The choice for what to write about on Day 1 of my Week of Joy was kind of a no-brainer. What do I do every day that gets me where I need to go, provides exercise, saves money, and has connected me with a marvelous community in Minneapolis?
It would take far more than two hands to count the ways that bicycling gives me joy, but let’s begin with the sheer freedom of it. Bicycling gets me where I want to go, when I want to go there, with minimal mechanical issues (it doesn’t hurt that I’m married to a bike-fixing-man-extraordinaire) and almost zero cost. Bicycling allows me to see the world, both micro and macro. Do drivers notice blue herons, quirky house details, changes in wind speed and terrain and light quality? Maybe a bit. The pace of bicycling, however, brings the particulars of the world into vivid clarity while also allowing travel far and wide, to new niches in the city one has inhabited for years or to distant towns and states and even countries. Bicycling gives me joy because it opens up the world.
I chose bicycling as my first joy largely because I had an amazing experience this past weekend at the Open Streets Cyclovia with the power of the bicycle in community building. This event was several years in coming; bringing a Cyclovia to Minneapolis was a goal of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition for years.
Rather than experience the first Open Streets solely as a participant, I opted to volunteer. This meant collecting surveys and raffle tickets from participants along the corridor, a task that’s ordinarily less than enjoyable because people 1.) don’t want to give out their information (though this particular survey was anonymous) or 2.) don’t want their experience to be interrupted at all. At Open Streets, however, everyone was having such a lovely time that most were more than happy to share their happiness with friends, strangers, and survey collecting volunteers alike. In fact, I don’t think one person refused to do the survey. And the overwhelming response on the survey questions?
More time. More musicians. More food. More streets. And above all, more often. People loved taking back their street in their community, whether they were bicycling, skateboarding, walking with a stroller, or roller skating on the bumpy road.
Though the event certainly required the energy and commitment of several organizations and countless volunteers, it’s amazing that such a simple thing as recreating the commons on 22 blocks of a single street could bring hundreds if not thousands of individuals together in celebration.
After the joyful, community building experience of Open Streets, where can I bicycle from here to increase and spread joy?
Keep volunteering. There are many organizations and many many bicycling related events coming up (it is summer in MN after all).
Continue planning weekend mini trip to various locations just outside the metro area. These micro vacations with Benjamin provide new landscapes, adventures, and stories galore.
Encourage friends and family to bike (without getting too preachy). The best way is to keep doing it myself of course, and talking about the joy it brings me, but I can definitely invite friends on bike rides more often.
Read more about bicycling, both present culture and past history. I just happened to have checked out Wheels of Change from the library mere hours ago.
Contribute more to the larger cycling community. Write for the Grease Rag blog, perhaps? Plan the ice cream alleycat that Ben and I have been talking about? Actually be a part of MplsBikeLove? The opportunities are endless.
More than anything else, keep bicycling every day, practicing presence while I do so.
“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
-Arthur Conan Doyle