Bicycling: From Here to There

Madison is ranked as one of the top cycling cities in the United States.  In fact, the League of American Bicyclists has rated Madison a Platinum Biking City, one of only four cities in the country to receive this recognition.  We have more than 200 bike trails totaling 100 miles, all within the city.  Many more trails stretch out into the nearby countryside.

People in this city are definitely encouraged to bike!  If you don’t have a bike, not to worry — rent a bike from B-Cycle, a bike-sharing program with 40 rental hubs around town and 350 bikes to rent out.

For many people, bicycling is an everyday occupation.  For some, it is their primary means of getting around as well as a source of healthful exercise.  I bicycled for pleasure, exercise, and getting places for many years.

When I was a young girl growing up, my friends and I waited with eager anticipation for the day when we would get our first bicycles.  I was 9 years old when I got mine — a red Shelby bicycle with white trim.  Attached to the handlebars was a woven bicycle basket that my mother had ordered from a magazine ad, made by “the blind.”  It was a beautiful sturdy basket, much better for carrying things than the wire baskets that all my friends had.  I remember, however, that it took some grit on my part to get used to it, and to come to accept and like it.  It’s difficult at that age to be the “only one” when it comes to just about anything.

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Now it has been, probably, at least 20 years since I last rode a bicycle.  I don’t remember why, but, at some point, I stopped.  Part of me has wanted to get back to it, so I recently ventured out to a bicycle shop.  A very helpful young clerk gave me some background on what bicycles are like now days; he found a bicycle that would fit me and encouraged me to try it out in the parking area behind the store.

Disaster!!  I managed to pedal the bike forward for a few yards and then I inexplicably simply stopped, hung upright for a few seconds, and then promptly fell over sideways onto the pavement.  Right out of a Monty Python sketch.   It was like I had lost all those instincts and reflexes that came so naturally in my younger days.  I came back home that day with scrapes and bruises.  I don’t think cycling is destined to become a part of my everyday life again.

So its not quite true that once you learn how to ride a bicycle, you will never forget.  At least not for me.  I do still remember that dress, however.  Yellow and black plaid with ribbon decorating the sleeves and neckline.  Apparently worn on my 9th birthday!  

14 thoughts on “Bicycling: From Here to There

  1. Oh, Betty, how true. I too missed a bike. Living in Southern California there is so much nice weather and I remembered the feel of the breeze as I rode along. Even a little later than your story, I rode my bike to campus with our son David on a bike seat behind me until he got too big. And I rememberrides along rural Iowa roads with the corn fields on either side.
    Well in one move or another over the years my ignored bike disappeared, so I too went to a bike shop. I’m twice the weight I was, so I rode a sturdy “twixtie” around the lot. I got further than you–took it home, along with a helmet and nifty bell. Rode it for several blocks around the neighborhood, but felt anxious, struggling to control it, fearful unless I had the entire street to maneuver in! It is taking up space in the garage (and a guilty chunk from the checkbook) and I just don’t get up the nerve to try again.

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  2. Such a beautiful picture Betty. My parents didn’t take many photos of us so the few that I have, I really cherish. They are such an important source of memories.

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  3. This blog post and the joyous photo of you on your bike made my heart smile. It was a poignant reminder of occupations that, either by choice or circumstances, we leave behind as we age. One of my personal favorites is enjoying the feeling of freedom from cares while soaring thru the air on a swing singing my favorite songs. Thanks for reconnecting me to that young girl again.

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  4. Hi Betty,
    I fell and broke my hip 2 years ago. I really wanted to enjoy biking again. At 62 and not in good shape I was not planning on heavy duty biking. I looked at the three wheeled Bicycle options over time. 18 months ago I bought a three wheeled recumbent bike with the two wheels in front for better turn stability. I LOVE it! It took me some practice to feel confident even with three wheels but I learned by doing. 😀. The older I get the more I love occupational therapy. Warm regards, sandy ceranski

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  5. Thank you for this wonderful reflection, Betty, including the beautiful picture of you as a young girl on your bike with the basket! It is interesting how we leave once-loved occupations behind, and how others persist. So glad one your persisting occupations is writing, particularly writing the Everyday Occupation blog!

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  6. Betty,
    I was out of town when you first posted this–a wonderful recollection of past and recent bike escapades! And I also am intrigued by the beautiful picture. Like others who’ve commented, I biked for many younger years, and husband Steve and I had a seat on the front and back of his bike and mine had one on the back for our three pre-schoolers when we were in Madison. After they were older and biking independently, we rode around Lake Monona. Recently, after many years sans biking, we were inspired to check out the bike trails in our beautiful Forest Park in St. Louis. However, you demonstrated more courage re 2-wheelers. At this point I’d do the 3- wheelers, if possible. Thanks so much for sharing these delightful personal occupation-based stories!

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