This past weekend, I was invited to hit the trails in Pittsburgh.
I took up the offer and pulled out my precious two-wheel beauty and pedaled my way to happiness. I first got into biking while living in Seattle. The trend of seeing cyclists on the road at first startled me. Growing up in Oklahoma, I was more used to seeing John Deeres and trucks on steroids taking up the roads. In fact, I think I almost forgot that cycling even existed. When I went to shop for a bike in Seattle, I walked into Gregg’s Cycles and had my eyes set on a Trek. I hopped on it in the store and during my test trial of the bike I promptly fell over three times. The guy selling me the bike quickly took me over to the helmet department.
Before I felt comfortable enough to hit the roads in Seattle, I rode my bike up and down the hallways of my dorm. Then, after I finally built up the courage, I took my bike out and rode around gleefully, feeling like a kid again. There was a certain freedom attached to feeling the cool air and enjoying the environment around me. For three hours I traveled, making pit-stops at little shops along the way. Finally, I ended up at my favorite place in Seattle to have breakfast,The Dish Cafe.
During the first year I lived in Seattle, I didn’t have a car. I either took the bus or pedaled my way around. Through doing so, I came to appreciate where I lived. I got a car my sophomore year. When I started driving more, I could feel my anxiety intensify. While stuck in traffic, I would see cyclist after cyclist pass me by. I almost felt like they were giving me the middle finger as they whizzed on by because we both knew that they were cooler and smarter than me.
Ditching the car keys once again, I saddled up, threw on my helmet, and jolted out the door. I felt connected once more.
I moved to Pittsburgh and within the first month of living here, I bought a bike from Thick Bikes. While the city is certainly not as biker-friendly as Seattle, I noticed a trend of people pushing for it to be. Bike Pittsburgh is an organization that promotes the vision of “making Pittsburgh a safer and more enjoyable place to live and to ride.” They also offer a detailed map that makes it easy for newbies in Pittsburgh on bikes to commute around the city.
During the summer, I took many rides that led me to finding one cool thing after another about Pittsburgh. Riding around in the South Side I found my favorite antique store, Zenith. I also ran across a Thai food restaurant that I quickly became addicted to. After every ride, I found myself happier and less stressed. I didn’t have to worry about finding parking and could weave through traffic.
Someone also pointed out, “You experience the city in a much different way then when you are encased in a car. At a little bit slower pace, you take so much more in. You learn very quickly to live in the present while riding a bike. You have to be on guard with traffic around you. You never know when a car might pull out in front of you, a car door open, or when a squirrel might run into your path.”
Studies have shown that exercise releases stress, but cycling offers many benefits outside of the obvious health-related ones.
- It’s easier on your pocketbook. Instead of shelling out $4 a gallon per gas, cycling is free. And no matter where you go, parking is always free for bikes.
- It’s good for the environment. There is no exhaust released, gas or oil consumed.
- It’s good for your community. Whenever I’m biking and pass other people on the trails or roads, we wave or nod hello. I certainly feel a little more connected to people when I ride.
- It’s good for the economy. One article exhibited how just one car parking spot, converted to a parking spot for multiple bicycles, increased the revenue brought into a shopping district.
I rode about thirty miles on the Great Allegheny Passage. It was a great way to connect with my riding buddy, and a great way to see how beautiful the Pittsburgh area really is. Afterwards, I enjoyed the best tacos I’d had in a long time at SMOKE BBQ and a couple of cold beers.
I encourage you to take advantage of the nice weather and hop on a bike wherever you live.
Ernest Hemingway put it best: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”
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