It started gathering a thick layer of dust. Silver-coated break wires turned to rust. Both tires out of air, out of breath, it felt like it gave up on life.
As I told you the last time, it has been a year since I last took Expresso out for a ride. Yes, it had a name. Actually, it is still its name: Expresso.
We sure did have a great time together in 2015. From my day-to-day leisure pedalling in my own city, Marikina; to my daily bike-to-work commute to Manila during my stint as a marketing officer at the Tourism Promotions Board. I also took it with me in a bus to Baguio and in a plane to Batanes. Call it our "honeymoon stage" if you please coz it felt like it. I wanted to take it with me wherever I went -and I did... but just for one year.
Just like in any case of relationship or commitment, this bike to wherever-I-went lifestyle is a risk. And everyday with consent, I chose to gamble my safety against the deadly roads of the city. Ironically, every time I biked, it didn't matter where for as long as I pedalled, it's the only time I felt most alive. I didn't care about the smell of smoke and pollution, nor about my eyes catching the cloud of dirt. (Now how do I say this without sounding too cheesy? *clears throat*) All that mattered in every ride was the wind kissing my cheek and the heart pounding adrenalin from within. I am flying without wings but with wheels. I. AM. FREE. (Aaaandd, it doesn't get any cheesy-er than that. Oh well.)
You might have noticed it by now: I do have the tendency to over romanticize moments. Wind kissing my cheek? Who am I friggin kidding? Thick gray smoke from the tambucho of jeepneys and motorbikes swallowing my face. Let's face it. The roads are crowded with jeepneys and trucks and cars and motorbikes--they consider themselves king of the jungle called the metro! I am free? Hello mga kuya whose highlight of their day is catcalling lady bikers! And you know what? I didn't care. I felt fearless when I was on the road. I brushed off any fear and negativity that might cause me to stop until --
A truck overruns a lady cyclist while pushing her bike in a bike lane, died on the spot in Marikina. (In my very own city! That same exact bike lanes I use! That could've been me.)
Howie Severeno, a journalist I admire, got hit by reckless jeepney while biking along Aurora Blvd on his way to work. (I biked to work most of the time! That could've been me.)
Another biker got involved in a road accident in a different city. That could've been me.
Almost every night for a week, bike-related accidents became a regular segment in the evening news.
It hit me.
It could've been me. If I were at the wrong place and wrong time, it could've been me, so I thought:
"Maybe I should stop biking before it happens to me."
Expresso started gathering a thick layer of dust. Silver-coated break wires turned to rust. Both tires out of air, out of breath, it felt like it gave up on life. Expresso and I exchanged glances every time I walked past it on my way to my car. Expresso found a place where it didn't belong--along with the other unused bicycles in our house.
My red Honda car serviced me quite well for the time being. Had no problem with it. I was comfortable inside my air-conditioned personal space. No pollution, no catcalling. All good!
But Expresso never gave up on me. It glanced at me even if I just walked straight past it. Not today, then. Okay, maybe tomorrow. I heard him murmur. Somehow I felt like it was just waiting for me to notice it again. For me to give it another chance.
Weeks turned to months, to a year and so. Dubbed as The Worst Year, 2016, almost came to an end. As I was clearing space in my external hard drive, there it was--photos and videos of me and Expresso in Batanes and in Baguio. *wooosh* I'm transported back in time. Look how happy you look! (Exactly how you would feel when you accidentally saw moments of you and your ex, immortalised through photos strategically tucked in a folder within a folder. Uh-huh!) Looking at the photos and playing back videos, I was reminded how I had the greatest time riding my bicycle. Expresso brought me to stories and places I knew that wouldn't be accessible if I were in a car.
I grabbed my dusty and rusty old buddy, pumped air into it as if performing an emergency first aid response. I loaded it into the trunk of my car and drove as far as I could. I found a safe place and gave cycling another shot.
The familiar wind kissed my cheek and my adrenalin pounded from within. I was flying without wings, but with wheels. I. AM. FREE.
Since then, I biked at BGC and at Marikina Riverpark.
Honestly, up to this point I haven't braved the roads yet. I've been on a bike sabbatical, but now I am back! While I hope for more bike lanes and stricter implementation of bike-friendly traffic rules, I will continue on pedalling. I have a pretty good feeling that I'm not alone in having these fears, yet hopeful for a safer environment where we can all share the road no matter how many wheels we drive.
Do you have the same fear as mine? Feel free to share your story below. Or maybe you want to share why you love cycling too? I'd love to read about it!! Who knows, your story might motivate others too! ;-)
Oh, remember those photos and videos with Expresso I found in the hard drive? Well, stick around and subscribe to my mailing list because I'll be sharing them to you in the coming weeks!