Friday, May 18, 2012

Why I Bike Pittsburgh

If you asked me to pinpoint the moment when the switch flipped and I became one of those "bike" people, I couldn't figure it out. I bought my bike in Boston before I moved, and used it fairly often while I had it the last few months I lived there. I didn't have a car in Boston either, but their public transportation system far, far, far surpassed the ever-shrinking Port Authority in Pittsburgh. If I couldn't walk there, I could probably get there on a very simple train system that ran on a pretty frequent schedule. I wasn't among any kind of minority by not owning a car in Boston.

Moving back here, I quickly entered that minority by vowing not to get a car. See, here's the thing: I'm a horrible, horrible driver. I have no idea why. I just suck at it. So. Pittsburgh. No car. For the first few months I relied on walking and the bus for most of my getting around. I started working downtown and took the 87 every morning and every evening. I really only rode my bike for fun, never for commuting or getting from here to there and back. Then, a few months in, I got TIRED of waiting forever for a bus that was already packed to pull up. I got TIRED of paying almost double what I paid for a monthly pass in Boston for a waaaaaay better system.

So I started riding. One morning I threw a change of clothes in my crappy old bookbag I got from winning a scholarship to Pitt, wore something that pretty much resembled my pajamas, and hopped on my bike, thinking about all the things that could possibly go wrong in this new situation. But! Nothing went wrong! Sure, there are at least a dozen things I do differently now that make that same ride (I've only deviated from my route maybe 3 or 4 times in the solid year and a half I've been bike commuting) to make it a little more pleasant and fun. But I really enjoyed it.

Once I had my commute down, I started using my bike for tons of other things. The smartest thing I did was buy a couple sturdy panniers. Once I could transport stuff easily, I got the crazy idea to ride my bike to Maryland. I did and wound up loving the experience so much that I'm going to DC by bike in a week and a half! Riding around Pittsburgh has been such a great way for me to get exercise, enjoy being outside, and give myself a way to release a lot of stress. No matter where I'm going or why I am riding, I always feel a bit of a connection to the city in a way I don't think is possible by car. My feet are pushing the pedals and that's turning the wheels that are taking me up and down and around and back all over the goddamn place.

In my opinion, there is no better way to make your way through Pittsburgh. Biking has saved me so much time and money. It has challenged me and made me stronger. It's given me something to care about in the city, and something I truly hopes catches on with more and more of my friends and their friends and their friends. I bike Pittsburgh because I've kinda fallen in love with it, and now I just don't know any other way.

Hey! I like biking so much that I'm doing this thing called Pedal for Pennies. Check it out!

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