What’s Sparking Me Now

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Synopsis

I am everyday surprised, humbled, and giddy excited about bike commuting and its impact on creativity, people, and cities across the world – specifically on local community connectivity, release and mindfulness, manufacturing, and fashion.

Having biked my way through the ends of Brooklyn and Manhattan now for a year and a half, and having biked to school and work in the four other cities and towns I have lived in – from Mexico to New Haven, I am inspired by the burgeoning number and continuing diversity of people biking to work. I was reminded again, watching Gary Hustwit’s “Urbanized,” of how simply paving and lighting a bike route on an often walked but crime-ridden path home in Bogota, Colombia drastically decreased criminal activity. As I spin my own wheels each morning over the Brooklyn Bridge, greeting the sun or windy cold, sweating, and dodging pedestrians, I am astounded by how bike commuting has completely transformed my lifestyle in and relationship to NYC. It is agency in a machine. 

When I got injured this year, biking was the one activity I could still do. It has given me a heightened sense of physical awareness, presence, and incredible geo-spatial knowledge of the city. I feel more connected to neighborhoods and people. And, I am not alone. After writing this, I opened up Outside Magazine serendipitously to see this article correlating cycling with increased happiness. 

Biking and the creative mind. Innovation is hot, as are start-ups where innovation expands at a rapid pace, and design-driven thinking, learning, and building. However, many people driving innovation practices in government and industry have yet to fully consider how physical release and movement play into innovative practices and factor into our work preferences and values. My friends in management at the new climbing gym, Brooklyn Boulders Somerville – my neighborhood climbing gym’s partner out in Massachusetts – are pioneering in the intersecting fields of work, movement, and community. The mind does not work well if it is always sedentary. 

Bicycling allows people to think strategically about their ride (in other words, focus and convergence) and also gives space for the mind to wonder (distraction and divergence). It nearly replicates concentrated daydreaming, which has been proven to have positive impact on creative thought. Following the psychology of creativity from multiple perspectives, people are bound to and do have insights while biking. We bikers disconnect from our devices, and, in turn, reconnect to the environment worth observing around us. We ingest details of the human conscious, relationships, the narrative of the neighborhood and the day while biking. A subtle morning commute can help us think in a completely different way. 

Biking and the future of manufacturing and connectivity. As city infrastructure and systems of manufacturing continue to evolve, biking will prevail like many other disruptive technologies. It is a low-cost, low barrier to entry form of transportation that increases access to people and place. The current trend in industrialization is a human desire for increased connectivity and transparency with goods and services. People want a say in their purchases and want to know where things are coming from. Simultaneously, smaller makers are able to craft products and experiences in a more agile fashion than larger corporations – the bike is one of these products. We can see the growing pains of this desire for increased personalization in large scale manufacturing with the decision Etsy, for example, has to make around mass-production of handmade goods

The future of the bike for communication, collaboration, and clothing. We see folded bikes, design your own bikes, conference bikes for upwards of 5 people to talk and move (I just saw one in action at the Googleplex and it was wondrous), NYC Citi bikes being used for homeless exercises classes, different live maps of bike lanes, delivery folks making attached hand warmers out of oven gloves and plastic bags on bikes, and we will see more.

 Cycling also is driving a shift in fashion, which is often signifies a larger shift in cultural values. Bike locks accessorize pants, helmets are suddenly cool, recycled parts and personalized bike parts are in. Additionally, biking conjures questions of gender norms, and equal accessibility to activity. I always say if I leave the education and design world, I would build out a women’s clothing line that is suitable for the active woman on a budget, who, for example, bikes to work but can’t shower and change there. I have found $60 lightly padded bike underwear for women, but that just won’t do. I changed the way I dress to accommodate biking after competing in my first triathlon this past June. All summer, I would wear two pairs of light triathlon shorts under my dresses. Winter biking now brings its own set of challenges and constraints. I am frustrated that men’s fashion – even with the rise of androgynous clothing – is more conducive to movement. Women, if they desire mobility, are limited in their choices.

 I know biking is not accessible to all. Not everyone can afford or store a bike, people have limiting disabilities, others do not feel safe riding, and some places are just too far to be reached with pedals and wheels. However, what completely excites me about the future of biking is that there are systems, products, and policies we can amend and create to begin to increase accessibility. In more ways than one, using our own power to bring us to our own destinations, while being able to touch the ground, represents our freedom and capacity as a collective conscious. Here’s to fresh, albeit cold air and little blinking lights taking us far places in 2014. 

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