The year is 2004. You and all the kids in your col-de-sac decide to take out the sidewalk chalk, the football, the frisbee, the jump rope, and the bikes. The girls will try to make the world’s longest hop-scotch track and the boys will throw the football in the midst of it all. The bikes lay to the side until one kid gets bored, grabs it, and pedals up the street with the other, now interested kids, in tow. If this wasn’t an accurate portrayal of your elementary school life outdoors then all I can say is sorry, because that was mine and it was great. I loved hop-scotch and jump rope but my favorite activity was by far biking. I waited eagerly for that moment everyone decided to grab the bikes and ditch the other activities so I could sit upon my pink, ribboned, basket adorned bicycle. I was proud to show it off, even though all the girls I knew had a similar one. I would of course graduate out of the ribboned bike and get a new ride to fit my growing maturity, but it wasn’t mandatory. I didn’t have to keep getting new bikes but I would, because I thought they were the ticket to freedom and a symbol of a carefree life.
The year is 2014. You and all of the kids in your col-de-sac have retired the sidewalk chalk, the football, the frisbee, the jump rope, and the bikes. The footballs we throw are for high school sports. The chalk we use now is for art projects. The bikes we ride are the mechanical ones at the gym. If you still have a bike, it sits as prey to cobwebs and dust in your dark and cold garage. It’s probably too small now, anyway. This picture is not one I particularly enjoy. Our generation has moved from outside activities to exercising inside a corporate facility with rows of equipment that is supposed to keep you fit. While I don’t disagree, for I, too, belong to a gym, I do disagree with the way it makes me feel. I don’t feel happy inside a gym. I feel like I have to suck it up, shut my mouth and get on a treadmill and remain in my own little bubble. This is not how it’s supposed to be. It is hard for me to find exercise fun, it almost always feels like a chore. The only time I can remember exercising for happiness was in elementary school, when I biked around the neighborhood. Today, biking around the neighborhood as an 18 year old is weird. Admit it. No one does it anymore because we’ve “outgrown” it. Instead, we’ve grown into commercialized mantras at the gym. I don’t know about you, but I would like my money back. And my bike.
Biking was so easy, and a great way to spend time with your friends. When my mom said we could go to the green way I was thrilled, because I knew I could block out the world and just ride. This next sentence will sound cliche, but it’s true. The breeze blowing in your hair mixed with the sun warming your skin was the perfect mixture of comfort and I get goosebumps every time. Remember, this was before we all had a car, so this was the most free we could feel at the time. And yes, I do realize that I could still do this. Who cares what everyone else thinks, right? While I do believe that, the one roadblock is that when I crave company, no one offers to ride alongside me. When I ask if any one wants to take a ride, I get “are you serious” looks. Why, yes, I am indeed serious. No one wants to bike anymore. No one thinks it’s fun anymore.
The year is 2004. Future me yanks the bike away from little me and says “you don’t need this. You’ll grow out of it. Try the gym.” Little me cries because I love that bike. I love the way I feel when I ride throughout the col-de-sac and up hills only to fly freely back down. That bike is the ticket to smiles, laughter and memories. Why would I want that taken away and “try a gym?” Why would I ever let myself grow out of such a beloved hobby? I can’t really answer little me, because I don’t really have an answer. We have all let ourselves believe that the gym is the ticket to happiness, when I beg to differ. I argue that it’s about time we restore bikes back to their former glory. Dust them off, take to the greenway with some friends and grab lunch afterward. Enjoy the freedom of breathing fresh air instead of stale oxygen breathed in and out by countless sweaty gym goers. You have the hall pass for winter because it’s cold, but the second spring hits, let’s bring our bikes back.