Cambridge is definitely a biking campus. I mean, you could get around solely on foot (or using the public bus, if you so wish), but it’s bound to be a real struggle. Activities happen all over the place, lectures and labs are on opposite ends of the city, and your accommodation is unlikely to be bang smack in the center of town.
I got my bike on my very first day in Cambridge, which is now over three years ago. To be completely honest, once I had the bike, I was sure I was going to avoid using it unless absolutely necessary. I mean, I was very comfortable riding a bike and everything… but in a city? With cars on the same road? In the rain? Cold? None of those sounded very appealing to me. I probably ended up using my bike twice a week on average.
Fast forward to today. My bike is my “baby”. I can’t imagine life at Cambridge without it. It cuts travel time significantly, allows me to view the world from a (slightly) different perspective and well, just makes the whole experience very Cambridge. That said, there are still days when the thought of having to get out of bed and bike somewhere is the last thing I want to do. I’d say my predominately hate love-hate relationship has definitely transformed into a predominately love love-hate relationship with biking around Cambridge, but those less-than-okay days still do exist. So, here goes…
A few thoughts on the loves and hates of biking around in Cambridge:
Love #1: It’s fast.
Simple as that. Biking is quicker than walking any day. And when you have to get from A to B with not much time between classes/labs etc., this matters.
Love #2: It’s a great form of physical activity.
Yes, walking is great. But the bike ride gets in some more intense movement in my day without needing to get in a structured workout.
Love #3: It builds confidence.
Regularly being on road with cars and other bikers has made me much more confident on the bike. Those effects permeate throughout other things in life and make me an all-around more confident person.
Love #4: It gives you a different view on life.
Whether it’s whizzing past beautiful sights, biking over bridges, or chatting with friends along the ride, everything looks a little different on a bike. I love the different perspective I get when I’m on my bike.
Love #5: It’s eco-friendly.
Biking is such a green mode of transportation. Okay, so is walking, but both of these beat the bus any day!
Love #6: It brings about a mindset shift.
This has probably been the biggest thing for me. I used to be so apprehensive about biking. I used to dread it, to say the least. But I’ve learned to not only be okay with it, but truly enjoy it and in general, it’s made me a much more flexible and a stronger person. True, this may be a culmination of all the others put together, but I feel strongly about it and hence it deserves to shine and standalone.
So, I obviously love biking, but the “hates” exist too…
Hate #1: It’s no fun in the cold (and dark).
My hands get extremely cold. Like extremely. Hence, biking in the cold can be painful. My hands freeze, my ears freeze and my nose turns Rudolph-red. Having grown up in Asia, I find 3:45pm sunsets pretty mentally tough. And biking in the dark is just not fun, and it can even be a little dangerous.
Hate #2: It makes carrying multiple things a real challenge.
Going to a potluck, coming home from grocery shopping, or anytime I have to carry multiple things, biking is less than ideal. I do have a basket, which makes life slightly easier, but doesn’t totally solve the problem.
Hate #3: Parking can be stressful.
As I said before, Cambridge is a biking city. This means bikes are everywhere, and also that trying to park your bike in a safe place sometimes takes longer than the bike ride itself. But you find strategies if all the places are filled, like locking your bike to your friends’ bikes (at least groups of three, to be safe). That said, it can be a hassle.
It might seem to some that this is exaggerated, unnecessary, overplayed. For some it’s simply a matter of occasionally getting on a bike or not. I totally get that. But for me, the biking journey has been a defining part of my university experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
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