Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pure Joy

On Bike-To-Work Day in 2003, I conducted a 2-minute poll of people stopping at a booth at the downtown Louisville Bike-To-Work Celebration. Participants answered a handful of questions about whether and how often they commuted by bicycle, and reasons in favor of or against biking to work. People who rode to work rarely or not at all gave a variety of reasons in favor of bike commuting - getting exercise, saving money, etc. People who rode to work frequently almost uniformly gave high scores to a reason ignored by non-bike-commuters: biking to work is fun!

Even in dense urban traffic, most of us bicycle commuters enjoy our rides. Bicyclists who ride strenuous training rides or push themselves hard on recreational rides experience the equivalent of a runner's high, another form of joy. Riding a long touring day through unfamiliar terrain brings the joy of discovery and all of the sensory pleasures of the route, perhaps heightened by the pride of hauling ourselves and our bicycles over some scenic peak or mountain pass. Those of us who poke around neighborhoods and parks at a leisurely pace avoiding hills have the joy of moving slowly through a rich sensory environment observing the animals, plants, people, topography, and buildings that we so often miss when racing from Point A to Point B. Riding on a quiet country road or neighborhood street carrying on a conversation with a riding buddy provides a joyful camaraderie difficult to find in a stationery venue.

Fast, slow, strenuous, easy, distant, local, urban, rural... all of these rides have in common the joy that we encountered when we first learned to ride a bicycle. I have the pleasure and privilege of having all of these riding experiences at least occasionally, and of sharing them with other bicyclists. If you ride in any of these ways, you are part of my bicycling fellowship and community. I am grateful that thousands of people in Southern Indiana and north-central Kentucky take part in the bicycling community, and that our bicycling community continues to grow.

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