Part of my hazing as a new employee of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful was being tasked with the thoroughly delightful job of riding a bicycle. Last week was National Bike to Work Week, and I embraced it fully. Though I had more things on my checklist before work, my mornings felt longer, and I felt more relaxed throughout the day. Like so many of us, for so many obvious reasons, I’ve long wanted to have bicycle commuting be a part of my daily life and it was well worth the extra effort.
The bicycle commute is all about preparation. Unfortunately, my rig was not fully equipped. Rather than the ideal duel pannier system, I was working out of a beat-up messenger bag from college. Each night I would pick out my clothes, roll them into tight wads, and stuff them in the bag next to a towel (luckily, KIB has a locker room and a shower), flip flops, two hangers, body wash, and the all-important deodorant.
Every morning my alarm buzzed (a little too early), I slid into some quick-dry clothes, and had far less coffee than desired. I always forgot to leave enough time for breakfast, so inevitably rolled out of my Butler-Tarkington driveway with a peanut buttered piece of toast in my mouth. (Admittedly, this breakfast was partially an aesthetic choice. I felt that it reflected a nonchalance needed to show the world that I have clearly been commuting by bike for ages.) Within two tenths of a mile, any of the morning doldrums had faded and I could enjoy my day.
It seems useless to describe how it feels to ride a bicycle first thing in the morning. It’s just plain fun. I improvised my route daily, and would inevitably see houses, parks, signs, and buildings that reflected how connected someone was to the space through which I was traveling. As the week went on, I noticed more and more of these witness marks of people living in and loving their communities.
This is good. I expected to feel healthier, like I was being responsible, and like I had more energy, but I didn’t expect to have a renewed confidence in the strength of communities in Indianapolis. KIB has a mission to help people and nature thrive. I was thrilled to spend my first full week of work thinking about the communities around us and noticing that KIB is a part of them. It was heartening to see so many Adopt-A-Block signs, “Project from KIB” signs, and trees with the signature white trunk guards.
Riding to work has myriad benefits that are all self-evident, but we often choose to pursue those benefits in the gaps around our schedules. Perhaps the thing that will keep me riding to work most, that thing I can’t push to the periphery of my schedule, is how being out in the open air and on the side streets makes me feel more connected to the city and my fellow citizens. Sometimes the logistics are too hard to overcome, but try it. Do your best to get out on a bike and notice what you might have been missing. You’ll feel better.