I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle 

A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”

The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!” The teacher praised the first student, “You are a smart boy! When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over like I do.”

The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path!” The teacher commended the second student, “Your eyes are open, and you see the world.”

The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant nam myoho renge kyo.” The teacher gave his praise to the third student, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”

The fourth student replied, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings.” The teacher was pleased and said to the fourth student, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”

The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.” The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, “I am your student.”
-Zen proverb

PS, I ride my bicycle for all of those reasons. Just thought it was cute.

PPS, this is totally taken from an Adventure Cycling email I got this week. You can sign up for their bike bits newsletter here.

I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle 

In which I stop reading comment sections

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I’ve been hearing about the tragedy that happened in Kalamazoo on Tuesday night after a reckless (rumored intoxicated) driver plowed into a group ride, with 5 riders declared dead on the scene.

I’ve been trying to distance myself mentally and emotionally from this horrific news. But this photograph of the riders’ bicycles was too much to ignore. Along with some of the comments, because yes I read comment sections despite my own better judgment telling me not to.

There is a lot of victim blaming going on in the news this week. We all wish that tragedies could be prevented, but you don’t tell legal road users to stay off the roads because “what do you expect will happen”.

What do I expect? I expect others to look where they are going when they are managing a 2-ton vehicle and assume appropriate responsibility for it. I expect that if you are behind the wheel, you will know where the brake pedal is and apply it when necessary. If you are not able to slow down and steer enough to not kill other people, then you should not be driving a vehicle.

Cyclists are not naive or stupid. We are not selfish. We are determined. At least half of my casual conversations end with someone telling me “be safe”. Coworkers tell me I am brave for commuting on the roads every day. My friends ask me to call or text them when I get home. My boyfriend has an app to locate me should I get injured or not come home one day. Most cyclists can relate to these as routine exchanges.

Every time I ride, I realize that my life is in the hands of other road users. If I die on my bike, I am not going to die because I was an obstruction in the road, and my helmet will probably not save my life. I will die from either someone deciding that their rush is more important than my life and passing unsafely, or they will be texting or sending a snapchat, and they will not even see me at all. I don’t hate drivers and after commuting for two years, I can count on one hand the mild unpleasant encounters I’ve had with cars on the road.  But statistically speaking, I will die because someone else is being an asshole.

There will be plenty more said about this incident before the news moves on to the next headline. But we have to remember that the easiest answer isn’t necessarily the right answer. We cannot be shortsighted in how we deal with tragedies like this if we want to truly make them a thing of the past.

My heart is with the families of those we lost on Tuesday. In their memory, we ride onward.

In which I stop reading comment sections

bike it list

Summer is officially here, and I’ve made it through my first year of teaching! I suppose now I can finally get to the 1,347 “saved links” on facebook (approx 90% of which are biking/infrastructure related)..

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… Or I’ll ride my bike. With the Ride to Remember coming up in July, I have some miles to log to prepare for a 3 day cross-state trek. I’m also going to ride the Allegheny Passage at the end of July, and attend a kayaking/yoga retreat right before school starts back up.

In a recent conversation a friend told me that she didn’t know if she could afford to move to DC with the salary she was offered at a new job that she was really excited about. I told her that I have several friends in DC and NYC who haven’t owned a car in years, which helps them afford the higher cost of living. She said that she didn’t know if she could give up her car, because to her it meant freedom.

To each her own. I get that ‘freedom’ is for most people the ability to get in your car and go wherever you want, whenever you want. I remember that feeling. But that concept faded into an adult world of working to pay bills, and looking back on the last 10 years I realize that vague daydream of driving off toward the California sunset would be better accomplished in a rental car (or better yet, a touring bike). And on a day to day basis, I end up more satisfied by a ride outside to the closest store to get something I actually need than I was when I would drive out to Target for some random shopping. Not having a car has also freed me of obligations I used to feel to go everywhere and do everything.

But most of all, for me freedom is having time to myself and not spending all of it working for a paycheck (even if I do happen to love my job). Before I sold my car last year, every May I would have to fork out about $1000 or so in property tax, insurance payments, and frequent repairs (my car was a lemon). Most people view this as just a necessary evil; to me it felt like torture to spend my hard earned money on something I didn’t really want in the first place. The first bike ride I took after I sold my car is still engrained in my memory, as I felt as if a physical weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.

Now that I have summers off, the sizeable chunk of teacher salary that would go towards car ownership can be applied in a much more satisfying way. So I’m going off to Mexico in a couple of weeks for a 10 day jaunt, and my goal is to visit a new country or state every year. I’ll think of it as a bucket list to go along with my bike it list. Because my bike is more to me than just a replacement for my car. To me, it’s freedom.


bike it list