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.
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!