More serious post here.
There are many challenges to biking in Boston, one of which is risking death by MBTA bus or Masshole driver (yes this is a thing) for simply riding in the street (where you’re supposed to be). Besides physical dangers, cyclists face the unfortunate lack of categorization, in terms of not having a safe place to be; we are resented for using sidewalks and streets alike, either for taking up space reserved for faster, stronger vehicles or putting pedestrians in danger by riding in walkways. This double role makes it so we also must pay attention like both other types of transport; attention to our own safety as a pedestrian, attention to the safety of others as a vehicle. We are too weak and too strong for the roads of our town, a compromise that provokes many strong reactions.
So why do I bike? I bike for joy. I bike because it’s convenient and fun. I can save time and money by biking to class or the grocery store. When I worked in Cambridge, I could cut a 30-minute T ride (Northeastern to Park to Kendall) into a 15-minute bike ride. Cycling is great exercise, and some of the best adventures I’ve been on and most beautiful things I’ve seen have occurred on or because of my bike. There is a camaraderie amongst cyclists, and I’ve started random conversations with strangers just chilling at stop lights or heading down the street in a snow storm (lots of commiseration over the need for goggles and gloves). As a young woman, I feel safer on a bike. When travelling alone at night, I know I’m taken as a vehicle rather than a potential target, a person rather than a girl. I get to my destination faster, I can travel on my own without as much fear. My bike sets me free. He removes society’s restrictions on my gender and instead allows me to be an anonymous member of the community. In adding this extra label, I dispel the confinement that oftentimes inhibits the freedom of girls. I compromise my safety in a different way: as an equal, rather than the lesser gender. Cycling allows me to transcend labels, make connections, understand others. I no longer judge cyclists for taking up space when I’m walking, or pedestrians for being oblivious while I’m cycling. I comprehend the differences in the ways we travel, the reasons we choose to navigate this city divergently. I am more aware of Boston’s laws regarding all modes of transportation. Cycling has opened doors, and it has changed me. College is a time for growth, and I’ve found that cycling has allowed me to grow in many unexpected and unparalleled ways. I’ve found a sport that I love, a way to explore the city that I enjoy, and solution to podiatric issues, a source of motivation.
Mostly, I’ve learned to trust myself. I’ve learned to be resilient. Last summer, I was biking down Mass Ave. towards Huntington when a car door opened suddenly into the bike lane. It was rush hour, and there was traffic to my left. There was no time to stop. I ran straight into the door at approximately 20 miles per hour, damaging my bike and falling into the lap of an oblivious middle-aged man. I was shocked and shaken, but I was fine. And I learned. I simultaneously discovered how fragile I was, and how strong. I figured out what to do in an emergency, how to handle bruises, how to walk away. I surprised myself by apologizing to the man at fault for the accident (you’re supposed to look before opening your doors into the bike lane) and being an adult in the situation. My parents live 3,000 miles away; there was no one to cry to in that moment. It was just me and a slightly crooked bike on the side of the road with a driver who looked very confused. Good times.
If I were to give one piece of advice to all incoming college freshmen (and even sophomores and juniors): Explore. Get to know yourself. Cycling has allowed me to become more of the person I want to be, has established my independence and freedom, has integrated itself as part of my identity. Find something rewarding, try something new, and ultimately learn to be yourself to your fullest potential.
This is why I bike. For more information on cycling in Boston, visit the Boston Cyclists Union website; from what I can tell, they do good things for cyclists in the city, and in my opinion, that helps all of us. They also have fancy events sometimes that are free with a membership. I should get one.