Moving from point A to point B requires time spent in transit. This transit time is often personal, and it takes on something of a meditative quality. Travel at Stanford generally centers around biking, an activity that provides students with opportunities for kindness, care and reflections on their humanity.
As a pursuit, biking demands a flexible and expansive mind. A biker ought to be able to compromise their direction in order to engage with the many moving parts that surround them. When class is starting in five minutes, and you’re straining to make it around the clock-tower roundabout, a situational long view is required. Should you speed around the corner heedless of those pedaling near you, or should you meld into the seams, putting down thoughts of perfect attendance? It is in these moments of micro-conflict with self and other that character forms and habits are built. To yield is not to compromise personal desires, but rather to acknowledge the subjectivity of others. To change routes is not to lose time, but to discover a previously unknown means of arrival. To catch your breath before finding the pedals again is not a failure, but a treat to yourself.
Alerted by intakes of breath and drawn out screeches, I’ve witnessed my fair share of bike accidents. While the Norcos vary, the situations are often the same: someone moving too quickly, or doing too many things, or prioritizing their needs over the needs of another. It is difficult to witness these encounters, not because of the physical pain incurred, although that is always a concern, but because of their reflection on our immense human effort. Each of us is pushing so hard to get somewhere, to be something, but sometimes, it is drive itself that trips us up. Perhaps we ought to see moments of impact as testaments to our efforts and manifestations of the very okay-ness of a pause, a dust-off, a reentrance into the flow that surely has continued despite our brief exit.
When you unlock your bike each morning you are entering into conversation with the world and those who populate it. You are declaring that you will participate fully in the intricate interactions of stop, and go, and slow down.
Contact Hannah Broderick at inbloom ‘at’ stanford.edu.