// Bikesploration: A Manifesto
Posted on Monday, March 5th, 2012
Written by Nick Moore
Thanks in part to the merciless rise of gas prices and the gradual re-urbanization of America (which means more and more people are seeking to live nearer their place of work), biking is becoming an increasingly popular method of daily commute. Here in the Bay Area, city governments and local advocacy groups are focused on augmenting the urban infrastructure—with bike lanes, bike racks, and dedicated spaces on public transportation—to encourage workers in all fields and professions to forego their cars and pedal to work. The more optimistic among us can’t help but envision a day when the streets of San Francisco or Oakland resemble, if not the brimming bike highways of Beijing, then the efficient dual lanes of Dutch cities, where bikers and drivers co-exist in relative harmony and with equal rights to the road.
This is clearly a good thing. But confining your cycling to the daily commute would mean grossly underutilizing your bike’s potential to bring you far greater rewards than saved gas money. Your bike is not only an excellent companion in the worthy pursuit of novelty and adventure, but a peerless facilitator of exploration. There is any number of reasons for this. Some are more general: the thrill of feeling the wind in your face; the way riding, unlike driving, subjects you to the varying assaults and caresses of the elements; the blurred line between terror and ecstasy one experiences on the downslope of a steep hill; the ease with which you can stop and dismount, in order to further explore. There are also more personal reasons—this list grows longer with every ride. One of mine is a canyon, cut by a stream and teeming with primeval vegetation, which lies hidden in the foothills of East Oakland. I recently discovered it—unexpectedly, during the course of a meandering bike ride—and though I am not the first to do so, the tranquility of the place on a Sunday afternoon suggested that I am far from the last (and in the interest maintaining this seclusion, I won’t divulge its name).
The creek purls over stones and geometric hunks of concrete, ostensibly laid to help direct the flow downward, where it eventually flows into the bay. But neither the concrete, nor the graffiti that decorates it, can detract from the sense of rapture that I feel there—that I felt there, during my first afternoon spent in its lush cradle. Crossing a public park full of raucous children and their parents, I spied a dirt trail leading into the trees. In following it I came to a place where huge Bay Laurels leaned over the creek, creating the illusion of a green, sheltering tunnel. Vines hung from the tops of the trees nearly to the ground, and I was reminded immediately of Tarzan’s jungle; I was shocked to find that they held my weight, though I dared not attempt to swing across the rocky creek. I was not far from help, should I need it, and civilization, and yet I felt far removed from the city in which I had only moments before been immersed. The trail eventually disappeared, leaving me to continue onward by hiking in the streambed with my bike over my shoulder. I picked my way over the rocks and pools, stopping frequently to look around in awe at this strange and enchanting place I had not been looking for.
There are many such places to discover, each singular in its composition and mood. They are all around us, even in the densest cityscape, for some are comprised of concrete, stairwells, and rooftops, rather than damp earth and trees. One has only to give themselves the opportunity to stumble upon them; a bike ride, undertaken with an open mind and no pre-determined route, is the best method I’ve found.
So I urge you, continue to ride your bike to work—and on your way home, take a different route. You have no idea what you might find.