Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why a Cycle Makes all the Difference

The weather broke a couple days this week and I had the chance to get out on my new piece of machinery and check out the local parks in the Lakewood area. There is really nothing quite like the feeling of the wind blowing through your hair with a pair of aviators to shield the slowly setting spring sun. I’ve found, however, that being on bicycle as opposed to riding in a car has a further appeal than the simple pleasure of raw motion. I’ve been able to witness the little nuances of my neighborhood, and some of the wonderful advantages of living in an area that has quite a bit of walkability to it.

There are, of course, those little things you never notice when you’re in an automobile—the wearing of the paint on passing buildings, the gorgeous flowers growing in your neighbor’s front yard. More importantly, however, the other four senses are vastly underutilized. You may hear the wind whipping into your car as you drive, but you don’t hear the sounds of conversation taking place on front porches, or the smell of a backyard barbeque. You don’t get as many opportunities to get out and get your digits wet (though on second thought the conditions of the rivers in Cleveland should discourage me from putting said feet in water in the future).

I’ve been frustrated at the changing of the times over the last couple of years. Why aren’t kids acting like kids anymore? Though many I’m sure were hiding away in their bedrooms listening to iPods and playing the newest videogame, I saw so many out today—with their parents at the park, throwing flat stones into the water. Some in the midst of play (yes, real life play), spilling imagination onto the sidewalks in groups. No antisocial tendencies… just kids being precisely that, saying hello as I whiz by.

I stopped to take photos of a gorgeous display of flowers and two young girls asked me if I was a “photo-grapher.” Laughing, I responded that I was trying—so happy that they were curious enough to even ask. While climbing around on large rocks and slabs of concrete on the lake’s edge I overheard a little girl comment to her mother that I as allowed because “I was an adult and knew what I was doing.” I immediately responded that she gave me way too much credit, but it made me smile. As adults, we rarely have these little interactions with strangers—instead opting to jump in our vehicles, drive exactly where we need to go, and try our best to avoid eye contact in the process.

I’m fortunate to see a lot of people out and about on bicycles here in Lakewood. I’m even more fortunate that the city is practically a grid, so there is no serious danger of me losing my way throughout its streets (as anyone will tell you I have the absolute worst sense of direction). By far the most fortunate I’ve found myself is in moving to a place that fosters community right at the street level. Whether the church a few blocks down is putting on a carnival for the kids, more work is being done at the community garden just a few streets down from my place, or the shouts and cheers from a little league game is trailing through the air as I ride by.

I know, this all sounds so very melodramatic—but it’s what really gets my gears turning (there’s a little bicycle pun for ya). Just take it as a little prod to get out and enjoy the nice weather… when we have it. The world is a beautiful, amazing place if we take the time to smell the roses, have an impromptu conversation with a new friend, or just stop to listen to the trains go by.


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