This is for my friend Sean with AlleyCat Acres. I guess I should start there. I met Sean while i was going to Grad School. I teamed up with a newly formed Urban Farm Collective that was focusing not only on fresh produce, but utilizing bikes as a tool. I loved this. I have been biking since 2006. I biked as a kid but, we lived in a very very rural area. Biking on a country road is nothing compared to being in the flow of traffic. I love biking, I lost a ton of weight doing it daily for 24 miles. Seriously I bike 24 miles round trip most days. This is including hills, some days those hills get the better of me and I will dismount and walk partway up the hill. Other days I conquer those bad boys. It is often about mindset, and focusing on the fact that I have done it before. The cold weather or rainy weather is often the factors that get to me the worst.
I graduated in 2010 and was still working with Sean and his team of AlleyCats. I loved the dynamics of the group, the passion, the ideology; I loved everything about it. In fact I loved the fact that I could show people new ways to get around the hills. I think that was my favorite part. I love being asked to show someone how I would ride my bike to conquer new routes. I should stop and announce that I ride a big 40lb cruiser with only three speeds and coaster brakes.
In March of 2011, about 9 days after I rode a badass fundraising bike ride around Lake Washington, I was plowed over by a truck at around 40 miles per hours. I was in a lane, with a green light, waiting to make a left turn. I had my arm out to signal that I was making a left turn, I had a ton of lights, two on back two on front, and reflective gear. I woke up to my clothes being ripped off and my life changed forever.
I was in a walker for nearly three weeks and had to seek out physical therapy to relearn how to walk, keep my balance and use my right shoulder. On top of all the other soft tissue damage, these are still issues for me 9 months later.
One thing that depressed me the most was that I went back to work before I was biking again. I felt that I was not whole. I started work about two weeks before I tried to ride a bike again. My boyfriend had this hybrid Schwinn he bought so he could ride with me. My shoulder was still week so I wanted a bike, much like mine that had flat handle bars and that I could sit upright on. His bike was that bike. I rode through the neighborhood with him one Saturday afternoon. It felt so awesome. It was like I could fly. The feeling of freedom I get from riding a bike is immeasurable. Having that stripped from my life was traumatizing.
To be able to ride again was the most glorious thing. I crashed the bike about 20 minutes later. Miscalculating the dip in the road as I came to a stop and having no upper body strength sent me right over. I thought Richard was going to panic. All I could do was laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation. Seriously, I am a seasoned rider how the hell do I simply fall over like that. Even worse, it was in public view.
The first big ride was to a Sounders game. We rode all the way there, and I felt like I was going to be ok. After the game it was dark and cold. Richard wanted to catch a bus home, but I insisted that we ride, I was hit near the Stadiums and wanted to be sure someone was with me if I suddenly had a panic attack or a moment of PTSD. We rode the whole way. No worries and I had no issues riding in traffic. After that I was back on my bike. I have the most awesome scars ever and my joints get stiff easily. But hey, I am riding.
Describing the feeling of being back in the saddle is almost euphoric. I almost cried the day I got my new bike. I love her and I would never trade her in. I would love to replace the other bike as well, someday. Right now I am regaining that joy of riding. If you have never ridden a bike, or you have but not as a form or transportation, you may never understand. It was like taking my baby away from me. If I think about this last year too long, I start to get choked up. Being hit by a car is tragic enough, having to be hospitalized and relearn everything is quite another thing.
Without my bike, my life is incomplete. My life without a bike is like a dark vortex I can never escape. Biking to me is freedom, meditation, exercise and therapy all wrapped up in 40lbs of steel and rubber. I will ride until I can walk no longer, then I may still ride with help.