So this past weekend I went and bought myself a brand-spankin’ new bike. When I moved to Oakland in 2002 I started riding a bike between home and Berkeley where I work. But around the time I started working at the Institute, I stopped riding. Dana and I had moved to a place that was just far enough to make riding a bike difficult, and when she started working in the City, I got the car. Plus, my last bike was a piece of crap. It needed a lot of work, more work than I was willing to put into it, so when we moved, I left the bike for the Salvation Army.
But our new place makes it ridiculously easy to ride to work. It’s a straight, three-and-a-half mile ride down Telegraph and Shattuck from New Apartment to the JSC. Since I really get no other exercise (a side effect of being an academic and computer geek), since gas is five bucks a gallon, since driving is not only bad for the planet but makes me angry, I have no excuses. Back to the bike!
Which didn’t realize how much I’d missed.
Granted, having a new bike that works! helps tremendously. It is a joy to ride. Even during this current heat wave and air advisory warnings. And over the past few days, I’m reminded of Harry’s and my podcast discussion on mindfulness. Somewhere in there I recall us talking about mindful driving; mindfulness while biking is a requirement. Especially on urban streets. You are forced to be aware of passing traffic, even traffic you can’t see. You must keep your eye on parked cars, watching out for people opening their doors on you. Road hazards, glass in the street, pedestrians, and so forth. The mind can’t wander. If it does, you risk loosing control. And wiping out on a bike in city traffic is more than a little life-threatening.
And I’m reminded of something I came across in the paper not long ago about how the human mind looks for visual patterns. As a result, we often don’t see things that are right in front of us. While driving, our mind looks for the visual pattern of other cars. So drivers sometimes don’t see bicyclists. All the more reason to watch what I’m doing.
There is a routine to my ride. There is getting ready water, helmut, gloves, lock. There are moments of calm along the way, moments between traffic when the morning air is still and my eye catches details along the road. Details along a road I’ve been down a thousand times since moving to the Bay Area that I’d never noticed while driving. I feel truly embodied, aware of my muscles and my lungs in ways I think most of take for granted. I get to work. I reverse the getting ready routine lock, gloves, helmut, water. I cool off in my office. And start my day.