Cycling to Work: Why I Ride


When I was a kid my bike meant many things to me. It was a symbol of freedom and independence. I could travel as far as my legs would pedal. I used my bike to travel to the swimming pool, the local department store, school, and all my extra-curricular activities. My bike was also the economic engine that made it possible for me to find employment. It was the workhorse that I used to deliver the morning papers on my paper route. It was my mode of transportation for after school jobs, as well. Biking was also an activity that my father and I enjoyed doing together. We spent many hours pedaling on the gravel, country roads of Iowa, experiencing the sights and sounds of the hinterland. Those are memories I’ll never forget. Once I bought my first car, though, my bike ended up forgotten in the garage. Full time work and raising young children also took up my time. I didn’t regularly ride for a long time. About 11 years ago I became dissatisfied with my automotive commute from near downtown to the far north side. Along with my dissatisfaction, my wife and I had a decision to make. She had been a stay-at-home Mom and we were a one car family, but she was preparing to return to college to complete a BSN degree. We decided that she would use the car and that I would use a combination of biking and public transportation for my commute. Our plan was that instead of making a car payment we would pay her tuition. The first year of my new commuting mode was a time of learning. The best bike and bus routes, what to wear, best hydration techniques, how best to haul work clothes and lunches were some of the things that needed to be learned. It was challenging, but there were benefits that were readily apparent, so I kept pedaling. After all these years my commute is almost exclusively by bicycle. For me, the physical, mental, and financial benefits outweigh any additional hardship or effort in my commute. The physical benefit is the most obvious to most people. To reach my annual goal of 5,200 miles I have to spend around 300 hours pedaling. The financial benefit is fairly obvious, as well. My wife and I still own just one car. By pedaling through the years I’ve helped two of my children keep their college tuition costs as low as possible. The mental benefit maybe the least obvious benefit, but for me, the most rewarding. I have found that riding my bike helps me to clear my mind of clutter and refocus on what’s truly important to me. Listening to the birds’ morning songs, watching scampering rabbits and squirrels, seeing the clouds and birds float on the wind, and enjoying the progression of the seasons reminds me of the glory and mystery of creation daily. I very much appreciate the sense of community I feel when I can see and greet fellow travelers on my journey. All of it makes me a happier person. May is National Bike Month and I invite you to go for a ride on a bike. With the increased number of trails, bike lanes, and bike sharing programs available in our communities there’s not been a better time to go for a ride.   Mark Berry North Meridian