Car-Free Traverse City is a year long story series inspired by BATA’s Tyler Bevier that highlights ordinary people doing ordinary things without a car in TC.
February 2017: Part I
by Maria Kinney
I’ve always been in awe of them. From the comfort of my living room, I’ve often watched through the window as they cruise along my street, their fancy fat tires cutting through snow drifts like butter. “I could do that!” I think, until I wake up and look at the blowing snow outside my door and reach for my boyfriend’s car keys. Again.
Winter bikers! What do they have that I don’t—muscles, gear, willpower, more caffeine? Is it hard? Is it safe? And do I really need those fancy tires anyway?
I’m about to find out. Because here I am, 8:30 at night, wrapped in a balaclava, trying to get onto an old mountain bike (no fancy tires here) but my long winter coat is catching on the seat. It’s a real icy night and I just slid a bit, but caught myself before I wiped out completely. Phew! The gears are sticking (they say don’t ride a bike with gears but this is all I’ve got) and I’m having trouble getting traction to move forward. I signal to the nervous car behind me to go forward. The driver stops to ask if I’m okay. I’m reminded of why I love Traverse City.
Almost home. Minor difficulties. No sweat.
Also, it’s my birthday.
I’m typically a summer biker, haven’t owned a car in years. With biking, my everyday commute becomes an adventure. It presents to me a world I’d normally never see, moments I’d never have otherwise. Every minute I’d typically spend in a car I am nameless and faceless, removed from humanity, grumpily focused on traffic, circling for parking spots. With biking, I spend those moments in the fresh air, pumping my blood, riding across beautiful bridges or through tunnels of trees. I might stop to catch the sunset or say hello to a stranger.
Mostly, I feel good. It just makes me happy.
So far winter has been no different. Even with the challenge of the cold, I’m enjoying myself. Still, there are days when it is difficult to make it all work. Luckily, we have BATA.
BATA has a bike rack on the front of each bus (did you know that?). On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have to get the kids from school. So I bike to Glenn Loomis from my job at Higher Grounds and we walk to the bus stop at Veteran’s and 15th. Sydney, 10, and Arden, 8, love it! With their Zoom cards ready, they say hello to the driver and find their seats as I pop my bike on the rack. They are getting good at knowing when our stop is approaching, and like to take turns pulling the cord.
We make new friends every day as we all ride BATA home to Webster Street. Often, a young man sporting colorful, light-up headphones sits near us (Sydney thinks he is the coolest). Last week, a retired army paratrooper showed Arden his medals and shared stories about skydiving (he has made over 50 jumps in his lifetime). On that same day, as we turned onto Railroad Ave. we passed their dad working at the Rock Stop. We waved at each other through the window.
I still have the rest of the month to go, but so far it’s turning out to be great. A challenge, but great. I’m still not sure I’ll spring for any fancy gear—my basic setup is good enough for me—but I just might be a winter biker after all.
Car Free February, here I come!
Maria is an Oak Park resident, chalk artist extraordinaire, coffee nerd, top notch smore maker, and community activist. You can follow her adventures here : instagram.com/mariatherese
Passionate about a more walkable, bikeable, livable Traverse City? Get involved with our pro walk/pro bike advocacy grupo HERE.