This week is Bay State Bike Week, according to the press release that landed in my inbox this morning.
Everyone from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to local commuters should do their part to raise awareness and keep Massachusetts clean, the press release said. I too should take action.
The thing is, I can’t.
I’m a 25-year-old Vineyard girl who cannot ride a bicycle.
There are pictures of me on a summer evening down on West Chop on the bike. I look happy and proud, grinning from ear to ear with two front teeth missing, so I know I can do it.
It’s not because no one in my family bikes — my father is a fanatic.
It’s not because I do not like the outdoors. I pine for the outdoors. Waking up early to walk along the beach in summer before there are any other footprints in the sand, I let the waves kiss my bare toes and feel just so lucky. The golden days of fall are made for hiking Vineyard trails, I believe, from the time the leaves start turning brown and orange until they lie in piles on the ground. In winter, I’ll head outside no matter the weather, wearing two sweaters and three pairs of socks just to keep warm. And a few months ago, when the first flowers popped their heads above ground, I grabbed a complete stranger because I could not keep the excitement to myself.
And there have been plenty of offers to teach me over the years. My mother once predicted that one day I would meet a man who loved to bike and he would offer to teach me and I would want to bike with him until the sun set. Well, last summer I did meet a man who loved to bike and he offered to teach me. He even offered to find some training wheels and put bubble wrap around my elbows for extra padding, but I simply had no interest.
No, I don’t know how to ride a bike because of sheer stubbornness. I still remember the day I fell off my bike. I was about eight and I dusted myself off and thought, “Well, enough of that.” I never got back on and I never looked back.
Until last week, on one of the first undeniably spring days. Driving to work, I saw a young woman my age riding her bike to the office. The trees exploded in flowers of white and lilac and soft pink above her head and she was beaming. At that moment, I wanted to feel the wind whip my cheeks, feel the soft spring petals shower down on my shoulders while whizzing by drivers stuck in the morning commute.
So now I’m doing my part to celebrate bike week. If someone offers me a bike to borrow — and a helmet and some elbow pads and perhaps a set of training wheels — I will get back on the bike. And when I fall, I’ll dust myself off and this time, I’ll get back on.
A former Gazette reporter, Julia Rappaport is the assistant lifestyle and features editor at the Boston Herald.