Bike Friendly Richardson

I Bike Richardson – James Berger

Posted in I Bike Richardson by dickdavid on June 7, 2011

Welcome to the fist installment of the I Bike Richardson series, where we put a face on Richardson cyclists. We’d like to introduce, James Berger, who shares his story about growing up with bikes in Ohio and coming back to them as an adult, living in Richardson. Enjoy:

Cycling. It’s what you do when you don’t have a car. Right? The answer is weirder than I would have imagined until this point.

When I was young, I cycled. A lot. In the summer, when school was out and the days were long and bright, I’d get in between 80 to 100 miles in a day, just exploring the city and the urban environment around me. Time went by, and I went to college and started driving. It’s Texas, after all. No one walks unless they’re forced to. Unlike where I grew up, everything is spaced out in wide disarray. Streets were made on virgin land where pedestrian traffic had never been a concern.

Before cars became common, walking was something people engaged in a bit more often from what I can infer. The streets in Ohio were built with pedestrians in mind. And carriages. If you’ve ever wondered as to the reason that Texas streets are incredibly wide in comparison to their northern brethren, let’s just say that streets originally designed for horse-drawn carriages are a much more narrow affair. That and the amount of land that’s been spoken for since time immemorial.

Narrow or not, they all had generous sidewalks, and their cramped nature kept traffic at a much more cyclist-friendly level, both in amount and speed. If you wanted to go somewhere nearby, the frustrations of driving those cramped streets made cycling a reasonable alternative. I brought my bike with me to college, but between the lack of sidewalks on many area streets and the temperament of Texas drivers where cyclists were concerned – “Oh look, something to ignore / take my aggression out on!” – I only cycled around the campus. And the campus wasn’t large enough to make cycling a better choice than walking more often than not.

And so I drove whenever I needed to leave the campus. Cycling down to Fry’s for spare computer parts just wasn’t an option. I graduated and drove some more. On taking a steady, responsible sort of job, I drove an hour or two every day in the regular commute. Much of it in frustration-inducing rush hour traffic. Dallas is one of the ten worst cities in the entire nation when it comes to traffic congestion. If you live there, a bit over 50 hours of your life, every year, is wasted this way1.

My wife took an interest in cycling at some point, and before long, bikes were multiplying like rabbits in the house. Not much later, I was going to her when I had a cycling related question, where it was once the other way around. And her enthusiasm roused something in me I once though dead from neglect, cynicism and the perceived reality of the world around me.

I dusted off my mountain bike, inflated the tires that had been flat for longer than I’d been in college, cleaned the chain a bit, looked at the rust speckling the unpainted metal portions, shrugged, left it where it was, and cycled out the door.

Something came to me within that short space of time before I reached the end of the block. This was fun. A lot of fun, actually. The cold, clinical experience riding inside of a car was replaced by something joyous. I swerved side to side, jumped up curbs, down curbs and laughed.

Time went by, and the experience of using a mountain bike on flat terrain where you didn’t have to constantly fight buckling concrete and corners that had never heard of street-level ramps began to make me wonder if a different bike might be better. One without the all-terrain knobby tread that that came with a massive amount of rolling resistance. A road bike, in other words.

And so I searched Craigslist for a good ‘project bike’. A frame in good condition that could be upgraded bit by bit. My wife’s interest in rebuilding classic French bikes made me realize that a bike didn’t necessarily have to be something you found at the store, brought home, and never changed a bit of, save the occasional tune-up.

Then I found other people that enjoyed cycling, near my age and delightfully nerdy. It became a form of socialization as well, something that I’d greatly missed after college. People you could chat with about things other than what needed to happen next at work. Or the weather, or how their dogs were constantly getting into your yard. Things that made you think outside of the dreadfully diminished box the world had become when most of your waking hours were spent in the corporate environment. It’s nice to think of things other than that. Very nice indeed.

Cycling brought something back to me, something that had slipped away over the years without being noticed. The joy of riding a bike and going down the road, where what you experienced on the journey was enjoyable, rather than being something endured begrudgingly in a car. And feeling the world fly by, your own muscles propelling you – that is joy.

1Texas Transportation Institute’s 2009 Urban Mobility Report

We want to thank James, for inspiring us with such an awesome story. We’d also like to extend an invitation to any cyclist who lives and/or rides in Richardson to share their story as well.

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  1. […] I Bike Richardson – James Berger by dickdavid Welcome to the fist installment of the I Bike Richardson Series, where we put a face on Richardson cyclists. We’d like to introduce, James Berger, who shares his story about growing up with bikes in Ohio and coming back to them as an adult, living in Richardson. Enjoy:… […]

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