Thursday, March 29, 2007

Remember the joy of Cycling

I enjoy riding my bicycle. I find it gives me, in the words of Alice Monroe, "the freedom of a great unemotional happiness." I enjoy feeling the exhilarating freedom of moving on my own power so quickly, quietly, and nimbly through city streets and country roads, liberated from the metal cages we so often ride in, experiencing one of the great passions of my life, movement, wandering and change through my own body. I can think of few things more rewarding than seeing the world up close, feeling its streets and walkways, its sunshine and shade, smelling its smells. Few things make me feel so alive and connected as the simple act of riding a bicycle.

So why do we so often fall back on joyless ideological arguments for cycling? Why do we insist that such a pleasurable thing must have the added benefit of saving the world? A cycling web-log I read recently claimed the city could cut 20% of its greenhouse gas emissions if everyone cycled to work one day a week. Alas, given the actual sources of greenhouse gases, cycling to work one day a week would only reduce our greenhouse emissions by about one percent. Now, even a one percent reduction in greenhouse gases matters, so by all means cycle or take public transit when you can.

But I don't feel any need to justify my enjoyment of cycling. I love to ride. If you want a reason to take up riding a bicycle, I can tell you that you will quite probably find many pleasures, including ones you did not expect, on a bike, whether you first came to cycling to escape outrageous gas prices, get fit, or make a statement on the environment. I hope many other people get to experience the pleasure of a bike ride (particularly Rob Ford and Case Ootes, who seem sadly determined to deprive themselves of it).

If you enjoy cycling, never forget it. Never forget to remind other people of it, either, particularly if they don't cycle themselves (yet). Never fall for the temptation to think or write about cycling as a sacrifice, some grim ecological duty. I don't believe painting the bicycle as a duty attracts very many people to cycling, and worse, it ignores the sheer joy that (thank the Creator) some of us find in cycling.