Good for Your Neighborhood, Good for Your Soul

From the era. So stinking cute I've briefly forgotten how crazy they were.
From the era. So stinking cute I’ve briefly forgotten how crazy they were.

A few years ago, I started doing what sometimes felt like a really crazy new thing: I rode my bike to work instead of driving.

Since I work part-time, my mornings are filled with laundry, storybooks, and trying to prevent a three-year-old from licking the handrail in the coffee shop bathroom (preferably without dropping her baby sister – true story). When I head out the door in early afternoon and hop on my bike, I feel like I’m getting away with murder … I’m alone with my thoughts (this never happens), enjoying the sunshine and fresh air and subversive satisfaction of getting some exercise without going to the gym. Beautiful.

A few weeks in, Green Commute Week came around and it was just the coolest thing: suddenly, I wasn’t alone in this crazy endeavor.

And speaking of crazy endeavors, we are just THREE WEEKS AWAY from the Bikes in Holland event! Next week I’ll be announcing two new places to buy tickets locally, but you can alreadybuy them online now. I hope you’ll join us!

One image stands out in my mind. It was the end of a beautiful spring day, and I was sitting in my chair under the little tree in the front yard of our old house. Relaxing as it was, I was usually on high alert out there. I felt a little bit like the pacing-and-searching lifeguards around the lazy river at Great Wolf Lodge as I continually herded my toddlers and preschoolers AWAY FROM THE STREET ALREADY! (There was something about the little stones and gravel that built up on the edges of the street that they found irresistible. You’d think it was ice cream with how strenuously they’d scream when I pulled them away. Aww, memories.)

I was used to the sounds of engines and tires on pavement, that growl and whoosh as neighbors hurried home from work and school every other crazy activity. I knew a lot of these people, knew them to be good-hearted and generous, but as they flew down the street just a few feet from where my unpredictable little ones were playing I couldn’t help but feel frustrated at how unaware they seemed to be that the speed at which they were driving truly endangered my children’s lives.

And then one day, instead of a whoosh, I heard a gentle clicking. It was Green Commute Week, and one of my neighbors was coming home from work on his bike. We acknowledged each other with that wave-and-hello that we do with neighbors we don’t know well, and then I kind of stood there in a daze for a minute.

It was one of those moments of epiphany, like a curtain raising or a fresh wind blowing, as in that instant I saw another way forward. It was like an alternate universe with all the anxiety – which I hadn’t even fully realized was present – just wiped away. If my children ran into the street, it was no big deal – they’d get knocked down if they ran in front of a bike, but their lives were secure. They could play freely and without fear.

Plus, I got to say hi to a neighbor who lived further down the street than I would have otherwise known. He probably drove by every day in his anonymous car, but coming by on a bike transformed him into an actual person who was knowable – he became a real neighbor, not a stranger.

This year, Green Commute Week starts on May 12, just two days after Bikes in Holland. It’s going to be an inspiring event, perfect for getting yourself in the mood for biking!

So. Green Commute Week. Good for your neighborhood, good for your soul. Give it a try this year!