Ah, the early days of lockdown when toilet paper suddenly became a precious gem and hand sanitizer had us hunting and prowling the shelves at every store imaginable. Refreshing on-line sites with the hopes of scoring the jackpot of a whole jar of Lysol wipes became a daily activity for so many of us. Of course none of this was rational. It wasn’t as we were really going to run out of these items. But somehow these goods in the house made us feel safe and protected. They gave us a sense of control. They made us feel like we were on top of things. Searching for them became a welcome distraction and finding them gave us a false sense that in a small way we were winning. At least for the moment.

Now that we are all stocked up with our life time supplies of Purell and industrial packs of bleach, we have found ourselves with a whole new obsession.This time it has nothing to do with sanitizing. This phenomenon has to do with autonomous transportation. No it’s not rollerblades (those thankfully have been left to 90s nostalgia) or skateboards (thankfully we have reserved whole parks for those) – it’s bike riding. Yup, we have in the last three months been all consumed with riding a bike which calls to mind the infamous Queen song:

I want to ride my bicycle

I want to ride my bike

I want to ride my bicycle

I want to ride it where I like

The two wheel wonder is suddenly making a huge comeback and it’s become nearly impossible to buy one anywhere. Even second hand bikes are hard to come by. What’s behind this new national obsession?

Well, let’s start at the very beginning. The trend started in New York City and Brooklyn in March where residents needed to get around town without the fear of contracting COVID-19 from public transport. So a bike made perfect sense. What could be safer, more reliable and well, more fun than jumping on a bike? Overnight it seemed that our need for safe transport became a necessity and the bike was the perfect solution. WIth gyms closed and spinning classes on hold for the foreseeable future (although the other day I saw an outdoor spin class take place in a  parking lot?), the bike has become transportation with benefits! It costs nothing. It’s safe, easy, convenient, and it keeps you in shape to boot- the perfect way to get around during a global pandemic. You can do it by yourself, or with others if you’re feeling social – it sounds like a bad advertising campaign but it’s all true. And it’s probably why you can’t get a bike anywhere.

It would be one thing to just attach the recent bike obsession to people who live in cities but it’s taken off countrywide and even globally. Riding a bike has captured the world’s imagination and good luck trying to get a bike right now if you don’t have one – you may have to wait until 2021.

Let’s dig a bit deeper though to try to get to the heart of the matter behind our bike craze. Behind every rational decision lies an emotional need. Why do we all really feel a need to ride our bikes? 

Bike riding is not the only throwback activity taking hold right now. Think about it. It’s currently in great company with many other oldie-but-goodie pastimes making a comeback – the simple pleasures we now revel in. Here is a link that lists 10 throw-back activities – cooking being one of them and more specifically bread making! You may have witnessed and or participated in some kind of bread making exercise – either doing it, or incessantly thinking about it like me but never getting round to it (which drove everyone around me nuts!). It was only a short time ago that yeast was out of stock. Yes, yeast?! So what does bread making, gardening, board gaming, puzzling, watching classic old movies have to do with each other and what the heck do all these things have to do with riding a bike?

We are longing to simplify the complexity of our lives – the never-ending newsfeeds of inconsistent and changing reports on the virus, the constant uncertainty about the future, the not knowing what is going to happen on any given day all make us want to dive into a simpler, kinder, less complicated world where we could roam around freely and just hop on our bike and ride. All of these activities give us some sense of agency. We can finish the puzzle. We can see the results of our gardening efforts. We can see the bread rise in the oven. They all give us the illusion of control (not dissimilar to our early hoarding of disinfectant). What we are beginning to realize is that we are not in control or at least not as much as we thought we were. 

So we will continue to ride our bikes and hope the world moves forward with us!

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