral, and in Boston traffic, often the fastest way to travel. As a scientist I know how good this kind of conveyance is for the environment. As an artist I know how nice it is to be oxygenated to get your creative juices flowing. 

Come to think about it I will be writing more about bicycles in the city. 

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