At least, that is how I remember it. But there is a huge memory gap between my first bike and the bike I received as a gift last year — because I was afraid of bikes. Not in the way people are afraid of spiders. I did not have cyclophobia. So, when someone would say “easy as riding a bike,” I would think: Who are you kidding?
In Chicago, a friend and Ironman triathlete named Derrick Milligan encouraged me to ride again, actually training me and other black women to compete in triathlons. But every time I had to ride, I was nervous. I still cannot say clearly why, but it was enough to keep me off a bike once I left Chicago.
Fast-forward to now, and I really like to ride my bicycle. I say “really like” and not "love" for several reasons. But first, there is a question that can be fairly asked: Why are you riding a bike, scaredy-cat?
To get to my studio, the options are:
No. 1 — Drive. But I don’t have a car, so not an option.
No. 2 — Ride-sharing. It is lovely, but cost-prohibitive for the everyday.
No. 3 — Transit. I could take one, nearly hour-long bus ride.
No. 4 — Walk. It would take 20 minutes, and then I would have to take that one bus.
No. 5 — Transit (again). Ride two buses!
No. 6 — Bike. For 30 minutes.
So, biking is the fastest way for a car-less and frugal me to get from Point A to Point B. And thanks to the increasing number of bike lanes … Yes, I said it. I mean it. About 80 percent of my commute is either by bike lane or bike trail. In fact, if it wasn’t for the increasing number of bike lanes, I would not be riding at all.
Riding my bike means more freedom to move. It is exercise, transportation, and to some extent, community. I am the cyclist that stops at the stop sign and red light. I do the hand signals when I am turning, and you may see me riding up onto the sidewalk to turn on the pedestrian cross signal because the bike does not register as present at an intersection. I am not perfect. I am careful.
This is "like" (not "love") for several reasons: cars parked illegally in the bike lanes; pedestrians crossing in front of my bike, as though I am invisible; hostile drivers with their “the road belongs only to us” vibe.
Also, those cyclists who were obviously never afraid to ride, who have little-to-no care for anyone else on the road. I am not one for respectability politics, but maybe we could model the behavior we want reflected back to us?
You can learn a lot about the soul of a city from the way the roads work or do not. What does the inability of our pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists to share these roads say about Pittsburgh?
Follow featured contributor Tereneh Idia on Twitter @Tereneh152XX