This article first appeared in Mennonite Church USA's Menno Snapshots blog in celebration of National Bike to Work Day, May 20. It is republished with permission
I can usually find good reasons to justify what I love doing — and biking is a passion of mine. From my childhood days, when I pedaled the streets around my home in Goshen, Indiana, pretending I was riding a horse; to my high school (Bethany Christian), college (Goshen College) and seminary years (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary), when biking was my main means of transportation; to the present — I find joy and peace as I bike.
I finally gave in to North American culture and became a car owner when I was 46 years old, had three children and lived in a place where public transportation was minimal.
In 2001, when my family and I returned to Goshen, after 13 years of ministry in Benin, West Africa, with predecessor agencies of Mennonite Mission Network, I began to work at Mennonite Church USA's offices in Elkhart, Indiana. My round-trip commute could be 30 miles on heavily traveled U.S. 33 or 42 miles on quieter country roads. Since we had only one car, it stayed with my husband, who had the honor of chauffeuring our kids to after-school activities — much to their dismay, they were expected to bike the one to four miles to their schools.
Why did I bike to work for nearly 20 years, until I began working from home, due to the pandemic?
- Biking is environmentally sustainable. Pedal power doesn't create air pollution or require fossil fuels.
- The need for fossil fuels triggers conflict around the world. For me, the act of biking is a small, everyday protest against war.
- Cost — a good bike costs a few hundred dollars, compared to the thousands of dollars necessary to buy a functioning car.
- Fuel expenses are negligible, perhaps a few extra tablespoons of peanut butter per day.
- If you have a gym membership, you can probably drop it for at least six months of the year — or more, depending on your geographical location.
- I feel a solidarity with my brothers and sisters, in the United States and around the world, who don't have the option to drive.
- I've never left roadkill in my wake while biking.
- Prayer comes naturally to me when biking.
- I marvel at the beauty of God's creation and join the praise of the rising sun. My soul soars with the birds' songs. I tune into the turning of the world with its changing seasons. I see buds unfurl in the spring and the deepening of colored leaves after the first autumn frost.
- Biking helps me integrate the different parts of my life. God often reveals "aha!" answers to my questions, and I may find resolution to thorny relationship issues. Sometimes, events of the previous hours return to my consciousness, and I realize that I have caused harm that needs reparative action.
- I sometimes memorize Scripture, by writing out biblical passages and slipping the note cards into my map case on my handlebars. I took on the challenge of learning the longest chapter in the Bible by heart. The Message paraphrase of Psalm 119 (in my version) begins with, "You're blessed when you stay on course, biking steadily on the road revealed by God…"
- Physical exercise is built into my day, and biking is gentler on my aging body than the other forms of recreation that I used to love, like running, soccer, volleyball and tennis.
- I am more alert and can focus better on work after I have biked.
- I meet interesting people along the way, whom I would never encounter in a car — fellow bikers; people who are lost and ask for directions; people who sleep in the woods, because they have been evicted from their homes ...
- A common protest to biking is, "I don't have the time." In calculating what may seem like extra time, factor in your commuting time plus the time you spend exercising.
- Another protest is, "Bike trails don't exist in my community." Are you sure? Check out the trail finder on the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.
Biking to work is starting to become mainstream, as evidenced by the publicity surrounding Bike to Work Day on May 20! Cities, recognizing the benefits of biking, are creating bike paths. I no longer have to choose between safety or a longer commute, when I bike the 15 miles to work. I can ride all but two miles on bike paths or in designated bike lanes.
I no longer have to carry my bike up flights of stairs and share my office cubicle with it — and get greasy chain marks on my dress pants! I no longer have to try to discreetly sponge off the sweat in a washbowl in a public bathroom. The Mennonite Church USA offices in Elkhart, Indiana, now have a bike shed and showers.
Even if you don't love biking as much as I do, perhaps some of these reasons will encourage you to try it! You might also consider joining The League of American Bicyclists and help create safer biking practices.