The first article I wrote for The Daily detailed my life as a Stanford student without a bike. To be more precise, a Stanford student who didn’t know how to ride one. Dislocating my knee over the summer made learning in the months before frosh fall implausible, so I showed up wearing a big leg brace and without a bike. In said article, I explained the consequences of having to walk everywhere, including the blisters, having to leave 30 minutes before any event and my friends’ refusals to walk with me at night.
I am here to tell you about my harrowing journey of learning to ride a bike since I wrote that first article, including the many epiphanies I have had. It became my mission over Thanksgiving break to learn to do what most 10 year olds are capable of doing. I assure you I am not blind to the embarrassing nature of this situation; my dad yelling “PEDAL!” as I nearly swerved off the road made me well aware of how ridiculous my life had become. Even with all of the struggle, I have never actually fallen off the bike … except that one time I tried biking on campus and did a slow-motion fall caused by merely trying to get on. But I wasn’t technically riding the bike yet, so I’m not counting it. I also crashed about a week later by running into one of those wooden pole things while it was raining, but I never fully landed on the ground. I just stumbled away from the wreckage so, again, not counting it.
I bike every day now, and it has provided me more time to sleep, a greater ability to socialize and a peaceful pastime when others aren’t around. I finally understand the physics of bicycles and just how narrowly I can go by someone without hitting them. Getting to class no longer takes half an hour, and I can finally socialize across campus. I wrote in my first article that walking everywhere meant I had to give up on ever wearing heels, but I have to admit that riding a bike doesn’t make it that much easier. I forget when I stop and put my foot down that my leg is now three inches longer, so I tend to stumble or see my life flash before my eyes for a second.
Getting through the quad is still terrifying, and I’ve continued to leave earlier than necessary to avoid the heightened level of anxiety that comes with biking through White Plaza at 10:20 a.m. I complained in my earlier article that bikes never seem to stop at stop signs when I’m trying to cross the street. I now understand not wanting to stop, but I feel like slowing down for a pedestrian makes my hypocrisy more bearable to deal with.
I’m not going to lie. My life has improved a lot since learning to ride a bike. It is wild to think that something so simple as walking vs. biking can impact one’s college experience, but it’s true. It is no longer necessary to explain to people why I can’t get across campus in 10 minutes. Running simple errands doesn’t have to take multiple hours now. However, I will always appreciate the time I had walking around this campus and the bunny I saw that one time. It gave me time during a huge transitionary period to think and clear my head before class or social interactions. But I am now fully in love with my cherry red rental bike.
A closing anecdote: When I was eight, I told my mom I wanted to go to Stanford after seeing the campus. I then followed this statement with: “Well, if I go here, I’m going to need to learn to ride a bike.” My mother has never let me forget that. When I got into Stanford, the conversation quickly turned from “Congratulations!” to “Now you actually need to learn to ride a bike.” It feels nice to make my 8-year-old self happy and to also stop getting teased by family members and friends.
Contact Nina Knight at ngknight ‘at’ stanford.edu.