Tuesday 25 March 2014

On her bike

For a bit of 2012 and most of 2013 I borrowed the Auckland Frocks on Bike bike to see if I could get around on two pedals.  I've written about that experience here.  In November last year I decided I'd been dipping my toes in for long enough and invested in a bike, complete with basket, bike lock, rear rack, and good intentions galore.  My mum gave me The World's Largest Bike Bell.  I decorated the basket with some flowers from a broken plastic lei.

It's actually going well.  I have worked out I have poor balance (I fall off quite a bit, have trouble with take off too), and that's not all that likely to go away.  I'm also rather scared of going fast, so I use the brakes a lot going downhill.  People smile at me more when I have the basket on, and it's quite delightful to be able to get around my suburb and a bit further afield and say hello to those I meet on the street; something I could never do in a car.

What I've worked out is that when I cycle I feel I am a part of the neighbourhood I'm moving through, with all my senses, as opposed to being separated from it by the steel and glass shell of a car.  And that's a good feeling.

Cycling has become an important part of my self-care regime, along with nice-smelling stuff from Lush, visits to Savemart, a daily dose of anti-depressants, cuddles from young children of my acquiantance, reading novels, naps, eating cake, a monthly visit to a psychotherapist, and saying a cheery hello to people on the street.

At Suffrage Day last year my colleague and friend Pippa Coom, deputy chair of the Waitemata Local Board, spoke at Khartoum Place about what a bicycle meant to women in the 1800s; freedom.  I must admit I initiatlly thought that was a bit OTT, but on reflection I can feel that freedom whenever I ride.  For me it's a very different freedom from that of my foremothers and -sisters, but still it is freedom that is meaningful to me now.  Freedom from relying heavily on oil, freedom from traffic, freedom from being shackled to using roads to get around (cycleways through parks FTW!), freedom to experience the city around me directly.  Freedom to park for free, and get some sneaky inadvertent exercise, and get more sun, and ring a bell at people with good reason.

I'm not in this for health, although cycling does help me feel better.  I'm not in it to save the planet, because I know I can't do that on my own however much I can set an example.  I'm not in it to save money, appreciated consequence though that is.   I'm in it because in my current circumstances it is simply the best way for me to get around most of the time, and it helps me to feel well.

The bike I was previously borrowing felt like it acquired a name after a while (Bertie), but I haven't taken the step with the new one yet.  I've thought about Decca, and Agnes, and Ingrid, but I'm open to your suggestions.  Bruiser or Freedom seem more appropriate some days!  Feel free to leave your ideas in comments.


Deborah said...

I think we need a piccie of this bike, Julie.

Oryx said...

Important feminist work being done right here.

Julie said...

Deborah - I have no photos at all of the new bike actually! Will have to rectify that :-)

Oryx - sarcasm or support?

Oryx said...

Support! What could be more feminist than a woman proudly making healthy, empowering choices in her life?

Julie said...

Oh goodie :-)

Helen said...

Middleaged re rider here! I pootled to work by bike-train-bike (with mixed results - sometimes our trains are crowded and I can't get the bike on which makes me late for work.)for about two years, approximately 1-2 days a week. Last year I bought my new bike, whose name is Eddie Everywhere after one of our beloved (not) local characters. I have been braving the direct route into work which means mixing it with the big road bike jocks. They, and some of the women riders and the MTB riders, can be an utter pain, and the motorised traffic/driver attitude in Melbourne is completely horrible. Nevertheless the pleasure of riding overcomes these.