Tuesday, October 2, 2018

I Want To Ride My Bicycle

Ode to a Bicycle

The ultimate freedom. 
Free as a bird. 
Free as the wind on your skin 
as you fly by the world. 
Not trapped inside a metal cage, 
attached to oil's umbilical cord 
which takes so much more than it gives. 
But free to go wherever whim takes you, 
powered only by your strength and will. 
Faster and faster, 
freewheeling downhill, 
fresh air on your face as you think, 
"Is there anything freer than this?" 

For me, bicycles are a symbol of freedom, and are forever tied up with childhood. The first time you learn to ride a bike, with your dad holding onto the seat and then letting go but telling you he's still holding on (probably the first time I realised that adults don't always tell the truth!). Your first 'grown up' bike with gears. The years, once you could finally go places by yourself but before you could drive, when a bicycle was your ticket to freedom. Even if I'm just popping to the shops, jumping on my bike and rolling down the road never fails to lift me up, as I revel in speeding down the street, wind in my hair (or at least I did when I had hair!). If I'm feeling grouchy, sluggish or just plain cooped up in the van, going for a bike ride in the woods or round the park gets my blood moving and always makes me feel better. Riding a bike just takes me back to simpler times. 

It also propels me forward at amazing speed for the amount of energy I have to put in. The difference between walking and riding a bike is huge, so it opens up the world for people who can't afford to drive. Work opportunities, social events, people and access to ideas - all these things suddenly become much more available when you can travel greater distances. This is maybe most clearly seen in the the fight for women's rights. The bicycle allowed women to move independently, without a chaperone and under their own steam, for the first time. They could meet with other like-minded women, learn and spread new ideas - a lot of demonstrating by the Suffragettes was done on bikes. It even changed the way they dressed, as restrictive clothing and long skirts were no longer practical for strong women whizzing about on bikes. Ankles finally got their time in the sun and there wasn't a damn thing men could do about it. And if all this seems like dusty and irrelevant history, check out this article on how the fight for women's rights continues around the world, and how the humble bicycle is playing a key role.

Bikes are the most democratic of transports. They are cheap, especially if you get a second hand one, and easy to fix and maintain. Once you have bought it, it costs nothing to run; you are free from fuel, road tax and insurance. Riding a bike also improves your health, allowing you to incorporate a workout into your everyday routine. And if all that wasn't enough, they don't produce any poisonous fumes so are awesome for the environment as well. There are loads of different initiatives that use bikes as an environmentally friendly alternative to cars. Pedal People, in Massachusetts, USA, collect people's household rubbish by bike instead of using big fuel-hungry dumpster trucks, and turn the kitchen waste into compost while they're at it. 

Travelling in the van with bikes has been brilliant- we can park the van outside city centres in free parking zones, and then ride to town quickly and easily. European cities are much better equipped with bike lanes than in the UK, so riding around has been a joy. Everyone is riding a bike in Berlin and transporting your kids in cart bikes or trailers seems to be the norm. Having large number of cyclists or a big network of bike lanes changes the way a city feels; where we're parked next to Tempelhof the majority of traffic is bikes, so it feels less like a road and more an extension of the park. The Netherlands was the biggest shock - cyclists totally dominate the roads there, they seem to have right of way over everyone and hardly pause before shooting over crossings, secure in the fact that everyone is aware of them and will stop. It was disconcerting as a driver, but incredibly liberating as a cyclist. 

If you're feeling inspired but haven't been on one since you were a kid, don't worry...it's just like riding a bike! Sites like gumtree are full of secondhand bikes, so have a look and see if you can find a bargain in your area. Also have a look for bike co-ops or volunteer workshops, like Cranks in Brighton. They are amazing initiatives to support, where you can take a bike and learn to fix it up using the workshops' tools and getting help from volunteers, often just for a small donation. Finally, you can try and find organised bike rides, Meetup groups or events like The World Naked Bike Ride to take part in. There's no time like the present, so go on, on your bike! 


If you can relate to what you've just read, let's continue the conversation! Sharing stories is one of our most powerful tools, so leave a comment below, check out the FREEDOM junkies' facebook page, or join our group.


  1. "A bicycle is geometry in service of motion" said Angela Carter (or something similar, am on my way out of the door)

    1. Feminism and bicycles all in one comment...girl, you be ticking all my boxes!

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