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When the future is uncertain, go by bike

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NEXT MONTH will mark my eighth year as a Twitter user. But I’m not sure I’ll be there to celebrate.

Last month, feeling pummeled by a constant stream of bad news I felt helpless to do anything about, I decided to take a leave of absence from my account.

Since then I’ve become more thoughtful and deliberate about my media consumption. I feel just as informed, but less overwhelmed.

In uncertain times, it’s natural for people to want to exercise control over aspects of their lives that are still theirs to control, to take comfort in the natural world, and to seek solace in people and places they hold dear.

There’s a reason Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Peace of Wild Things” seems to be increasingly popular since election day.

Are you are feeling anxious about the future? If not, I’m afraid you soon will be, no matter your political views.

For the worried and worried-to-be, I suggest a helpful and healthful activity: Ride your bike.

In this column, I frequently write about the thousands of people in our community for whom riding a bike is a necessity, not a choice. For these citizens, a bicycle is often the only way to get to work, to class, and to bring home food from the grocery store.

Thousands more live and work in parts of Savannah where streets are designed to maximize the speed of motor vehicles. Riding a bike and walking in these areas is not just unpleasant, it’s potentially deadly.

Still, there are thousands who can, with a little preparation and planning, make bicycling a healthy part of their daily lives. If commuting to work isn’t possible, an after work or weekend trip to the store or an evening out with friends can be done by bike, instead of by car.

And I’m not just talking about physical health when I say “healthy.” I am here to tell you the benefits of bicycling extend to mental well-being, too.

What’s your most memorable drive home from work? I’ll bet you remember it not because it was pleasant, but because it was a negative experience. Maybe traffic was snarled for miles by a crash, or worse yet, a crash in which you were involved.

Perhaps you heard awful news on the radio or — in a scenario that’s making our streets much more dangerous — you read the bad news on your phone while driving home.

There is a better way.

I can tell you about feeling tired and drained as I began my ride home after a long workday at SCAD many years ago.

As I neared Henry Street, my bike’s headlight illuminated small particles drifting in the air.

At first I presumed this was dust blowing from an unpaved parking lot. Wrong.

Snowflakes! A rare sight in Savannah I’m glad I experienced on my bike. Once I reached my neighborhood, I kept going and rode until the flurry ended.

What is your most memorable drive back from a meal? No, I’m not asking about the food or service.

Tell me about what happened as you steered your car home. Can you recall one instance fondly? I can’t.

But I can tell you about a Saturday in July 2015 when my wife and I rode our bicycles downtown for lunch. I don’t remember where we ate, but I can easily visualize the rainstorm that erupted as we made our way home.

We took shelter under an awning, but eventually decided to pedal home through the flooded streets. We were completely drenched almost instantly, but once we acknowledged we couldn’t become any more soaked than we already were, we embraced the situation and laughed at our predicament all the way home.

I can’t conjure a similarly fond memory of driving in a rainstorm.

Tell me about the time you pulled up at an intersection at the very same time as a friend you had not seen in ages. Describe what it was like as you and your friend drove your cars side by side, chatting as you rolled along.

See what I mean?

The ability to move under one’s own power and travel freely is one of our most basic liberties. Riding a bike or walking is a personal declaration of independence.

But it can also be an act of resistance. Now’s the time to stand with those fighting to protect our natural resources against an administration determined to permanently damage the environment in pursuit of short term increases in share prices.

Riding a bike is an additional way to demonstrate which side you’re on.

cs
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