My parents church is about a mile from their house. She takes residential side streets that have a low speed limit and little car traffic. She also bikes on up to the local library a few more miles north with books in-tow in a back pack. She enjoys the short commute and gets some exercise. She also is a trend-setter within her church group, demonstrating to others just how easy and fun it can be! I asked her why she does it, and she said that she likes the exercise, it's close and it's better for the environment. I can't argue with those reasons.
This is big news, as my parents live in a car-friendly suburb of Grandville, Michigan outside of Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids has recently made some pretty big strides in becoming bike-friendly, which is something worth noting. Michigan was home to the auto-industry for the 20th century, and the state and local communities were quick to develop the roads to support the state's largest industry.
Growing up, like many families, we drove everywhere. To church, school, movies, the mall, sports games. Many of these places were within a 15 minute drive (or less), but riding bikes was not a realistic, safe option for a family with kids in tow.
We were lucky because part of the Kent Trails was located about two miles from our house along an old abandoned rail line. This provided our family great recreational riding opportunities. We loved riding to a local ice cream shop at one of the of the trail. As a teenager, I enjoyed the experience of long, solo rides. My parents continue to use the trail as a part of their exercise routine. As my brother and I left the house, my mom rediscovered her love of biking. She and my dad got new bikes, and soon thereafter began riding in neighborhoods and along shorter trails in the community.
My mom's decision to bike to get around town is new and has been recent. Hearing her story has been inspirational. Biking 450 miles is pretty awesome, especially since she's not training for any races! She knows that I've been getting around by bike since 2006, and she may have initially drawn some inspiration from me. Now, though, I see her decision to try something new and to be comfortable with doing something different as continued motivation for me. On days when I need a little extra push when I'm riding to work, I think of my mom.