I’m in love with my bike. I love riding my bike. I love riding my bike for errands, for meetings, and to explore the city and the surrounding countryside. I love finding out how far I can go on just my own body’s power. I still hate hills.
Once upon a time Beloved and I had rented bikes to ride around the capital mall in Washington D.C. An older man watching me go by asked, “Don’t you feel like you’re ten years old again?” Yes I thought then and yes I still think so now. Except that when I was ten, I was thinking that a car would be so much more cool but now I know better. A bike is human speed and it is awesome.
It helps that Munich is actually quite compact. I can get from my house to downtown in about 15 minutes on my bike. If all the lights are red. It also helps that there are real bike lanes on most streets. Sometimes they are painted in along the road and sometimes they are a strip of asphalt in the wide sidewalks. It helps that there are a lot of people who ride bikes here. It helps that drivers of car understand that they have to drive very carefully in the city and give right of way to everyone else.
I went not-cool and bought myself a granny cart for groceries. Then I bought a granny cart attachment for my bike. A German husband of a friend of mine saw me flying by with my helmet on and my helmet mirror attached and my shopping cart trailing behind and thought, “That American is more German than I am….” or at least that is what my friend told me.
At home in Santa Rosa, I didn’t ride my bike very much. For one thing, it didn’t seem very safe with narrow country roads and Sonoma drivers certain they need to get somewhere faster then everyone else. Here, most everyone keeps and eye out. Except for tourists who stand or walk down the paved path thinking its just part of the sidewalk. Or the delivery van that parks in the middle of the path because, quite frankly, there isn’t anywhere else to park.
I’m also learning just how far I can go on a bike which is a lot farther then I had thought possible. Last weekend we set out from our front door on bikes and ended up at Starnberg See about 22 miles south of town. We passed through city streets, open fields, suburban neighborhoods and riverside forest. We got lost, broke spokes, discovered closed restaurants and pushed our bikes up the one or two steep forest hills along the way. But at the end of the ride was cold beer, warm salmon, and a lake view that went out for miles.
We’re glad we don’t own a car here. We’d like to arrange our life so that we never own a car again. They are expensive to buy and to keep going and they come with random big repair costs. We are both healthier for the walking and the riding. Still and all, there are times when a car goes places nothing else can, so we’re in the process of getting our California drivers license converted to a European drivers license so we can occasionally rent a car or participate in a car-share program. Its an excessively cumbersome and expensive process which I’ll write about later.
In the meantime, we’re on our bikes like about half of Munich. Sometimes I get passed by some 14 year old girl who is sitting up write texting on her phone which annoys me much. Not that she’s text but that she’s passing me while riding hands free. Sometimes I am passed by a proper suburban matron with shopping bags from expensive stores dangling from the handlebars. Sometimes I pass women my age with their purse in their bike basket. Everyone is out on their bike getting where they want to go. The best one of all were two women coming toward us just after we left the house last weekend. One was a woman in her late sixties in polyester and teased up hair and you know she has a pack of cigarettes in her purse and you know she puts down classic Bavarian food on the table and you know you don’t back talk. But there she is, on her bike and running her errands. Next to her was a little old lady nurse nun. 5’2″ tall, wire thin, in an all white nurse uniform and cap. Watching her whip past us on her bike we were thinking – wow, 1939 just rode past us at a serious rate of speed.
I love riding my bike. Not only is it a very human way to travel, I feel like I’m ten years old all over again!