Two weeks later, my parents gave me a bike of my own: a forest green 15-speed with 26-inch wheels. I tasted freedom. Living on the cul-de-sac, however, made any real taste of freedom elusive until I learned to drive four years later. The bicycle was for riding around the circle, to my friends' houses in adjacent neighborhoods, and to the park by my brother's elementary school. It was until until just two months ago, when I moved to Philadelphia, when I really got to use my bicycle.
It suffices to say that I have grown a lot between fourteen and twenty-two, and when I first rode my bicycle down the street in front of our new house in August, my roommate asked if the tires were flat. "It seems low," she said. No, I replied, the bike is just really small for me.
Still, it took me anywhere and everywhere, and when I rode around I could feel a city of 1.4 million people growing smaller and more accessible. The bus and train are cheap, but are slow and don't always go where I'm headed. As a result, my bike became very handy for trips to South Street or the Art Museum. In the past two months, I have been cut off, flicked off and cussed out on the streets of Philadelphia. But it's worth getting to see the Schuylkill River at eye-level from a bike trail, or racing through Center City traffic late one Friday night with my friends.
I drove home to Maryland last weekend and came back Sunday night to find my bike lock cut and dangling from the "No Parking" sign I'd chained it to when I left on Thursday. Perhaps it was my fault. I should've taken the bike inside for the weekend, or at least chained it up on our porch. But my bike is gone, and I'm surprised at how heartbroken I am. I try to tell myself that somewhere, some fourteen-year-old kid is tasting freedom for the first time on my former wheels. It's better than thinking of the thug who snatched from in front of my house and probably sold it for drug money.
I never realized how much biking would change my life. Two months ago, you couldn't have told me that I'd carry home groceries or travel nine miles in one day without driving or catching a bus. I'm losing weight. I'm learning how to use hand tools. And I'm getting to know my new neighborhood and new city in a totally new way - perhaps not as slow and deliberative as on foot, but with far more intimacy than I could've from behind a windshield.
And I didn't even get to say goodbye.