EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m excited to feature this post by Aviva Stephens, a Seattle native and financial professional who discovered the benefits and joys of cycling on her challenging work commute between Ballard and the Eastside. Find more of her writing on Medium and follow her on Instagram at @avivarachelle.
I am a working stiff in the corporate rat race where I spend most days tethered to desks, meeting rooms, conference calls, cocktail bars, and motor vehicles: which means a lot of sitting. Early in my career I found that I could not sit for long periods of time so I learned to use a standing desk, take frequent breaks, and not work crazy hours, but I always struggled to incorporate sufficient exercise into my daily routine. Since I am in an occupation that’s known to be stressful (not sure which occupation is relaxing) I took up yoga and got really into it for some time. While yoga is a great all body workout and helped me stop smoking, it’s expensive and yoga studios have an ironically pretentious and cultish environment that I could never quite get with.
Bikes in Seattle
As a struggle to vinyasa some sun salutations into my daily routine, I saw that the bike community in Seattle had grown beyond bike messengers and white middle aged weekend carbon fiber road bike worriers (aka, Lance Armstrong drones). During this time, I moved into a sweet new pad and next door to Swift Industries (the most awesome bike bag company), and they inspired to hop on the bike!
Well … it didn’t happen overnight. While my friends at Swift were super inspiring, I was super intimidated to ride a bike in Seattle (hills, rain, hair, cold, traffic, sweat, apparel, can I even ride a bike?) and they were my neighbors for at least a year before I took the leap onto the peddles.
Although I loved riding my bike as a kid, the adult version was overwhelming and elusive. The turning point came when I got a new job and had to endure a long commute for the first time in my career. After a year, I finally lost it on a hot August evening after sitting in traffic for more than 2 hours. When I finally got home, all I could do was drink wine and eye guzzle some Netflix crap that I had already consumed.
Barrier to entry
During the hot August days, I was eager to get on a bike (and out of traffic) no matter what the challenge. Hence, I faced my fears and focused on how I could incorporate a bike into my daily commute.
My challenges included:
- Weather — I live in Seattle, known for its hills and rain
- Hair — My Afro will not fit in a bike helmet
- Community— Professional black women don’t ride bikes to work
- Infrastructure — Sidewalks, bike trails, bus bike racks, roads with cars, cars
- Gear — Can I wear my black lace bodycon dress on a bike?
- Bike — Beach cruiser, mountain, road, carbon fiber, tricycle, fixie