I rode my bike down to Ogden City Utilities to pay our water and trash removal bill today. This is something I do every month. I usually go mid afternoon and am the only one there, but today I went over my lunch hour and it was crowded.
There was a woman behind me in the cashier’s line and when I turned to leave, the look she gave me was priceless. It told a story and the story went like this.
- This guy can afford to drive.
- I just assumed he couldn’t…but he can.
- He doesn’t have to do this.
- He chooses to do this.
Yeah, I saw all that in just one short look. I’ve seen it before, too. It used to bother me but now it makes me chuckle. Chances are good that my bicycle does a better job of getting me around Ogden than her car, or close to it, anyway. It’s a whole lot cheaper to maintain and operate, that’s for sure.
I notice a lot while I’m out on my bike. Because I’m moving at a slower speed, I see things I would miss if I was in a car. Even though Ogden has the lowest income inequality of any US metro area, people here (like people everywhere) are in a world of financial hurt. Maintenance is being deferred on homes. Many of the cars that pass me are falling apart. Increasingly, I’m passing cars that won’t start or are broken down on the side of the road. I feel like telling them to leave it parked and get a bike and they’d already be wherever it is they have to be.
But where do you get a bike if you don’t already have one and don’t want to spend a fortune or buy a piece of junk? Here in Ogden, we have the Bike Collective. It’s a 501c3 charitable corporation that gives kids an opportunity to learn how to fix bikes. Anyone can join. The Collective sells high quality bikes at incredibly low prices. You don’t have to be a member to buy one. It’s a win for the kids and it’s a win for the public, too. Chances are good that your city or town has something similar.
Most people who are struggling financially don’t want to make a big deal out of it. They might be embarrassed or ashamed. When you ride a bike because you want to and not because you have to, you’re sending a powerful message that it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Maybe it’s no big thing, but maybe it empowers someone. I hope so. Cycling has made my life better. It can do the same for others as well.