You may remember seeing something about a bike story contest back at the end of April. We were asking for local riders to submit their stories about the difference that biking has made in their lives here in Massachusetts. The goal was to collect stories that gave us real, personal examples of the importance of active transportation that we could use when speaking with our state legislators.
Well things here at MassBike headquarters have been absolutely crazy these past few weeks and we have been a bit delayed in announcing our contest winners. We apologize for the delay and are also excited to finally be announcing our three winning stories. So without further ado we are pleased to announce that the following three folks wrote stories that really rose above the rest.
1st Place – Jesse Cohn
2nd Place – Katie Harris
3rd Place – Sari Long
These three riders had stories that really encapsulated the personal importance riding a bicycle has for them. We all have had our personal biking moments, where the skies part and we realize just how awesome it is to be riding a bike, and these three stories really hit the nail on the head. Congratulations to our winners and thank you to everyone who submitted their stories. With all of these great biking stories we will now have the examples we need to speak more passionately with our legislatures about important bicycle policies.
Below you will see, for your reading pleasure, our three winning stories, enjoy!
It often baffles people when I tell them that I got into cycling by riding across the country, but it’s true. In 2008, albeit my little cycling experience, I rode from Providence, RI, to San Francisco, CA, with Bike & Build, a nonprofit that raises money and awareness for affordable housing. That summer changed my life. My own legs powered me coast-to-coast, and I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t do.
In 2009, a good friend from college, Paige Hicks, participated in a Bike & Build trip. She too had an amazing experience – one that was so good that she decided to ride across the country again in 2010, from Providence, RI, to Seattle, WA. Tragically, Paige was struck and killed that summer while riding in South Dakota.
After her passing, I realized that biking is not just empowering, but humbling. It reminds me to be aware of my vulnerability. In reaction to Paige’s death, some of my friends have chosen to stop riding. They don’t think that riding is worth the risk to their health and life. My reaction to Paige’s death was quite the opposite. I continue to ride, and completed my second cross-country trip in 2011. But now, in addition, I also educate and advocate on bicycle safety and the importance of sharing the road. I want every child and adult to have the opportunity to ride a bike, and to do so safely. I want others to feel the same joy and empowerment I derive from being on a bike.
But there’s only so much that my fellow riders and I can do. We need legislature and infrastructure to ensure the safety of all cyclists. We need to create a favorable setting where those interested, but cautious citizens are not afraid to ride.
There are a lot of people in Boston who think cyclists have a death wish. I can only imagine what they must think about cyclists who are deaf.
As I commute to work or school, I wear a helmet. I look both ways before moving into traffic. I stop for pedestrians and for every red light. I use blinkies at night and when it’s raining. I do everything I can to make sure that I’m traveling safely on the road, because I know that the following is true: My hearing? It doesn’t work so well. Other road users? They’re not always paying attention.
When I was a child, living in a quiet neighborhood in Maine, my parents had a “DEAF CHILD AREA” sign installed by our house. This was embarrassing, but I understood that they worried. As an adult, I’ve noticed that other parents put up portable signs by their driveways such as “KIDS AT PLAY.” If only we could trust people to be safer as they navigate through the city. To put down their cell phones, watch the road, and have patience with their surroundings.
I started riding my bicycle in Boston three years ago. For years, I observed Boston traffic’s (lack of) flow, and was too terrified to ride: I was convinced my hearing loss was an insurmountable obstacle. And then I happened to meet Amelia—also deaf—and she rode through Boston with such aplomb that I knew I had to try it for myself someday.
It’s so not hard to be aware of your surroundings and to act accordingly, so I guess it’s not so difficult to be a deaf cyclist after all.
Love Song for Pancho
I was 18 when I first saw you
You shone and shone with your silver sheen and your Raleigh seal and I was in love
A mountain bike who was, inevitably, named Pancho
Seven days we rode from Minneapolis to Chicago, raising money for charity (four times)
I wore fairy wings, but you actually gave me wings
Laughing and crying through the hills of Wisconsin and the cornfields of Illinois,
You came with me to college in Montreal
You carried me through snow and ice and wind and cold
The snowiest I had ever seen
Patient, stalwart, beautiful, strong
Pancho, the most constant figure in my life
I covered you lovingly in stickers
I rode you angrily home after the 2000 elections
You carried me uncomplaining
Then patiently you waited while I lived far away in a place where bikes like you were
Thinking about you every day and dreaming of our reunion
On to Boston, along the river, over the cobblestones, in dizzying traffic and horns
We were united and fearless and bold
You, unjealous when Rojito entered my life
A quick muscular little racing number to make the heart beat faster
You knew with quiet certainty where you stood
And today, you, Pancho, my daily companion still – 13 years later
You are there every morning, like the sunrise
Your bell gleams proudly, your bar-ends like horns await my hands
When nothing else seems to fit, when the rain whips sideways and the clouds are black
When tears stream either because of icy wind or overwhelming
You are there for me
And I am again renewed, inspired…made brave.