Today marks my two year anniversary of returning to Charlotte and of living bike-centric in Charlotte. I’ve biked over 3,000 miles so far this year and nearly all of those miles are commuting to places that I need to be.
The recent headlines about an aggressive driver have brought up a discussion that is very eye-opening to me. I realized that my bike de-humanizes me from the perspective of some people in my city. This is heart-breaking for me because from my perspective, my bike has been a catalyst making me feel more human than ever before.
I have stayed on the very exciting side of our cycling community. I lead a group ride called Road Doughs and we literally ride our bikes to eat donuts before heading back to our starting point. I geek out attending the stakeholders and community meetings about the up-coming pedestrian and cycling infrastructure like the Charlotte Cross Trail and the Uptown Urban Trails Connections Study.
I choose to define my life as bike-centric as opposed to saying car-free or identifying myself just as a bike commuter, because my entire life revolves around my bike. I have never taken public transportation in Charlotte. I ride my bike to the grocery store, yoga, meetings, work, events and even to go on dates.
I take an occasional Uber, but only if the weather is really bad or I plan to drink alcohol or be out extra late.
Being bike-centric is not just about transportation. All of my decisions when making a purchase revolve around my bike, whether it is groceries, toiletries or clothing. I have to make sure I can transport it and if it is a wearable item, I have to make sure I can comfortably bike in it. Otherwise I’m probably not going to buy it. Although I recently moved into a shared house with a full backyard, being bike-centric has kept me true to my decision to live as minimal as possible.
I may arrive places a little bit sweaty or wearing Chacos with my dress, but for the most part I rarely miss out on anything. A couple occasions I’ve bought too many things at the grocery store and I’ve had one crash that resulted in injury, but brought little interference to doing the things I wanted to do.
Ironically the biggest complications I run into due to my bike life is dating. Most men I have gone on dates with think that my bike life is “cool”, but things get complicated when you realize you live 10 miles away from each other or I arrive on bike and cruise up in your luxury crossover vehicle. This really feels like a major disconnect most of the time, but it’s hard to justify putting “Likes to ride bikes” as a primary deal-breaking question.
We All Break The Rules
I’ve never had a reason to preach about cars being used as weapons, because I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve never had a serious altercation on the road with drivers. There have been a couple close calls, and I will gladly admit that in some cases I, the cyclist, was at fault.
Sometimes I run red lights and roll thru stop signs, sometimes I don’t wear a helmet and I often listen to music while I ride. When was the last time you forgot to use your blinker at an intersection or sped thru yellow light to miss the red or cut off oncoming traffic to quickly make a left turn?
Every move that I make while riding my bike is with intention and awareness to secure my safety and also to remain comfortable. There are times I feel safer as a moving object on the street to ensure I will be seen and to avoid the chance of standing right in a vehicles blind spot even if I’m supposed to stop at that red light.
When drivers break the law in a vehicle it is usually as a result of trying to get ahead or as a result of being distracted by cell phones. Patience while driving is often eliminated because in a vehicle can give us super human powers.
I recently read an article, An Open Letter to Drivers, which outlines uncomfortable situations that many of us cyclists deal with on a daily basis.
Do not forget that most cyclists are also licensed drivers, so we know what these streets look like from both sides. I hope that this glimpse into life on my bike and the motivation that keeps me pedaling will open your eyes to a world that most people will never understand, especially in Charlotte.
Why I Choose To Ride My Bike
I absolutely believe that the personal growth, confidence and independence that I have found on my bike could not have been found anywhere else.
Mental Health– I’ve discovered that my greatest moments of clarity and meditation do not come as a result of being silent and motionless. My mind is the quietest when I am moving, listening to music and often singing. While I’m riding I get so much of this time to myself without much interference. I’m able to process or prepare for the day, laugh at myself, admire the new blooms at the house on the corner and appreciate the way certain trees create their shadows on the streets. I not only get to connect with myself but I’m connecting with nature and my city.
Risks and Confidence– Last summer I met some of the most important people I’ve ever known. I was asked to very important meetings, invited to many events and this was my first bike-centric summer. I still hadn’t figured out the right clothes to wear so I often found my sweaty self walking right into these meetings wearing bike shorts, tank top and helmet in hand.
I refused to be self conscious about my appearance and poured all of my anxious energy into making sure that my ideas made sense and that the words I spoke would matter. In some weird sort of torture this is how I did the final digging in order to understand my own ideas in cultivating a more authentic version of myself.
Powering thru that sort of vulnerability conquers a lot of fears.
Breaking Down Barriers-Last fall I started doing donut bike rides by just tweeting about it a day or two in advance and before I knew it I had strangers showing up to them. Strangers who I now consider close friends.
This made me realize that there was power in this kind of bread breaking, in this case we share donuts, to really bring people together who otherwise wouldn’t normally hang out.
I took an opportunity to do an official launch of Road Doughs with three bike rides during BIKE! Charlotte which is a three week event that promotes family friend bike activities around Charlotte in the beginning of May. Since then I have led monthly rides. Each ride we’ve had about 20 people and more than half of the group are new riders. We had riders from age 12-75, we’ve had people with all sorts of backgrounds and even riders that have drove up from Fort Mill to ride along with us.
One of the things I emphasis is that friends who can’t make it by bike should still come and meet us for donuts, because Road Doughs is about building a community, not just about riding bikes.
Carbs– A few months ago, I noticed that I had been gaining weight which was very frustrating, because between biking and hot yoga I couldn’t imagine adding more exercise. I began to look at the way I was eating, the typical low-carb, moderate protein/fat diet that everyone is doing these days. I knew I needed to make some sort of adjustments and after some research I dared to nearly double my calorie intake with additional carbs and eliminate eggs and dairy from my diet.
I’ve probably eaten more rice, bananas, bagels, cereal and bread in the past three months than I have in the past year. That first week of the transition immediately felt more energy, my body wasn’t cramping up, my legs weren’t swelling anymore and I lost a noticeable amount of weight quickly.
I now believe that the weight I was gaining had been a result of not just eating the wrong foods but not eating enough food in order to properly fuel my lifestyle. Because this went on for months and months, my body was literally in survival mode and holding on to anything I ate. I’ve had dealt with serious digestive issues in the past so adjusting my diet can be nerve-wracking because I’m always afraid to run into illness again. But I am happy as can be eating my bagels and grabbing lots of snacks these days.
Ways to get involved.
Even if you aren’t planning to take your bike off the greenways or purchase a bike, please know that those of us in the biking community still want to know you and would love to have your input and perspective how our infrastructure and bike culture will grow in the next 5 years… I’m willing to bet it’s going to be drastic.
The best step forward to avoid more conflicts between drivers and cyclists is communication both on the road and off.
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