The Daily Gazette
The Locally Owned Voice Of The Capital Region

Bike challenge, Day 1

Until Monday, I’d never ridden a bicycle on an actual city street, competing for space with actual motorized vehicles.

But I was challenged to use a bike to get to every story I write about this week, and see for myself whether Schenectady is becoming a bike-friendly place.

It took me about a second to agree to give up the luxury of a broken-down car that burns $3-a-gallon gas.

Wait. $3-a-gallon would be considered a deal right now. A bike sounds fantastic!

The only trouble is that I don’t own one. Sure, I learned to ride as a kid — didn’t everyone? But I gave up biking when I bought my first car. And even though my cars have let me down again and again while the worst a bike ever threw at me was a flat tire that I could replace myself, I haven’t gone back. There’s just something enticingly easy about a car.

To meet the challenge, my friend Lyn Bouton offered me her only mode of transportation, a fancy bike with dozens of gears and brake lights and even a rear view mirror.

“When was the last time you rode?” she asked anxiously as she prepared to hand over her most precious possession.

I had somehow neglected to mention that it had been nearly 15 years. Or that my only experience was that of a kid riding on the sidewalk.

She winced as I wobbled around the parking lot, trying to remember how to turn and brake and not fall off. For a minute, I felt very, very awkward. But suddenly memories came flooding back and I was 10 years old again, laughing in the rain, feeling fast and free and far more connected to the world than I’d ever felt in a car.

I joyfully circled two parked cars, raced through a tiny hole between them, investigated little archways where my car would never have fit.

This was great. No, it was beyond great. It was fantastic.

How could I have gone so long without this?

Check back tomorrow for more about my adventures, and whether my legs were quite ready for a full week of pedaling.

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