(Lisa Rodriguez, 21, is a mechanic, instructor, and ride leader at Recycle-A-Bicycle; and a student at John Jay College.)
I was born in 1990 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. When I was 6 years old, my mother gifted me with a purple Pacific mountain bike. My brother Anthony taught me to ride at the park in front of my building. In the projects, there’s a park in front of every building and I would go there everyday. At first, I was scared to ride a bike, scared I would fall. But after practicing and practicing, I became fearless. My bike gave me freedom; my bike was my friend.
When I was 16, my whole world opened up. I rediscovered my love of biking and pedaled my way beyond the barriers and familiarity of my neighborhood. I found favorite routes through the Village, 14th Street, Chelsea Piers, and up the West Side bike path. It was me, my bike, and the road. One day, I rode up to 59th Street, gazed west across the river, and looked at New Jersey. I remember feeling such peace to have brought myself to this quiet place in the middle of my big, loud city.
That summer was the first time I walked into Recycle-A-Bicycle. I’d never seen so many bikes in my whole life. There were all different kinds, too. I was excited to learn how to take them apart and get them running again. It’s been five years since my introduction to R-A-B and in that time, I’ve repaired thousands of bicycles, led bike rides for hundreds of kids, and I teach bike mechanics to teenagers that sometimes remind me of me.
I have learned that every bike has a story. I learn from their dents and the shapes they come in and the tales that their owners tell. Every bicycle has a lot to say. Everyday, these old bicycles teach me something new, as long as I am willing to listen.
May is National Bike Month and this year’s theme is One Ride, Many Reasons. To highlight and celebrate the many benefits of bicycling, throughout May we’ll bring you the personal reflections and inspirations of a diverse collection of bicyclists from coast to coast with our daily 31 Days, 31 Reasons blog feature.
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.