How cycling changed my life in 2022

Taking photos at this year’s Pedalpalooza kickoff ride.

Like many others, I enjoy using the arbitrary date of January 1 as an excuse to look at what I’ve done and set some new goals. But I find that reading other people’s year-in-reviews can be a little like hearing them talk about their lengthy dreams. Still, when I look back at what’s changed in my life since last January, I can recognize how much I’ve grown as a result of biking. 

In addition to everything I’ve learned from talking to people for BikePortland stories, I learned a lot from my personal experiences going carfree and using a bike as my primary mode of transportation. I’d stopped using my car regularly months before, but at the beginning of last year I finally decided to ditch the vehicle that was gathering dust (and taking up on-street parking space). After I sold it, I was forced to bike if I had somewhere to go, even if I didn’t really feel like doing it. 

I ended up riding around 2,500 miles this year (I know that will be a paltry number to many BikePortland readers, but it’s far more than I’ve ever done before!). The effect all this biking had on my mental health and my quality of life in general can’t be overstated. 

If I may get personal for a minute: I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression for my whole life, and until this year, I hadn’t really figured out a healthy outlet for dealing with it. I’ve been especially prone to bouts of climate despair over the last several years — feelings that are difficult to treat, because in many ways, they’re a completely reasonable response to the madness happening around us. But it wasn’t reasonable for me to lie awake all night feeling sick with sadness that paralyzed me from being able to participate in climate action or meet people who were doing all they could to make a difference.

I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression for my whole life, and until this year, I hadn’t really figured out a healthy outlet for dealing with it.

Every time I drove my car, I couldn’t shake the cognitive dissonance. I understand that individual actions are not enough on their own, but for me, I immediately felt a new sense of purpose once I started living more in line with my ideals. And all the endorphins I got from biking didn’t hurt, either. 

Going on a bike ride will not solve all of the world’s problems, but I’ve found that it’s a pretty fail proof and sustainable way for me to feel better. I’ve found a wonderful sense of kinship within Portland’s bike community, and am always motivated by my love for this city that I’ve gotten to know so well by bike.

I especially cherish the memories of Pedalpalooza this summer: I think my heart grew about 10 sizes every time I heard someone say “thank you, corker!” It was wonderful to see so many people out on the streets having a great time and looking out for each other, and I eagerly anticipate the next Bike Summer.

It’s hard to recognize growth while it’s actively happening, but looking at myself from this vantage point, I can see how I’ve evolved since last year. At the end of 2021, I was neurotic and unsure and hadn’t figured out a way to deal with it. In no way am I fully “cured” now, but I feel like I have control over my life in a way I didn’t before. Some of this can simply be attributed to getting older, but I’d like to give a good deal of credit to my bicycle. 

As I look forward to 2023, I’m not going to set a resolution to bike any specific number of miles or exercise for a certain amount of time every day. I don’t want to set a competition with myself — I just want to do as much as I can to keep embracing what’s so beautiful about Portland and all the benefits biking can provide for people and communities at large. I’m beginning 2023 with a big adventure to Europe that I hope will set the stage for an exciting year with even more growth.

Happy New Year everyone, thanks for reading my work and for all your support this year. I look forward to continuing in 2023!

Taylor Griggs

Taylor Griggs

Taylor was BikePortland's staff writer from 2021 to 2023. She currently writes for the Portland Mercury. Contact her at taylorgriggswriter@gmail.com

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David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago

Congratulations!

I find that recording mileage, as you have done, is useful for medical reasons too. I was diagnosed with covid-induced type 2 diabetes last February and the more miles I actually ride, and the more often I ride, the easier it is to get my blood sugars back to a normal level (I prick my fingers and use test strips, but I’m finding my taste buds are just as effective – normal blood sugars = food tastes more delicious.) I made the lifestyle changes, eat far better than I used to with no added sugar or salt and far fewer carbs, got taken off the insulin after 8 months, now hoping to get off the usual pills sometime next year and lose more weight.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  David Hampsten

That’s impressive David. Congratulations to you.

TakeTheLane
TakeTheLane
1 year ago

Welcome!
I am glad to hear that you also find bicycling therapeutic. I find it to be a great outlet for anxiety and anger and a good way to get me going when depressed. I know that if I can get out there on my bike, climbing and descending the west hills of Portland, I will feel much better during and after.

MarkM
1 year ago
Reply to  TakeTheLane

I agree! From my 20s to my 40s, bicycling, hiking, and climbing were my go-to forms of therapy. From my 40s to my 60s, it’s been walking. The key theme in the activities I just listed is being active and outdoors, which has always been important to me.

Taylor, thank you for sharing.

Charley
Charley
1 year ago

That’s awesome!

I think there are lots of great reasons for riding. When I started bike commuting, I had the environmental impact of cycling (versus driving) at the top of my mind. At this point in my life, I keep riding mainly for my mental health.

Riding is invigorating and head-clearing, especially compared to the way urban driving makes me feel.

soren
1 year ago
Reply to  Charley

 I had the environmental impact of cycling (versus driving) at the top of my mind

It’s fascinating to me how people who often object to the misinformed individualism of “carbon footprints” can also believe that their individual choice to ride a bike has a meaningful “environmental impact”.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

On the macro level, I agree that the number after the 20th decimal place is probably not significant. And yet I find your dirision of people who make positive changes in their life motivated by reducing their personal emissions profile highly negative.

Even if they won’t single-handedly save the world, maybe finding an activity that is “invigorating and head clearing” is enough.

soren
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

Even if they won’t single-handedly save the world, maybe finding an activity that is “invigorating and head clearing” is enough.

IMO, the power of individual actions lies in their ability to communicate to others that it’s possible to make systemic changes without asceticism or austerity (anti-growtherism).

dirision of people who make positive changes in their life motivated by reducing their personal emissions profile highly negative.

I have no derision of people making “positive changes” (see above) and acknowledge that one motivation for making changes would be to foster hope for a better world. However, people who equate individual actions with “environmental impact” have at best missed the forest for the trees and at worst are echoing the “carbon footprint” propaganda of the fossil fuel industry.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  soren

IMO, the power of individual actions lies in their ability to communicate to others that it’s possible to make systemic changes without asceticism or austerity

And that’s exactly what this (Taylor and Charley) example is. At least Taylor acknowledged it. I know for me, I agree on the fact that individual action won’t solve climate change. But for me to suggest that we need to reduce driving, I have to prove to myself that it’s actually possible. I mean, I know it is possible to live without driving intellectually, but like you said, does it make life suck? The answer is of course no, but if I’m not doing it then why not?

Anyway, I think that’s the point. I ride a lot for climate reasons, but not for the reason that I think I’ll actually *fix it* with my actions.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Charley

Have a wonderful new year on that bicycle, Charley!

Sandy
Sandy
1 year ago

Bicying has been a wonderful coping mechanism for me since the 70’s into the 2020’s. Deference cycling when it comes to the right-of-way in lieu of being ‘dead’ right has always been a good practice with exponential growth blending bicyclists and (inexperienced) motorists. Question: ‘Why do bicyclists run so many STOP signs in Pdx?’ What cycling tips if any can you share? My tip is to assume the motorist person turning left is focused on cars and blinded to bikes has served me well too. Safe cycling to all 2023!

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Sandy

We run the stop signs because it is safe and legal to do so, when it is safe to do so. On a bike, you’re moving significantly slower and have a better field of view. You can see with plenty of time to stop if a car is coming. And for my part, when I can’t see well, I do stop (or California stop like most cars do).