Here’s the winning adult essay in the contest sponsored by Healthy Shasta, The Bike Shop and Safe Routes to School. Read more about it in Paul Shigley’s Take-Out Window column.
Having moved from the jungles of Africa to the streets of Redding in the last year has had many profound impacts on our family of four. Using a vehicle has been one of the greatest changes. A tank of gas lasted us for three months in the bush in Uganda. We walked and bicycled everywhere, my husband David rode up and down the dirt roads on a hand-me-down women’s bike that had seen a few too many years of use. His long legs, comically oversized for the pedal length and his six foot stature dwarfing the small frame. “Muzungu, muzungu!” the people would cry, calling out his white strangeness amidst their cocoa-brown faces. My husband didn’t mind how silly he looked, he was just happy to be on a bike.
After moving here, we spent our first month walking nearly everywhere and receiving frequent offers of rides! Our entire community seemed distressed that we were walking! Meanwhile we were just enjoying being outside, in the sun, and reminiscing our walking days in Uganda.
But the walking did get old. And my husband loves the feel of a bike under him. Loves the exercise and the speed. Loves the practicality and the mobility. He doesn’t have a bike yet, we haven’t found a decent one we can afford. But it doesn’t stop him from dreaming; he looks at bikes everywhere we go. And now that we’re about to become car-less once again, he revels in the thought of using a bicycle for everything, if only he had one.
Bicycling to school and on our errands each day would save us about $150 a month in gas money; money we could put towards our travel budget and our dreams of more time in Europe and Africa with our two children. It would set an amazing example to those two young ones who, after their simple African experiences, are too quickly learning the static ways of the typical American life. It would also offer us a chance to share our values on sustainability and responsible living with our friends and neighbors. It is so powerful to simply show our community that life without cars IS possible. And that Redding is a nearly perfect place for it.
And I just can’t wait to see his long limbs flying, his blond hair blowing, on a bike just his size. Just the size of his smile would change my life forever.