"It only took one actual ride and I was hooked, one trip the beginning of a habit."
by Tami Mohamed Brown
With the mild winter and early warm spring and summer weather, they were out early this year and by the beginning of the summer they'd hit in full force. I took note of them in the way you notice things you have an interest in-overtaking me on the right shoulder of the road as I drove my car, gliding to a stop at red lights, navigating to my left on the trails, sidewalks and the roads I walked.
They were everywhere, and I wanted to join them.
I wanted to trade up my recreational biker status and make the 24-mile round trip ride that separates my home, just south of 494, from my workplace in downtown Minneapolis, on my bicycle, to become a member of the commuter cyclist class of the Twin Cities.
I imagined arriving at work energized, helmet hanging from my hand, messenger bag slung across my body with a change of clothes, maybe a little grease on my calf to call attention to the otherwise invisible badge of honor I would wear, my romanticized embodiment of all the trappings of the typical urban bicycle commuter.
My mantra: one woman, one bike, one trip. It would be an experiment. A one-time trial.
While I rode to and from work plenty in my younger Uptown years, I was nervous about the trek from the suburbs. I spent over a month studying the numbers, reading about the cycling trends-all of which persuaded me that cycling would be a great idea, and that I wasn't alone in that belief. I discovered Minneapolis was named Bicycle Magazine's No. 1 Most Bike Friendly City, and could claim the ranking of the No. 4 bicycling city in the nation by the U.S. Census Bureau. I read that Minneapolis has 81 miles of on-street bikeways and 85 miles of off-street bikeways. And, the Twin Cities are home to the first large-scale seasonally operated nonprofit bicycle sharing system in the U.S., Nice Ride MN, with over 146 stations housing over 1,328 bicycles.
Apart from those figures of encouragement, it only took one actual ride and I was hooked, one trip the beginning of a habit.
I'd forgotten the physical thrill of cycling, that joy of flying, the sensory pleasure of flowing along in the breeze, of catching the whiff of lake water, someone's backyard grill, of grass and diesel and of rain in the air. I'd forgotten that in Minnesota, in the summer, biking (and nearly anything outdoors) can be a little magical.
It's not always idyllic.
While some days I dawdle and float on breezes through every green traffic light sniffing lilac scented air, other days my street feels like a raceway, there's a slow leak in my tire, and the wind is blowing at me no matter which direction I'm headed.
But even with rides of that kind under my belt, I quickly changed up my mantra: one commute, once a week-definitely a practical commitment that allows me to arrive at my desk feeling productive and industrious before my work day even begins.
I've always subscribed to the idea that one person can be an agent for change.
And while we've always been a recycling, community gardening, second-hand shopping, one-car household, I can't help but think that when I'm out there on my bike, I'm making a difference, too. It's great for the body, the mind, the spirit. Throw in the economic and environmental benefits and it's completely a win-win scenario with me a virtual goddess of good virtue!
And who doesn't want to feel like that at least once every seven days?
Tami Mohamed Brown lives in Bloomington with her family.