When we showed up the Bike Fest party a couple weeks back, we ran into Bike Pgh Executive Director Scott Bricker and he commented on how Emma and myself had really become big bikers in the last couple years. It’s true; over the last like 16 months the two of us have really thrown ourselves into being on our bikes. It’s not that we haven’t been pro-bike in the past. I remember writing up a pro-bike piece for one of my old zines way back in the mid-90’s. In the late 90’s into the early 00’s, I commuted by bike on a semi-regular basis. During the early days of my relationship with Emma (2002-2003), we definitely biked around together.
Eventually some things happened and we both stopped biking on any regular basis. For me the biggest thing was that my last job I had, which although technically within biking distance with a relatively easy commute, frequently involved me having to pickup and delivery things (heavy things usually) over distances (significant distances), so that was one reason to not bike. And then living in a community where many things were in walking distance, the need to bike to run errands was not there either.
So what got us back on our bikes?
1) PGH to DC bike trip. As this set of trails got mostly completed, Emma and I repeated talked about wanting to do it. We committed to doing it in 2012 (and we did it…well, from Confluence to DC, but most of it). Doing this trip in August gave us a good reason to ride frequently to build up our legs to get ready for the trip.
2) New bikes! Emma never had a brand new bike of her own. After getting a new job that was paying her well, she finally convinced herself to treat herself to a new ride. She spent a nice chunk of change on a new Surly Long Haul Trucker with some nice custom touches. This meant 2 things — 1) She was in love with this bike because it was just what she wanted and it was just her’s, and 2) after spending the money on it, she wanted to get some value from her investment.
After Emma got her bike, we began riding a lot more and I developed a terrible case of bike envy. It was then that we stumbled upon a used Surly Cross Check for sale via the Bike Pgh messageboard. I was unemployed at the time, so spending $600 on a new bike didn’t seem like the best idea, but that was a good deal for the bike. The seller let me borrow the bike for a few days to try it out and I fell in love.
3) I was unemployed. As mentioned above, I was mostly unemployed in 2012. This left plenty of time to ride that new bike that you’ve fallen in love with.
4) The bike infrastructure is so much better. A decade of work by Bike Pgh and others has resulted in great riverside trails, bike lanes, sharrows, bike maps, etc. throughout the city that make biking so easy. I was never necessarily timid about riding in the city, but knowing that there were folks working to make the streets safer for me as a bicyclist was a great motivator. And once you begin using some of the trails and bikepaths to get around, you realize how efficient they are. Once we realized that we could bike from our house in Bloomfield to South Side (via the Junction Hollow Trail) faster than we could drive it was a game changer.
5) Gettin’ old and needing to stay active. I can’t speak for Emma but there was a real realization that I needed to stay a little more active. I can’t imagine running. Team sports aren’t for me. Biking is great because it combines utility (picking up groceries, getting around town, etc.) with exercise, especially in a city like Pittsburgh with so many hills. Being a utilitarian guy, this was for me.
6) Momentum. Once we got going last year, we made a commitment to keep riding as much as possible. As it got colder, we bought light-weight gloves and said “We’ll keep riding and if we are still riding when these gloves aren’t warm enough, then we’ll buy the heavyweight winter gloves.” Then we ended up buying the heavyweight winter gloves. And then we said “Let’s try to keep biking throughout the entire winter”. And then when 2013 rolled around, we said “Let’s try to bike every day in January” (I ended up missing a day or two. Emma biked every day in January). Then “Let’s try to bike every day in 2013” (at this point I’d say I’ve missed maybe 30 days, most of which were days when I was out of town). Riding the bike today means you are more likely to get back on tomorrow.
Sometimes we worried we have become “those people”, you know, the ones who pick up on something new and just go overboard with it. Yes, now we subscribe to ‘Bicycle Times’ and read bike blogs, and decorate our house with bike related art and buy bike-related shirts and talk about what bikes we want to buy, on and on. So maybe we have become those people, but we’ve been enjoying the ride, and I think it’s also been great for our relationship; so fuck it, we’re gonna keep ridin’.