Gratitude for the Bicycle

This Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for the bicycle.

And this gratitude was all the more prominent in my mind since I don’t own a car anymore.

It’s not an easy path to pedal. I sold my car before relocating to the other coast for a seasonal job as a bicycle tour guide. Sure, it was hard to let go of the very epitome of the American Dream, but I don’t regret it.

I’m not a teetotalling bike snob. I still have a driver’s license. I call Uber from time to time, and I even rented a car to drive my kids to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. But instead of focusing on the challenges of a car-free life, I’d like to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

I’m supremely grateful that I live in a flat, subtropical city with decent streets and kind people.

I’m grateful that I live in a neighborhood that’s dense enough to allow for easy cycling. I’ve cycled through positively hellish suburbs that were no place for a utility cyclist. In most American suburbs, bicycles are viewed as toys, not tools.

I’m grateful that my city is investing in bicycle lanes.

I can now use bike lanes on most of my daily commute. While my city’s bike network isn’t perfect or complete, it’s growing every year.

I’m grateful that my city now requires bike racks for new building projects.

(I’m even more grateful when the bike racks are actually installed so that they can be fully utilized.)

I’m grateful for the beauty of the natural world that I get to witness from the seat of my bike.

Even in the midst of the East Coast Megalopolis, I can smell the earthy tang of the tidal marshes, feel the cool autumn wind chill my fingers, and revel in the warmth of the sun on my cheeks when I’m on my bike.

I’m grateful for the mental health I gain on my bike.

The simple act of pushing the pedals round and round focuses me on a simple, repetitive motion and thereby banishes my anxieties. No matter how bad my day, riding a bike will make it better.

I’m grateful for the financial freedom I gain from cycling.

Without the costs of a car payment, insurance premiums, gas, and maintenance, I can focus my time and energy on things that really matter. I can choose to work at a job that feeds my soul, as opposed to a job that just pays for my car.

I’m grateful for the compliments I receive on my bike.

I ride a recumbent for my job as a sandwich courier, and it attracts more than its fair share of attention. If I was just riding a “normal” bike, I wouldn’t get nearly as many stares and wows. People laugh and smile and wonder, and are occasionally inspired to leave their car at home and get on a bike, too.

I’m grateful for the physical health I gain on my bike.

Instead of arriving at work lethargic and frustrated, I’m awake and invigorated. Every day I ride a little bit. I’ve built exertion into my life. There’s no “spinning” a stationary bike for me. I only spin bikes in motion. My spin gets me somewhere.

I’m grateful for the friendships that I forge on a bicycle.

Riding around town, I meet new friends and rekindle old acquaintances. Every bike, no matter how cheap or battered, is worthy of praise. When I pass another cyclist, I always smile, wave, or make eye contact. It’s a subversive act of karmic gratitude.

I’m grateful for the community of cycling.

My daughter asks me, “Daddy, why do you think you should know everyone on a bike?” I counter, “Why shouldn’t I?” Why shouldn’t I assume a bond of friendship and camaraderie with every person I meet on a bike?

We’ve all chosen to get there the harder way.

Let’s make the most of it together.

Author Wesley Cheney leads bicycle tours in Alaska and Virginia, blogs at The Kilted Writer, and delivers freaky fast sandwiches in the off-season.

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