by Edna Pedroza
From a young age, movement and exploration have equated to the word ‘adventure’ for me. It was ok to run, reach out, be curious and try something new. I must have been eight or nine years old when I realized that no matter what, I was going to be supported by the one person in my life who would always care, my mom. That signaled the beginning of an empowering sense of freedom and safety. It compelled me to explore new places and meet new people.
After high school, I moved to Sacramento and then to the Bay Area where I attended different colleges and universities. I traveled, ate, drank, met tons of interesting people and learned about all sorts of cultures. Ultimately those experiences, however, left me longing for a steady place to call my own, a place where I could put my roots down.
Cycling had always been a fun pastime for me as I believe that cycling can become a sort of gateway activity. It’s a step in which we can switch on our awareness, start to care and develop an interest in our community that wasn’t there before. We’re able to get a closer look at the environment when we’re on a bicycle as opposed to being in a car. We can slow down and take in the scenery at a pace that feels like there’s no escaping the emergence of our inner activist.
Cycling is awesome for the physical and mental well-being. It’s a low impact exercise that is also great for the environment and community. By cycling, we are able to help lower pollution levels. Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley are a wonderful place to try cycling and there are many ways in which to start. This interview series is a way for me to encourage people to give cycling a chance. It’s also an effort to do my part in helping to make my community a better place.
This is a compilation of three questions answered by people around the community of Fresno, and other states.
1. What do you like or dislike about biking?
2. Why is riding your bike important to you?
3. What is one thing you can say to encourage someone who wants to try bicycling but is afraid to?
Ed Smith – Fresno
I like that bicycling slows me down. I see people and dogs and I smell dinner cooking on my way home. Summer mornings are my favorite; cool and shady and quiet. I like the solitude. Bicycling is a meditative practice. The longer I do it, the easier it gets, since I’m not racing. I also like that it can be hard. It’s an endurance activity and I learn things about myself that I didn’t know. Long solo rides of great difficulty are vision quests. I like that my bicycle is a simple machine. It is understandable and maintainable and I am able to acquire all the tools and skills I need to keep it running and to keep me safe. Bicycling is a secret and a privilege and a pleasure and it is my salvation. Bicycling has also connected me to a community of people that have enriched my life and strengthened my ties to others. Having meaningful connections to others is correlated with health and happiness.
Riding my bike is important to me. It makes me think about my safety and my health and it focuses my attention on the long term. What do I need to do to ensure I’ll still be riding 30 or 40 years from now? How do I avoid declining health that would prevent me from riding regularly? It makes me prioritize sleep, so that I’m physically able to get out of bed and onto my bike each day. How should I eat so I feel good? The bicycle is the center of my life and balance. Bicycling is important to me because it makes me feel better.
If you want to start bicycling but you are afraid, take a Smart Cycling class taught by a League Cycling Instructor. You will learn concrete skills, get lots of practice, and build your confidence. You will also meet like minded people and make friends, and connect to a community, which will make you much more likely to persevere while you learn.
Jeremy Doyle – Fresno
Good things: Mobility; I can ride just about anywhere interesting and don’t need a car-width lane or parking. Useful Exercise; get a workout, be transported, and do some sight-seeing at the same time, try that with a treadmill. Bad things: Oblivious drivers, Swiss cheese roads and CYCLISTS THAT DON’T WAVE (laughs)
Cycling is efficient in many ways, Americans (and likely others) have become extremely wasteful in recent decades, I think cycling is a good way to encourage less wasteful behavior across all aspects of life. Plus it’s fun (bugs, sweat, pain, dirt, scars, sunburn…fun, right?)
Once you gain control of your mighty steed you will fear nothing! So, over time, drive somewhere quiet and ride around there, then somewhere less quiet, then somewhere busy, etc. until you understand how the bike responds to the rider and have experienced the most frustrating places to ride.
Ester Postiglione – San Joaquin Valley
I like that I feel like a kid when I ride. I like the feeling of independence and not relying on a car for transportation. I don’t like that I feel unsafe riding sometimes because I’m not sure drivers are paying attention. I don’t like loose dogs which freak me out when I’m riding. I don’t like that I get nervous if my bike will still be there or not when I lock it up.
Riding my bike is important because its a fun and easy way to be active and its important to me to model healthy behaviors for my son. It’s also something that we do as a family so my husband son and I get some quality time together.
Just try it once and you’ll be hooked! My husband and I have gotten our group of friends into biking and now we occasionally do group rides to Tioga.
Andrea De Zebiria – Fresno
I don’t like flattening out my hair with my helmet if Im riding to work or an event. I don’t like planning ahead how to carry things if I’m going to an event. I don’t like the risk of being hit by a car. I don’t like that various body parts go numb if I bike more than 2 hours.
uh oh @edna I see I forgot to say what I like about biking for number 1! I only answered the dislike part of that question…. so let’s see I like doing something I did as a kid, I find the feeling of momentum and playful motion inherently pleasant. I like the self-congratulatory sense of doing something a bit hard when I climb a hill and the thrill of flying downhill. I like feeling like I am cleaning out my arteries and doing something healthy. I like how my mood is almost always lifted by physical activity.
Riding my bike is important to me because it makes me feel more alive than being in a car, it is fun, I see more detail. Also, it makes me feel alert and healthy. Biking is fun-its a natural anti-depressant!
David Castillo – Kerman
Dislike the maintenance of a bike
Fun easy workout allowing you to explore further.
Just ride around town first, go to a bike friendly park and do you. Don’t ride too much out in farm land, too many loose dogs.
