Will It Stick Around After Corona?
My first tip should have been the text I received from my father-in-law. He was looking for suggestions on bikes that he and my mother-in-law could get and ride. They’ve had bikes before but those were left to succumb to the salt air and rust, abandoned outdoors right next to the best intentions to ride them.
But the quarantine has awoken the urge to ride for my in-laws and many others. Being cooped up indoors is driving people outside for much needed daily recreation. With most stores and restaurants closed and visiting friends or other sites generally verboten, people are exploring closer to their homes and there is no better tool to do that than a bicycle. Bicycles are getting used again by people that may have never seen themselves as “cyclists” but have never forgotten how to ride one.
If you’re like me, you’re seeing neighbors you have not seen since Halloween. Some of these neighbors I have never seen before at all. Now I see them from my kitchen window on their now-regular loops around the streets of my Charleston neighborhood.
Families are riding together and sharing conversation and observations. They are extending their perimeter of familiarity with their city. What was once looked past or not seen before because eyes were on phones as bodies were driven through town are now noticed and focused on. The dogs still get walked, but they are left inside when the humans take their turn to see what is out there.
While most of the readers here already know the joy the bicycle brings, many hitting the streets during this strange time are just discovering it or rediscovering the rush of getting around under their own power and feeling free again. I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it. I want them to join us. I have been making a point of encouraging as many of these new or returning riders as I can. I wave or say something to each of them as we pass. They almost always return the wave or share the joy from their faces.
When I see people out on the streets reclaiming that joy, every bike looks cool. It doesn’t matter if it is a road bike, mountain bike, fixie, cruiser, trike, tandem, or anything in between. They are cool because they are working for those who are on them. They are freedom machines and portals to another place and maybe another time.
I hope the feeling that the bike is giving these returning fans stays with them. I hope that they know that they can have this feeling everyday. It’s kind of like the end of Scrooged, when Bill Murray’s character explains that you can have the “Christmas” feeling everyday.
You can have this feeling after the quarantines are over and after you return to the office. And just like that Christmas feeling, you’ll want it everyday.
Unfortunately, most people likely won’t. They will fall back into a routine that puts them in a car loaded with excuses about why the bike does not make sense for this trip. But maybe they will.
Maybe if cities take a look at the roads that are not being used by columns of cars and trucks clumsily banging through the streets, they will experiment with shutting down a lane or two to help manage the influx of riders and walkers during the quarantine. Maybe that will happen and maybe it will stick. Maybe one of the changes that come from this is that the streets get safer for people traveling outside of motor vehicles.
Maybe the people that do return to cars will at least remember the feeling the bike gave them when they needed freedom and they will give those that stick with the bike some space and courtesy on the roads.
We can hope. Right now that’s almost all that we have. The feeling of freedom on the bike and the hope that everything will return to normal, or maybe better than normal. Maybe there will be more and better and safe places to ride and more people to do it with once this is over.
Until then I am going to keep smiling and waving at my neighbors and remind them that they have a cool bike and they look great riding it.
*** Update … So far, I have found my mother-in-law a bike. It was abandoned on the side of the road, but that’s another blog. ***