(2015) It does not seem fitting to move forward with a standard publication following the last essay. There needs to be a time of reflection and meditation. With the addition of the loss of local cyclist Dan Wilson this past week, two separate events juxtapose tragedy. In the last two weeks I witnessed two symbols of perseverance: One involving a determined older woman, another involving an equally determined older man. The former asked a bike shop worker the particulars of bike chain maintenance. She struggled to get the words out as she explained that her husband had passed away suddenly last year. It was he who maintained his bike along with hers before they would ride together. She had not ridden a bike since his passing, but she indicated that she was going to try to head out. Clearly she was working through her emotions as she spoke. Whether it was a short ride or long, it did not matter – cycling would be her therapy for the day. Clearly she would work through her emotions as she pedaled.
The latter determined cyclist was a man who just wanted to ride his bike. He indicated that advanced Parkinson’s had interfered with his ability to control his bike. He asked to have stabilizing wheels installed to allow him to ride. When he got home he realized the top tube was too high for him, so he turned his attention to his wife’s bike, which was of the step-through variety. Because of his dogged determination to ride, he took possession of his wife’s bike and had the shop swap the wheels onto her bike so he could ride. All he wants to do is push the pedals.
These two people, much like Dan Wilson, and every other person seen riding a bike anywhere in the United States possess a spirit to pursue the ultimate independence by pushing a bike forward with human strength. It is stated with almost complete confidence that many people, in light of the recent tragedy, are wondering if the trade-off is worth getting on the bike considering the risk.
In my college years, I had an English professor make a profound impact on my life. His anecdotes still guide me all these years later. One anecdote in particular was a story about his experience flying: his flight was forced to land on a highway, a stressful experience certainly. When he got in touch with his father to say he was safe, my professor asked his father what he should do next? Should he take a bus the remainder of his travels? Should he rent a car? His father replied with a simple, “Get on the next flight or you’ll fear flying forever.” He did, and he continues to fly today.
Pushing the pedals toward a goal can be as therapeutic a coping skill for those coming to terms with the recent tragedy as it does to propel the two determined individuals who refuse to get off the bike. And if a moment comes when one struggles to find motivation, point the handlebars toward Ervin Road where one may be passed the torch to finish the ride Dan never did. For if we resign the roads to a time without cyclists, the fear of riding may be too large to overcome by the time we are prepared to ride again.