But since coming to St. Louis, and especially since moving to south city, I've been biking a lot for both exploration and transportation. Just as running has become a significant part of my life, cycling has grown in its impact on my daily routine.
My commute is six miles each way. Most days I make that trip by bike; it takes about half an hour with stop lights and traffic. Although I don't love losing an hour each day to my commute--I used to have a 10 minute walk to work--I sincerely appreciate the exercise. I always walk into work with a smile on my face because I just got to bike through two amazing parks, I got my heart rate up, I worked for it. When I go home I can burn off the daily stress and walk through my door out of breath and relaxed. On the days I drive to work, I almost always regret it. Dealing with traffic and highways always puts me in a bad mood and I miss the workout. Although I have to deal with the uncertainty of traffic as a cyclist (Will they see me? Do I have to stop at this stop sign?) the physical struggle is rewarding enough to push those stresses aside.
In a car you lose your connection to the areas you drive through. Your windows might be down but you're still inside, walled in. You're a behemoth and your primary responsibility is making sure that nobody gets hurt as you hurtle down the road at 40 miles per hour. On a bike you're part of your world. You can go quickly enough to actually get somewhere, but you have the opportunity to look around and observe the world as it goes about its day. You notice the same cyclists on your route. You pay attention to the trees. You know what the weather is like that day and you stop fighting against it and learn to revel in the heat and the rain. On a bike, you are not an individual separate from your world; you're a member of it.
As exploration, biking can't be beat. Living in Tower Grove East, I am about a 15 or 20 minute bike ride from so many exciting, different neighborhoods. I love being able to bike to Benton Park or Soulard without worrying about having a couple drinks. I like being able to go to the Whitaker Music Festival without stressing about parking. But it's actual exploration that cycling excels at. Learning a new neighborhood by knowing roughly where you're going and having a sense of adventure. Getting a little bit lost and finding a new park or bar. Seeing the city and its architecture at a slow enough pace that you can drink it all in. I live to know my city a little bit more every week. Biking offers me that. And as others have shown me STL by bike, I always enjoy sharing this city with others by cycling around. It really is the best way to learn what St. Louis has to offer.
When you drive, you have a destination. When you bike, you have a journey. It's the journey I enjoy.