Wednesday 15 January 2014

It's tradition, not politics

There's nothing political about
enjoying the simple act of riding a bike
As 2014 gets into full swing, while I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions, I have set a goal for myself, and that is to stop focusing so much on the negative politics around my lifestyle, specifically, the fact that I ride a bike. What has prompted me to take this path? Quite simply it's because I don't feel that what I do just is political, because it isn't. Or at least it shouldn't be. Sure, installation of new infrastructures and changed policies are done at the political level. That does not mean, however, that everyone who chooses to ride a bike is doing so to make a political statement. In fact, I would argue that that's the last thing on most cyclists minds when they hop on their saddle.

Speaking personally, when I unlock my bike and think about setting off for the day, I'm not thinking, "I'm going to change the world today!" It's usually more like, "Ok, where am I going, and how do I get there by taking the least amount of hills?" Riding a bike to get around is no different that choosing to walk, take public transit or drive. All I'm doing is trying to get from one place to another in the most convenient way I know how. The same can be said for my husband, Chris. When he wakes up in the morning, the first thing he does is look at the weather, and if it's not pouring with rain, he gets excited to ride his bike to work. Not because he gets to be "One Less Car", but because he finds riding to work much for refreshing and enjoyable that stuffing himself like a sardine in the bus that takes him to the office.

There was a time, in the not so distant past, when riding a bike had nothing to do with having a political agenda. I think back to my own childhood and teen years, when riding a bike was how I got around. Not because I was bent on saving the environment, but because my friends were all a bus or bike ride away from where I lived. Even before my time, I have heard stories of my parents riding from their respective neighbourhoods in Montreal to see each other because that was the fastest and easiest way to do it. I'm positive my grandparents rode bikes around, too, although I haven't heard many stories about it because riding a bike around isn't that remarkable of a means of transportation. It's just what people did and still do to get from point A to point B.

So why all the politics nowadays? There are a myriad of reasons I can think of, but as I said, I'm trying to move the conversation away from a political mindset, and more towards looking at the human aspect of riding a bike. What gets lost in all the rhetoric thrown around is that riding a bike is a very human activity, and when we start thinking of it more in that light, the more the frustration, anger, and combative dialogue will start to dissipate, opening up the conversation to something a bit more amiable. 

Riding a bike is a tradition we have been passing down from generation to generation for over a hundred years. It is the great mobilizer, allowing people of all ages, abilities and incomes the means to travel throughout their neighbourhoods and cities freely. Children learn the freedom of being able to transport themselves without relying on their parents. Many people with disabilities or ailments find a bicycle gives them mobility and the independence their situations would otherwise limit. And cycling is cheap, meaning practically anyone can afford the cost to purchase and maintain a bike as their means of transportation, increasing the mobility of even the most financially strapped of our citizens. 

So it's time to move away from the divisive language, focused almost entirely on an US vs THEM mentality. Everything that happens in our neighbourhoods, cities and beyond is a WE conversation, and how we influence a positive quality of life for all our citizens, regardless of their means of transportation. I will do my part, and continue to write about riding a bike is a positive, human activity for my family and I. Hopefully, one day in the near future, I will begin to see this same positive dialogue start throughout my own city. 

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