Bicycling Ecologies

Atomic Reshuffle by Vicki Genfan

Bicycling perpetually lifts the human spirit and opens the human mind.  Moving our legs sets in motion the pumping of the heart at a faster rhythm and makes our bodies flush with blood.  Our mind circulates with our legs.  The first twenty minutes of a ride sometimes includes a rapture of thought bursting out of nowhere.  There is also some kind of deeper inscription of the experience going on inside. You caste off a good deal of your self-consciousness and a gateway opens to the world around you.  Wisdom sits in places.  Ride out into it.  Charge forward like a ray of light barely bending with gravity.  Immerse yourself.  Be a part of the new social dimension in landscape change through your authentic experiences.

“Take into account a wider range of points of origin and points of view, and the most prosaic and pedestrian landscape lights up with meaning.”  Patricia Nelson Limerick, Something in the Soil

What opportunities does the landscape provide for people to flow freely to destinations in all directions and places?  How much do landscapes of risk impose on the joy of discovery and meaningful relationships between humans and between humans and the greater environment?  Is it an egalitarian landscape where all people share power regardless of rank, class or status or a specialized one with hierarchies dominating via force?  What kind of living can you make here, and what kind of freedoms of choice are apparent, and hidden?  What is the full story of the human presence here?  Are we including the full range of all human participants or cutting out populations and seeing something incomplete?  Are we learning from the land and biosphere and in congruence with it so it sustains us, heals us, and illuminates our presence?

These questions and more I’ll be investigating in an upcoming series of studies on practicing bicyclists called Bicycling Ecologies.  I’ll investigate human relationships in the context of the physical environment, both the built landscape and underlying natural structure, with a special attention to the insights garnered from the complex heritage and identities inherent in the bicycling population.  Rather than survey data my inquiry will be conversation based so that I may listen fully and carefully to complete individual experiences.

“To Generalize is to be an Idiot.

To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit.”

–William Blake, epigraph to Provincial England

Paradoxically vulnerability–as in loving–is the only way to experience a fuller range of human power. This is one of the basic reasons why bicyclists are motivated to build a culture based on trust and understanding.  What is this great yet subtle power inherent in bicycling all about, this power that can heal the body, inspire the mind and invigorate the soul, promoting resiliency in human relations and society?  What is it about bicycling that encourages us to face ourselves and reckon with our deepest set problems and histories?  How does riding and walking help us shake off habit and convention to innovate new directions forward?  I’m working hard to find out more!  And I am thankful this investigation requires more bicycling.


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