[This post originally appeared on the Our Streets Minneapolis blog]
There are many reasons I keep my car despite living in a city that in many ways makes it easier to go carless. Some of these reasons are rational needs, some are ingrained fears, some are wants that sometimes outweigh my knowledge of the damage of a car. Here are my barriers to biking.
Health, mobility, and disability:
Most of the people who know me, know I have some serious issues with my health that keep me dependent on medication and sometimes keep me from leaving the house. Every morning I wake up, take my pills, take my daily asthma inhaler, take my third allergy medication by nasal spray and then evaluate if today is a good day to do one of four things: 1) leave the house based on levels of pollution in the city and pollen if it’s spring or summer, 2) take my bike to work which is an aerobic exercise and can be dangerous if it’s a bad asthma day, 3) take the bus to work which means walking quite a bit or 4) take my car because it means the least amount of walking and interacting with the outside world.
When I type this out it sounds a lot worse than it is for me to do it everyday. I look at an app on my phone, make a quick evaluation based on how I’m feeling, take the same medications I’ve been taking for most of my life and then I go to work like everyone else or I work from home. Plus I get use all of the transportation this great city has to offer.
Harassment and discomfort:
When I moved to Minneapolis and began biking, harassment was something new to biking for me as I had been a mostly recreational biker. When moving over into biking in the city as a young woman, I tend to get cat-called at least once a day which was a big struggle for me at first and reduced the amount of times I would bike to work or to run errands at first. Another factor to this is discomfort at night and feeling unsafe, there are areas where I do not feel safe alone at night on a bike. If I know I am coming home late I tend to drive instead of bike or bus because I want to feel as safe as possible.
Convenience and car culture:
Sometimes using a car is just easier. If I am going longer distances, crossing certain areas, or picking up or dropping off large things I’m going to use my car. If I am leaving Minneapolis, to go to suburbs where the bicycle and bus facilities are not well done, I am going to use my car. Sometimes when I am just running late and I feel like it will take less time, I am going to use my car because our city is set up for cars.
Breaking down barriers:
All of these reasons are reasons why I keep my car, why I do not bike all year, and why I bus. But they are all also the reasons I bike in the city in the first place.
When I bike to work regularly I am getting aerobic exercise, which when my asthma is in control helps me get better control of my lung capacity which means I can more regularly bike to work. When I bike to work I know that I am reducing the pollution that makes it hard for me to breathe and for the millions of others in the U.S. who are struggling with lung conditions similar and much worse than mine.
When I bike I defy those who catcall me, those who are trying to make me feel less safe in my city. From my perspective one of the best ways to make the city safer for women is to just be visible, don’t go away, use the bike lanes, use the roads, advocate for yourself by not letting other people change your commute.
When I bike I show those who don’t believe bike infrastructure is worth the money or the space that I know it is worth the investment. Having bike infrastructure means I get to work safely. When I bike I show those who implemented it that I am grateful and I show myself that cars are not more convenient nor are they the only way to get around.