half-time report from 30 days of biking in april

View from George Washington Bridge
The veiw over the railing of the George Washington Bridge on Day #17 of 30 Days of Biking. photo: velojoy

For the month of April, I signed on for the 30 Days of Biking challenge. It’s as simple as it sounds: you register at www.30daysofbiking.com and pledge to ride your bike every day, then share updates via social media. This is my half-time (plus a few days) progress report.

Since I’m a regular cyclist anyway, 30 Days of Biking has been less about motivation than about tuning in to the ride – exploring the particular engagement with the world that this mode of transportation and recreation affords and that I love best about it.

Like many participants, I’ve found that documenting my rides has helped anchor each day in time and place. For example, Sunday was Day #17, and in a small homage to one of my favorite photographers, Edward Burtynsky, I paused on my ride across the George Washington Bridge to capture the topography along with its lilliputian populous (above).

Exhilaration of Engaging with Nature

On the New Jersey side of the bridge, with miles of time on the ride to Piermont, New York, I reflected on the differences between how the cyclists and the motorists on Route 9W were experiencing the road that day — not in a smug way,  just as a matter of contrast, and in appreciation of the exhilaration that accompanies interaction with the elements. I thought:

If I’m in a car, I’ll probably notice the bright blur of spring forsythia along the highway. But I won’t see cherry blossom petals pressed like pink confetti into the blacktop beneath my bicycle tires. While traveling inside a car, I’ll hear the radio or my mobile phone, but not the rush of the roadside stream, whipped up by last night’s storm, or the weird chirps and croaks from the wetland creatures that populate the Sparkill. In a car, my road is smoothed by sophisticated suspension, and conquering a hill is a simple matter of pressing an accelerator; on my bike, each incline registers on muscle and breath, and the wind, depending on which direction I’m traveling, is either conspirator or foe. The smoky smell of bacon issuing from the roadside deli? That’s not something I’ll be likely to savor from my car either.

And so it went — one ride, one photograph, one set of thoughts — among 18 days so far.

Maybe They’re on to Something

On April 1, I smiled when I read the following message in the #30daysofbiking twitter stream: “But I already ride my bike every day. Have I been doing something wrong?”

Whether intended or not, the writer’s comment highlights a certain artificiality in set-ups like 30 Days of Biking. But so what? The point is to plant people on bike saddles, to encourage them to soak up the fun and adventure of the road and to share it with a broader community.

It’s been fun to view fellow participants’ photos of far-off mountaintops and rural vistas, to read messages about coffee runs, supportive friends, dropped chains and toughing it out through wind and rain. Here in the #bikenyc twitter stream, recent messages about 30 Days of Biking have focused on trips to ballet classes with daughters, sore hamstrings and road rash, multi-borough hops and biking to bagel joints.

The organizers, Patrick Stephenson and Zachariah Schaap, cycling enthusiasts from Minneapolis who wanted to encourage biking among their friends, report that almost 2,000 people from across the country and around the world registered — triple last year’s number. I think they’re onto something…

Are you participating in 30 Days of Biking? What’s been your favorite ride so far?

photo: velojoy

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  • Wow, what a view, what a great photo. Got my Public bike (inspired by one of your posts) and am going to set out slowly…maybe some day I will be up for the types of challenges you write about. I hope so! thanks for the inspiration!

  • Stopping at the grocery store on the way home to pick up something fresh for dinner is much nicer than slogging out on Saturday to get a week’s worth of groceries. Folding panniers are a wonderful accessory.

    • Couldn’t agree more about buying fresh! Do you use the wire panniers that fold flat against the bike when not in use?

  • Nice shot! 30 days of biking has been about appreciating that I am already out there on a bike 365 days a year( only grounded my bike 2 days in the past year due to blizzard/ice). And though the weather’s been crazy this spring, it’s been a joy to be in tune with the seasonal changes. Smelling the cherry blossoms in CP, seeing seasonal riders getting back on their bikes on nice days, and connecting with other people. I’ve struck up conversations with pedestrians, motorists and other people on bikes. I love when I’m waiting at a red light and the driver in the car next to me asks me about my bike…many of them tell me about wanting to get back on a bike again. I tell them, “Join us! Once you get started, you’re going to love it.”

    Added gratitude for the growing bike lane infrastructure in NYC. Thank you JSK, Mayor Bloomberg, TransAlt, Brad Lander, Gail Brewer and those who have helped make this happen and continue to support BikeNYC!

    I also love that DeLaVega has made drawings of his “Become Your Dream” in the CP bike lane at least three times that I know of in the last two weeks!

    • Liz, you are such a positive voice for cycling in NYC — in word and example. The engagement with the seasons that you mention is one of my favorite reasons to ride a bicycle. I think that it actually made the tough winter here more bearable. (Cool to hear about the de la Vegas, too!)

  • Riding is always a lot more interesting than taking the subway, and the great thing about #30daysofbiking is that it breaks down the resistance you might have to actually getting in the saddle every day. Some good rides come out that way.

  • you have done it again, brought joy, velojoy, to my morning! Always an inspiring, entertaining read… makes me just want to get out there and ride, and ride, and ride……. and perhaps to never turn back.
    I adore the seasons, especially riding in them, surrounded by them and being present with what ever they might bring!

  • I’m another regular rider reflecting on just what’s different about the 30 Days of Biking. For me, it’s the daily search for something special to photograph and blog about. Sometimes, it’s other people’s ride reports that brighten my day. That picture from the bridge, for instance.

    My favorite ride so far was on a snowy Minnesota morning. The snow just moistened the pavement, but it decorated the greening grass and every twig and pine needle with white lace. There’s something quiet about riding through falling snow.

    • Mary, thanks for your comment, and for sharing the wonderful details of your ride in Minnesota. You’re so right about the peaceful feeling of riding in the snow — but I hope that’s giving way to some spring weather in your area!

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