DAY 14: Why I rode my bicycle on inauguration day

Some of you celebrated. Others protested. I rode.

Brains are happier on a bike, and mine needed a break. After the primaries, the debates and the cringe-inducing election, I needed days on the bike to recover. I got 30 minutes today before the rain and responsibilities forced me inside.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is our country’s skinniest national treasure. That’s Nicole out front. 

It wasn’t nearly enough. So, I thought back to a ride I did 10 years ago. The 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway is a paradise for cyclists. Just a few miles across, it winds through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. It’s maintained by the U.S. National Park Service and has little car traffic.

Second from left is a rider we met on the Trace. Our group included Becky, Dave and Nicole.

I rode with three people I met through the Adventure Cycling website. Nicole, the trip instigator, did route sales for Coca-Cola. She made deliveries to stores just off the Trace. She was intrigued by the people who rode the Trace. She wanted to know where they lived, what made them ride and how they prepared. Soon she couldn’t resist; she had to try it herself.

‘Where did I go wrong?’

When I told my mother the plan, she asked the inevitable question: “Where did I go wrong?” I instantly knew the answer, even though I hadn’t thought of it for decades.

My first bike. Training wheels and a cowboy shirt. Awesome combo.

When I was 10, I lived in New Orleans. After much pleading, I convinced my mother to let me ride bikes with two friends to Hoppers Drive-in on Veterans Highway. It was close and easily accessible from neighborhood streets. I’m sure she was terrified the whole time I was gone, but that day changed everything for me. It was the first time I recall feeling independent.

Seeing the world differently

Our 90-day car-free experiment—especially riding the bus—has fostered that same sense of independence. When I’m on the bus, biking or walking, I see people differently. I’m more open, not as fearful.

President Trump will enjoy cycling in his new hometown.

It turns out that I’m not alone. A 2013 study found that pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders see the world in a different way from people driving cars. When you’re isolated in a car, you’re more likely to be suspicious of unfamiliar streets. You’re more hostile to less affluent neighborhoods.

My advice to President Trump is to ditch the motorcade. Take some time to walk and use public transportation. Washington, D.C. has a great transit system. Check it out.

Your new hometown is also one of the best big cities for cycling. If that sounds scary, buddy up with Rick Perry. He’s a big cyclist, and everyone knows that he’ll be packing heat.

Photo credit: 2010 06 23 – 1014 – Washington DC – Pennsylvania Ave Bike Lanes by Bossi, licensed under CC 2.0