This guest blog is written by SVBC member Brent Kyono. Got a great reason to ride? Email Jessica at jessica@bikesiliconvalley.org.

Like many kids growing up, for me riding bikes meant freedom. It was the only way I could go where I wanted, at my own leisure, for free. Soccer in the park and then pizza with friends? Count me in. It was my greatest dream–to explore the boundaries of my tiny fourteen-year-old’s world by bicycle. As for many, however, growing up meant gaining my driver’s license, and with it a much larger world- this time to be navigated by car. Bikes fell to the wayside as merely recreation. Cars took me everywhere.

Fast forward to college, and once again I was without a vehicle. What’s a boy to do, except go the way of Pokemon and Lego and decide that things from his childhood are valuable again? Enter: bicycles. Dropped into a dense, pay-for-your-parking-everywhere metropolis, for me, my bike was once again the key to freedom. It was essential for breaking out of the college campus “bubble” and exploring far more of what my city had to offer. Nothing was more satisfying than rolling down to the beach on a Friday, nothing more masochistic than the uphill grind home after a midnight ramen dinner. My bicycle was my transportation of choice.

College is over now, but cycling is still my preferred method of travel. Whether it’s to the grocery store or to work, my journeys are always better by bike. I’ll admit it; I am an impatient driver. I constantly label fellow motorists as too fast or too slow, too aggressive or too lethargic. This totally changes when I ride. Instead of racing to the next red light or forming a mental burn list of commuters who misuse the Mathilda to 237 entrance (left turn only), I get to pedal along at my own speed. I find myself on quieter routes with less traffic, and because my pace is slower, I am able to absorb more of my surroundings. On my way home from work each day, the smells of home-cooked dinners from three different cultures reach my nose. Everyone I pass is considered a friend and deserves a smile. Perhaps my courtesy is driven by my vulnerability while riding–there is no windshield between me and the world, nothing to attenuate the interpersonal nature of being in public. Perhaps we should all feel a little more vulnerable while on the road.

As a small man on a 20lb bicycle, I will not stand up to a 4000 lb Tesla Model 3. And yet, despite my meager defenses, I never feel any less safe on my bike than I do behind the wheel of a car. Riding keeps me engaged with what happens around me- largely out of self-preservation- but the end result is that I feel more aware and courteous towards others. My thoughts become predictive; will that car pull out of the driveway in front of me? Am I blocking the right turn lane by waiting at this light? Indeed, the habits I practice as a bike commuter have also made me a better driver, and a more thoughtful person overall. What’s more, this conscientious mentality is critical not only for staying safe on the road, but also improving the perception of cyclists in general. Respect earns respect, so please, don’t be that biker who demands perfection from motorists and then proceeds to roll through red lights…

Getting around by bike is one of my favorite endeavors. It’s not always easy, convenient, or fast, but it certainly doesn’t have to be a chore. Cycling transforms my commute from stressful to refreshing, and although I arrive at work a little sweaty, slightly hungry, and sometimes a bit late, I am always in the right headspace to take on my day’s work.