Bike Riding: Lethal or Liberating?

Story By: Toni Woodruff, Reporter

The morning is chilly and quiet, the sun light glows at this time of day.

You can feel the vibrations from gears shifting under your feet with each pedal.

Every stride, a brisk cool air washes over your face and suddenly you’re almost transcending. And if you’re anything like me, blaring music in your eardrums at 9 a.m. is a perfect start to the day.

Welcome to the unique experience of bike riding.

Before I bought my beloved Bullet (that’s my bike’s name), I was just like the rest of you out there on the raging road. Texting, screaming while singing, displacing anger on old people who drive slow and most of all being extremely negligent to bike riders.

Life forced me to slow down and choose another route for my commutes after a few too many car accidents. What started out as a disciplinary action resulted in lifelong rewards.

I ride roughly five to six miles a day, that includes going to and from school and work.

Luckily, both destinations are close to home, and the short rides are an opportunity to mentally prepare for the day ahead.

There is a special sense of unity and gratitude that comes with riding a bike.

It could be the act of physical exercise, or just being exposed to the sun and nature at the same time most people are rushing.

Maybe it is the slower pace of starting the day that causes the overwhelming peace you can find while riding, or the freedom you feel while pedaling hard in the wind and for a second you and the trees are one in the same.

Whatever the magic that takes place while riding a bike is rewarding mentally, physically and emotionally.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried on my way home and by the end of the journey the tears are dry and my head is clear.

Just when you think the experience can’t get any better you remember you’re helping the current climate problem and doing your part of helping our planet while keeping yourself in shape.

There’s almost no downside to bike riding, well except one.

You can get killed at any second and all it will take is one distracted driver.

While the streets may feel like it’s just you and the wind, there’s a whole other world zooming right next to you. And while your only distraction is what song is next on the “bike to work playlist,” the people in the moving death traps are focused on multiple things and none include the girl on the bike.

According to Valley Public Radio, Fresno averages 130 bike collisons a year.

When you think about how small the biking community is here compared to other cities in California, the numbers can be alarming.

Alliance for Biking and Walking says Fresno’s cyclists death rate is one of the highest in the country’s top 50 most populous cities.

Granted, I am not a professional cyclist that wears a helmet and spandex with windshield glasses and special shoes for grip, I don’t even have a flashlight on my bike but the threat is still real. Even in my platform boots, long skirt, fresh makeup and braids whipping behind me I am unnoticed by busy drivers and get scared for my life.

Countless times I’ve had to yell or, in a few cases, kick a car to grab the drivers attention so they don’t run me over like all of our fallen squirrels.

I’ve been riding around town for a year now, and every day I have a new horror story of some person not paying attention to the road, stop lights or pedestrians and almost hits me or has to dramatically break.

Many arguments have broken out over who is able to cross the road, the person using their limbs to take them to wherever or the person pushing a lever down in fully protected vehicle? I think I win.

So, yes, riding a bike can get scary but overall learning patience and growing appreciation for nature and our communities keeps us riders going.

I’ve become a better person, student and worker because of this switch.

I won’t let a negligent driver stop me from hopping on Bullet and enjoying the day. Although I may have to take more precautions when riding near busy streets by keeping my head on a swivel and knowing my surroundings.

But, it’s worth it.