Jack Nelson – San Joaquin Valley
I like the exhilarating feeling. Feeling free as the wind. I can do errands quicker than walking.
Importance: I need to exercise for overall fitness. Walking hurts my right knee and hip; biking does not.
Fear: For me personally, feel the fear and do it anyway; but do it cautiously. Ride with others (friends, FCBC, FCC,). Bike stores have info.
Jim Remley – Clinton UT
I like that it’s accessible where I live. I can get out and ride on a safe trail from my home and be done in an hour.
It’s important because it allows me to disconnect. It’s like meditation with the added benefit of health.
Just get out there and do it. Worry about things like gear and equipment later. Challenge yourself and don’t worry about what others have and can do.
Colleen Clarkson – Burlington VT
I love the different experience I get out of my daily surroundings!! Also, I just feel super proud that I haven’t wiped out yet…
I’m not a very confident or experienced cyclist so riding my bike is a way to challenge myself in a fun way!
Helmets are a beautiful thing and try areas with no distractions (cars, humans, critters, aliens, etc.)
Heather S. Quinn – Chicago IL
I’ve always ridden a bike. It was just an absolute as a kid. Like learning to read. It’s peaceful. I love trail riding, as much as windy roads. Last year, I did a century ride on a mountain bike with no training. I came in last and it was totally fun.
I don’t like biking in America where there’s traffic. It’s not a bike culture here like it is in Amsterdam. We spent time there and biked all over. Biking here for me is scary unless I’m on a leisure ride or biking to the beach with kids. I don’t trust the drivers.
I wish that Americans biked more and in a leisure way. It seems you have a lot of all or nothing bikers who get all geared up intensely instead of just making it part of their life. But then again the all or nothing is so American, isn’t it?
Anna Spool – Boston MA
I would love to bike more but wished I lived right on a bike path. Not a big fan of having a small metal object (the bike) between me and Boston drivers.
I used to love the physical sensation of biking: the wind, those leg muscles actually doing something. It’s liberating. Bikes are awesome metaphors. They’re also great because they’re low tech, [alI] the technology [is] essentially the same. All our hardware now (computers, thumb drives, etc) become so obsolete so quickly.
A bike is a bike. You hop on and go! No revving up. You’re either on or off. If you space out, you’ll crash and die. So yeah, very Zen. Though I have seen a bald guy with a tie, going to work, holding 4 coffees on a tray, not holding the handlebars, and no helmet. That’s what I call multitasking. If he were talking on the phone as well, that would have been perfect.
Edna Pedroza – Fresno
I love that I feel like I’m 8 years old again, I can’t not smile when I’m riding my bike, just impossible. It’s great exercise physically and mentally. I have scoliosis and it’s a great physical activity for that because of the fixed rotation of pedaling; as well as the low impact nature of it.
I love that cycling helps the environment, no carbon emissions, therefore, no pollution. I have a role in saving the planet by riding (sooooo rad).
What has surprised me is the sense of confidence I am given when on the road. When you know the rules (most motorists
don’t IMHO) then you can confidently feel like you belong on the road that is dominated mostly by vehicles, feels good man.
I dislike all the time management skills you have to have, especially if you’re using your bicycle as a main mode of transportation…although that improves over time as you get to know your speed and routes.
I also dislike hot days especially in the Central Valley, it get’s into triple digit weather during the summer… Although, you do get to show off your cool tan lines at the end of the season; they’re like earned badges.
It’s a sensory experience. You get a closer look at your environment and community, being up close in that way gives you a unique lens in which to see the beauty and the ugly of your community. It’s been my experience that when seeing through this lens, you can’t help but to want to care about what you see. I believe everyone has an inner activist and cycling is a way to bring that out in you, to any extent that may be. It’s a win-win “sitch”, whether it causes you to pick up a piece of garbage on the street, organize or just ride more.
Join a cycling group to start with, it’s fun to ride in groups and gain tips and safety knowledge from them. If you’ve never ridden before try it out in a park or stick to paved trails – ask someone you trust to teach you how to ride. Learn the rules of the road for motorists and cyclists so you have confidence in what you’re doing. Cyclists have rights! Also, personalize your bicycle and have fun with it. I crocheted a “bicycle outfit” for mine, some people have called what I’ve done a “yarn bomb” on my bike, which is cool right? Personalizing your bicycle makes the experience of riding all the more enjoyable – you get to show off your work.
Sunnyside Bicycles’ website is a great resource to learn more about advocacy and organizations, they also host group rides in and around Fresno… Check them out at www.sunnysidebicycles.com
This site also has a long list of resources on advocacy and organizations, here are a few:
Alliance For Biking And Walking
The Alliance For Biking And Walking is the national coalition of state and local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations working in unison to break down the barriers to safe bicycling and walking in North American communities. They bring leaders of their member organizations together to help each other grow their organizations and become more effective. They also strengthen organizations through resource sharing and training opportunities and help create organizations in underserved communities.
Bicycle Friendly America Program
The Bicycle Friendly America Program is an awards program that recognizes municipalities that actively support bicycling. A Bicycle-Friendly Community provides safe accommodation for cycling and encourages its residents to bike for transportation and recreation. The League of American Bicyclists administers the Bicycle Friendly Community Campaign.
Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
This is the advocacy program of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, a small, active, non-profit consumer-funded program acting as a clearinghouse and a technical resource for bicycle helmet information. Volunteers from the BHSI serve on the ASTM bicycle helmet standard committee and are active in commenting on actions of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.