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Bringing Ahimsa into Everyday Life – A Winter Biker’s Tale

Posted by on Feb 22, 2018

With waterproof panniers and a reflective, rugged messenger bag, I felt bad ass….until it started to rain.

I’ve always been a fair weather bike rider.  A little too much wind, stormy clouds on the horizon and I’m finding alternate form of transportation.  That is, until last year.  My partner and I agreed, that we really didn’t need both of our cars. Even though I loved, my little two seater, ultra fuel efficient 2001 Honda Insight, I really didn’t need to drive it the 5 minutes it took to get to work every day. Our four door Prius wagon has more than enough room for all of our gear, was still fuel efficient and could take us, the dog, all of our gear and our other passengers to the mountains and back. I sold my car and this started my journey into bike commuting.  On a sunny day with the wind at my back, it still only takes 5 minutes to get to work. With waterproof panniers, a reflective, rugged messenger bag, I felt bad ass.  That is until it started to rain.  When your partner leaves town with the car, you have to figure things out, so I got some rain gear.  My parents ever concerned for may safety, bought me the best reflective vest with bright flashing lights.  You can’t miss me on the road at night.  I enjoyed riding to work, to get groceries and meet friends.  I learned how to pack lighter, how to keep my eye out for car doors swinging in my direction, and errant bottles blowing on the street right in my path.

Biking has made me feel less isolated, more connected to my community and to the earth. 

Then, the weather started turning colder and the snow started to fall.  I put my summer bike in for the winter, started getting up earlier and walking to work.  Even though many of you see me at the office every morning at 8am. I am not a natural morning person.  The difference between a 5-10 minute bike commute and walking to work in 25 minutes is huge for me.  I don’t love getting up early.  My partner suggested that he could put together a winter bike for me.  He had an old mountain bike frame in the basement with studded tires, and could get me set up in a snap.  In reality it took a couple of months, but with the help of the Old Spokes Home, and my partner, I had a rough and rugged winter bike.  I was nervous taking it out on the road.  Winter drivers are not looking out for bikes when there is snow on the ground.  The one protected bike lane in Burlington is only intermittently usable,  and is a total hazard much of the time as the plows keep taking down the barriers. Even in the summer months drivers can be very aggressive towards bikers.  I’ve been squeezed into curbs, yelled at for being on the road and told to get back on the sidewalk (it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Burlington).  However, there are a lot of positives.  Last week I was called Badass by a couple of young women at a stop light.  I get 20 minutes of good cardiovascular exercise every day, because my 5 minute down the hill commute to work, is 15-20 minutes uphill on the way home. I’m also not using my car. Reducing my carbon footprint by not driving is also a great way to practice Ahimsa (non-harming).

Ahimsa is the attribute of the soul and therefore to be practiced by everybody in all the affairs of life. – Mahatma Gandhi

During February we’ve been examining the ways our thoughts and actions can be non-violent towards ourselves and others.  Stretching that ethos out to the planet is an important component of Ahimsa.  You may not have the advantage of living within walking distance, bike ride of your work.  However, you can compost, car share, use public transportation, reduce your waste somehow.  There is no shortage of information on how to live a greener life.  We know how to do it, but fall into patterns that are habitual.  I never in my wildest dream thought I would become a winter biker.  Even on the coldest days, with a winter helmet, goggles, ski mitts and a sturdy jacket, I’m pretty toasty. It’s amazing how the stories we tell ourselves about what we can or can’t do, limit us.  We don’t get to feel the sun on our face, get to know the people on the street that we pass by when we are in our cars.  Biking has made me feel less isolated, more connected to my community and to the earth.  In short, it feels good even in the winter.  So I challenge you.  Step out of your comfort zone.  Commit to a change for just one week.  Experience the effects for yourself. Be badass!

Written by- Janet Carscadden