“At my own pace, I can make my own way.”Jen C. Green
I check the weather forecast every morning. Gauging the sky, I take off with appropriate attire, and always with my helmet. Pressure in the tires, tension in the cables, width in the brake pads. Lights for the winter return home. Salute the sky for half an hour each way, with cold teeth from the fresh air.
Every workday, I cycle across the city center. It takes about 25 minutes, depending on traffic lights and weather. I take the same route so that I can switch off the planning part of my brain, hum a song, and get into the rhythm of my thinking. Sometimes, ideas come. Sometimes, I make a to-do list.
I like the transition between home and work, and I love the time I get to be outside under the sky. If one road is busy, I can think up another way and cycle past the idling cars. At my own pace, I can make my own way.
There’s a bridge in the center where I snatch a glimpse of the harborside, turn my head for two seconds to see the color of the water, and compare it to the day before. Now, on my way home in late winter, I compare the color of the sky, catching the sunset before I turn northeast toward the moon. I see the city change; new buildings and bridges, floods, a memorial, protests, roadwork, and the increased presence of fresh, green plants excite me each early spring.
The atmosphere of the city changes as I cycle through; people sit in the sun or hurry to work individually, groups of tourists wander the streets and look upwards. Memories of where I used to live, where I cycled behind my brother on his skateboard, where a dog was rescued from the river.
I haven’t always lived in the city, and the city hasn’t always felt friendly. When I moved here, it was the first time I relied on my bike for transport; the best and cheapest option. I got to know the city through cycle routes and advice from my housemates.
My knowledge was tested when I found work as a cycle courier – not quite the speedy, cutting-through-traffic kind – but instead, delivering bread with a trailer. Although, one night I was on call for takeaways; I received instructions and raced to the restaurant, collected the hot food, and then followed my phone’s directions with my adrenaline pumping.
I rely on my bike and its condition, so over the years, I’ve picked up basic bike maintenance skills. Changing a brake cable, installing a pannier rack, or finding a piece of glass embedded in my tire; improving my bike gives me a sense of completion, self-esteem, and wellbeing.
Weaving and negotiating my way with other cyclists, the city feels more human than if I was a driver in my car’s bubble-world. There’s an element of avoiding aggression and accidents with other, faster cyclists, but if I make eye contact, there’s usually apologies and pleasantries.
When a cat ran out in front of me and almost under my wheel, I swerved and stopped; a passing cyclist reassured me that the cat escaped. When I was walking my one-wheeled bike home – the other wheel having been stolen – many people asked if I was OK, and what happened.
There’s camaraderie, looking out for each other, and I feel part of this city. When I discovered my wheel had been stolen, I was disappointed. But seven years on, and I’m going with the flow.