BY BIKE ALONE
WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER
Over the summer, I got around by bike. I took living in Portland, OR for a few blue-green months as an opportunity to practice my values as best as I could. And this meant biking EVERYWHERE. I biked to work, to the grocery store, to a friend's party an hour and a half from my tiny room in a little navy house. One of the few times that I took the bus--to pick up a bike from a friend for when my boyfriend was in town--gave way to an accidentally epic three-hour adventure that made me appreciate the sheer beauty of bipedal living. Because when you're on a bike, the only schedule you have to abide by is your own.
Narrowing my range of travel to where I could get by bike wasn't entirely for the greater good: had I had a way to get--by car or bus or train--to Oregon's lush state parks, I would have. Learning to live "small" proved to be a powerful experience in its own right. I had to accept, to embrace, what it truly took to leave less of a carbon footprint.
I've always loved to bike, and for most of my childhood, it was how I got to school and how I closed each day (I can still think of no sweeter end to the evening then a nighttime bike ride with my brother and father). Until this summer, however, it had never been my only way to get around. What had always been a constant source of liberation came to feel like a limitation during my first few weeks navigating PDX. I wanted to see the fern-filled mountainsides, travel to coastal towns carpeted in sand and wildflowers. Public transportation out West wasn't as easy as it was in my native New York and I struggled to make sense of my surroundings.
I didn't go to the thermal baths a friend had told me about that bloomed from the heart of an evergreen forest thirty miles south. I didn't camp in Bend. I didn't go to Sauvie Island to eat my weight in fresh-picked strawberries.
I did learn what it was like to soak up a small patch of city. I learned about the meditative power of a reliable bike route. I fell in love with a plum tree on my way home from downtown that was the perfect height from which to pluck a fruit while in motion. Some things were deliciously familiar, but nothing was ever so known that there wasn't any adventure to have.
If you are anything like me, you get caught up in the thirst to travel far and wide. And I don't think that's wrong: there is so much of the world to discover, to inhabit, so many people and places to see. But I think there is tremendous value--socially and ecologically--in recognizing that there are people and places in your corner of the universe worth the (bike) trip. To live "small" most of the time is to live attuned to the tremendous humanity that you are a part of, to just how much life (animal, vegetable, mineral) is contained in a single block and sweep of park.