My main modes of travel are:
First and foremost, on foot. It was good enough for my hominid ancestors, and it’s good enough for me.
If it’s too far to walk to, given our time-starved culture, I hop on my bicycle.
If bicycling is impractical or the route required is downright frightening, I get on the bus or the BART.
If even that won’t get me where I’m going, or the load I must take is too heavy, I get a carshare car.
I realize that I am, like the salmon, swimming upstream with this way of life. I get frustrated as hell living like this. But I know that our choices are shaping our world, and I fear the direction we’re collectively driving in. I can’t go back, I don’t like where we are now, and I feel that for me this is the only way forward to a future we can live in, and live well.
It’s hard, though, trying to get across town in a world built for the automobile. It’s hard and scary sharing the road that people in cars think they own. I take the side streets whenever possible but even so, there are a few places in my daily commute where I have to use the busy arterials for short distances. Every day I’m passed at high speed, close enough to feel the wind suck at my clothes, by some entitled jerk who needs to get there a minute sooner and sees me as nothing more than an obstacle in their way.
My morning commute, being early, is actually pretty stress-free. But I used to ride in a rage-filled haze many afternoons. That wasn’t good for anyone, least of all me. This meditation has evolved over the last year or so, and has made my afternoon ride a whole lot easier.
The Bicycle Meditation
Gaia, you have given me everything. This road I roll on is made from your bones. Every part of this bicycle I ride has been made from something that came from you. Likewise my body, my very life!
Gaia, you have given me life! I offer you this bike ride, all these rides taken across Oakland, all these shining strands woven by my wheels back into the web of life, all these rides made under my own power, using the original biofuel. I offer you these, and my firm intention to stay on my feet, on this bicycle, on the bus.
Because we are world changers. We humans have the power to change your face to the point where other beings can no longer exist on it. If we take it far enough, we ourselves may no longer exist. I am glad to be aware of the ways that my choices change you, and to choose carefully, because all beings have the right to their homes, and their lives. They should never be killed without a reason, or without awareness.
But Gaia, I do ask you one thing. Protect me. Protect all bicyclists. Let us all arrive safe and happy at our destinations, having the most amazing fun, because people join a party.
And Gaia, may our numbers grow. May we become an expected, respected and protected form of traffic.
Gaia, may our numbers grow. May we be equal to the numbers of cars out here. May facilities and accommodations be built for us as well, so that we may travel safely across our cities. May every road, bridge and highway be open to us, and to all human-powered forms of transport. May I be able to travel from San Diego, California to Vancouver, B.C. if I choose. May I at least be able to ride across town with a bike trailer to buy groceries and have it be a safe and pleasant experience.
And Gaia, may our numbers grow. May we outnumber the cars. May human powered forms of transport be the way we get around. May we travel on foot, by bicycle, by scooter, skateboard and wheelchair. May we all honor and respect all road users as we travel at human speeds, that preserve social cues and let us interact with each other as we travel. May every neighborhood be a better place to live because we meet our neighbors every day on the streets, on the trails, on the buses. May we, as always, live with the consequences of our actions, and may those consequences include watching ourselves grow healthier, stronger and saner, as we watch you grow greener and healthier.