May through September is my favorite time of year to be cruising the canopied streets of Ithaca. From friendly neighborhood hellos, casual stops at a local café, easy parking at the Farmers’ Market, and National Geographic style sunsets over the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, my bike and I live the good life during those four precious months.
Where exercise meets travel, to-do list conquering, and fun, my bicycle offers me the freedom of getting everything done at once so I can enjoy the phosphorescent conversations of fireflies as the burning sky blends to majestic purples and blues.
But beyond these earthly pleasures, bicycles have a way of humanizing the way people get around and their experience of where they travel through and to. Not only do I find myself having a friendlier commute, I actually become more aware of the neighborhood nuances that normally blur past me behind the plate glass window of a car.
Why is this important? While slowing down allows me to smell the roses, it also fosters a connection to the very streets and community I am riding through and opens up opportunities to make things better.
For example, in January 2015 at California’s Stanford University campus, it was two men riding bikes who discovered an incidence of sexual assault and were able to rescue the victim. Riding bicycles gave them the advantage of silent travel at slow enough speeds to notice the sights and sounds of something horribly awry. Had they not been on bikes, it’s possible that the incident would have gone unnoticed, allowing the assailant to evade justice.
On a more positive note, in Rochester, NY, the Conkey Cruisers use bicycles to catalyze healthy lifestyles for their participants of all ages and abilities. Theresa Bowlin’s program not only cleans up Rochester’s El Camino shared use trail of illegal activity, it also empowers youth with leadership skills (video link), teaches cooking and healthy eating habits, and even provides a way for school age participants to earn money towards college.
So next time you’re riding your bike or strolling your neighborhood streets, know that it’s not only exercise or transportation you’re achieving, you’re also possibly a civic hero in the making.
Sam Bosco is SmartTrips’ outreach assistant and a community advocate for active transportation and food justice. Sam lives car-free in downtown and loves to see how much he can carry by bike. Accordingly, he is the co-owner and operates Ithaca’s only bicycle food cart, ¡Bici-Cocina!