You may have seen me riding my bike; it’s a beautiful yellow cruiser with a basket on the back. I love my bike, and I love riding my bike. I love it so much I want to convince you to ride, too.
Like many of you, I learned to ride a bike when I was maybe five or six years old. I remember so clearly my first successful ride on a sweet little red bike with a white seat that belonged to one of my friends. This was after weeks practicing with my dad on too-big 10-speed bikes that were hand-me-downs from my older brothers. It was amazing.
I put away my bike when I was old enough to drive, although that hiatus only lasted until my second year of college when I moved out of the residence halls. Commuter parking permits at the University of Tennessee were extremely expensive, so I picked up my bike again to get to school and work. In those days, Knoxville was not a bike-friendly town (they’ve made huge improvements since), and so cycling around town always felt a little dangerous. I also had the feeling that I was participating in a counter-culture. This was reinforced by the occasional abusive driver, and I confess this only fueled my assertiveness to claim my right to the road.
So that is one reason I ride: I love an underdog, and commuting by bike definitely makes you an underdog in most places. I ride my bike for all the other common reasons: it’s good exercise, it’s carbon free and environmentally friendly. But really, there are two main motivators for me when it comes to commuting on my bike. First of all, I just love it. It’s real freedom to get from place to place using my own body as the engine. Second of all, it makes me feel good. Like many, I struggle with work stress, personal stress and depression. Riding my bike helps to keep those demons at bay.
The reason I’m writing this is because I want you to consider bike commuting. I wear a few hats here at SU: I am a professor in the Geography-Earth Science Department, I am the director of the Center for Land Use and Sustainability and I am our campus sustainability coordinator. In that latter position, I am leading SU’s climate action plan. Our greenhouse gas inventory shows that about 32% of SU’s total carbon footprint is related to student commuting. In a recent commuter survey, we found that about 40% of student survey respondents who drive live within 2 miles of campus. This caused me to have a small mental breakdown. So many students (not to mention faculty and staff) are missing the opportunity to experience the happiness of commuting by bike. Seriously, if you can, please try it. A two-mile bike ride will last 15 minutes or less. Yes, you will show up to class a little sweaty: Yes, sometimes your backpack is going to feel really heavy: Yes, you will have someone roll coal on you. But eventually I bet you will start to feel so good that those inconveniences won’t matter so much.
I know we can do better to support biking here at SU. If you have suggestions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.