Commentary: What a delight it is to bicycle around Las Cruces!
Rarely is a single activity fun; good for physical, mental, and emotional well-being; economical; environmentally helpful; and in harmony with the community.
Why is it such fun? First, physical exercise just plain feels good.
There's also the breeze in one's face and the mild physical challenge. Bicycling also puts us in touch with the childhood joys of trying out new movements, exploring new territory and feeling independent and free.
Riding through older parts of town – on quiet streets with few cars – brings one into contact with real neighborhoods. Houses not made with a giant cookie-cutter but built individually. Like the faces of people who've lived a little, they vary wildly and express great character. Moving more slowly, and not encased in a metal shell, and able to stop or turn back without endangering anyone, the bicyclist can see and hear in detail. Even greet and be greeted by other human beings, many of whom are friendlier to the bicyclist than to the driver of a huge loud automobile that could go awry and kill them.
More generally, bicycling enhances the connection you feel with where you live – and the others who live there. You're more aware of details of people's yards, slight changes of scent or temperature, and even the habits of folks you see often. And when wife and I bicycle together, sharing the experience enhances it.
I'm often bicycling to the site of another sport – pickleball or swimming, even lifting – in search of fun and physical exercise. Too often in my life, even just to go a few blocks, I've driven. I've occasionally wondered whether making the journey on foot wouldn't provide even more exercise and fun.
Bicycling takes longer, yes; but not nearly as much longer as one might suppose; and the extra time is spent contemplating, exercising and seeing the sights. Driving somewhere I'm frustrated by traffic signals and other drivers who keep me from doing it faster. Bicycling there, I arrive feeling a certain calm satisfaction. I'm invigorated.
Nor are other drivers the ogres many bicyclists have painted them as. Yes, they often don't see us. (I learned from decades of using primarily a motorcycle that at every moment one must assume that every driver is about to do the dumbest possible thing.) I guess drivers get frustrated at having to move more slowly for a moment. But we haven't seen that.
Of course, we make sure people see us and wave gratefully to folks who've simply obeyed the law or acted safely toward us. Maybe seeing us on bikes revives happy memories or fond dreams of someday getting on a bicycle again and feeling free again. Maybe we're not viewed as competition, we're not in the Indie 500 most drivers imagine themselves driving in. Maybe at my age and with my long hair I just look so damned silly that they smile.
Surprisingly, even the 100 degree temperatures haven't dissuaded us. It's more pleasant than I'd have imagined. Yeah, we get sweaty. So? The breeze is cooling; but we'll see how often next spring's winds dissuade us.
I admire the couple who told me recently they've been “car-free for ten years.” I'm not ready for that.
But if you've ever been tempted to try bicycling, do it if you can. Bicycling around town will delight you.