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  • Opticos Bikes

    Karen Parolek: Why I Bike

    I was 36-years-old before I owned my first pair of adult-sized rain boots. I don’t remember if I had any as a kid, but it had never occurred to me to buy them as an adult. After buying my daughter a new pair each year for five years, I finally realized that I could buy my own pair (and I wouldn’t grow out of them in a year). Owning rain boots gives me the freedom to jump in puddles, which I do whenever I can. Better yet, I now own rain pants and a good rain jacket, and rain fenders on my bike, so I can ride through puddles, spraying water everywhere. Enjoying a life of biking and walking keeps me young in so many ways.

    On my bike ride home from work, I have found the perfect hill. It’s a half-block long, perfect to go down full-speed (without exceeding the speed limit) and still have room to glide to a stop before the next intersection. It’s also been recently repaved, so the ride is smooth and glorious, like a perfect snow hill. A squeal often escapes my lips on the way down. I consider this hill my gateway between work and home, to release the work stress of the day.

    I also ride my kids to and from school. My son, now three, rides his push-bike along the sidewalk, as I ride next to him in the street. He doesn’t have pedals yet, which limits his speed and makes for easy stops along the way. When I’m in a hurry, this can be frustrating. My goal, though, is to use this time to live life closer to his preferred pace. I’ve learned to bring along my cup of tea, and every time he stops to look at a worm crossing the sidewalk or the water running under the bridge along the way, I take a sip of tea to remind myself to slow down and enjoy these moments.

    My daughter, now 10, occasionally rides her bike home from school with her friends, sans adults. I have confidence in her ability to ride safely because I’ve made the same bike commute together with her for six years. I’ve used that time to teach her—how to ride safely and defensively, how to be considerate of others, and how the rules of the road work; essentially, how to be safe, responsible, courteous, and independent. She has soaked these up like a sponge because she was young enough to still listen to my input and I was there to guide her as she learned to implement it. If I had waited until she was 15 to teach her the rules of the road, she might have cared less what I had to say about being courteous of others and taking her turn at the stop sign. Now I have more trust that these things are part of who she is.

    Riding my bike is a gift I give to myself. It’s a way to remind myself of the parent and person I want to be. But mostly, it’s just fun—splashing through puddles, squealing down hills, stopping to watch the worms with my son, and watching my daughter learn and grow. What could be better than that?

    – Karen

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