By Daniel Wirtheim, Features Editor
Published in print Jan 21, 2015.
My car broke down the same day I was fired from the worst job I ever had. This happened more than a year ago, but I remember the feeling well. I towed my car and went to the coffee shop where I had the best cup of coffee I’d ever had.
I suppose I had wanted it to happen for a long time, at least subconciously. I hated that job, and my vehicle was costing a fortune. This was my opportunity. The cage had opened and I just had to muster the strength to fly away. I had to sell my car, and more than a year later, I still believe it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever been forced to make.
You see, in a car I couldn’t breath fresh air, I couldn’t talk to anyone outside of the metal machine, and even though I was going 30 miles faster than I am now, I was always in a rush. Not to mention the money I spent on gas. The logical decision was to buy a vintage bicycle with ten gears and live the kind of life that people live in small socialist countries with zero crime and free education and healthcare. I would bring Sweden to Greensboro.
The best part of riding a bike was my morning commute. It wasn’t just getting my heart beating that was making me happy; it was seeing and hearing my community.
Within the first week I knew three different ways to ride to class. On each route there was a different entourage of folks whom I would pass. They would be in the midst of their own morning routines and a wave and smile was enough to develop some kind of a relationship between us.
It’s the small things like that that make me pity the souls who are still attached to an automobile.
Now, cars are mostly related to fear. They’ll come within a foot of me as they try to pass in an impatient fluster. Their windows are rolled up, they’re playing mindless music. Yet still, they wonoder why they feel so out of touch with their community. At least, that’s how I perceive it, and I’m biased.
Most people who question bicycle commuters wonder how it’s possible to go grocery shopping or travel to other cities. Although having a bike requires making smaller purchases at the grocery store, it’s no different than riding in a car. Absolutely no difference, except that you have to shop hyper-local.
Traveling is usually cheaper on bicycle when using public transportation, at least to get to larger cities. Going to New Orleans, Chicago or New York City is no problem. Going to a random city in the Southeastern States, like Lumberton or Hickory might be a problem, but when you ride a bike the last place you want to be is a random city like Lumberton. Once you become a bicyclist, you judge a city based on the amount of bike paths, and overall friendliness of its residents.
According to Bikleague.org, Greensboro is North Carolina’s most “bike friendly” city. That makes sense, when considering other cities in North Carolina, where a bicyclist might be treated like an adult playing witih a child’s toy.
Although it is fun to pedal, an increasing number of people are seeing the bicycle as a crafty invention that makes life better; I’m one of those people. I can say that with certainty, and without feeling like someone trying to prove that their new handicap will not affect their life as they know it.
I have a new, better job now, but the bike remains. it’s a way of life; a mode of transit, un raison d’être.