What biking to work taught me about the city

Whoosh! Looking out from beneath my gold helmet, a blur of colorful bungalows whiz past me as I speed down yet another hill. The wind currents wildly rouse the stick straight hair off my shoulders and into the air.

It’s a Wednesday morning, and I’m biking to work through the artsy neighborhood of Silverlake, California en route to my job at a marketing agency near downtown Los Angeles.

Over the past six months, I’ve come to love (but also at times dread) this 16-mile round trip.

The relationship between my bike and I started out a bit rough, but we’ve since grown with each mile spent together. Every day brings new sights, smells, and a chance to connect with the vibrant pulse running through the concrete veins of this City of the Angels.

As a new bike-to-work commuter, I’ve experienced a rawness and vulnerability that I’ve never felt before while living in the city. Unlike the time when I lived in New York where I was part of a subway commuter culture, here in LA, I often feel a bit along on my two wheels. On a positive note, thanks to some hip new initiatives by the LA Metro and cool bike shops, it’s slowly but surely becoming the “it” thing to do. #gometro

While my friends cruise over to their bohemian coffee stops in their shiny hybrids, I vest up in neon yellow, pump up the tires on my boy’s blue mountain bike, and strap on an unsexy helmet (thankfully, I’ve since upgraded).

Definitely not the coolest cat on the road.

Cars blare their horns at me for riding in the bike lane (excuse me, but please don’t hit me, sir!); guys avoid eye contact with me when we’re stuck at a redlight together; rain forces me to stand at the bus stop kicking myself for forgetting an umbrella; and I arrive at the office glistening with sweat while avoiding eye contact in the elevator. When the doors open to my floor, I quickly escape to the bathroom and lug out my makeup and change of clothes to look somewhat presentable for the day.

Okay, so biking-to-work is not exactly convenient and a little awkward at times.

Well, I’ve stuck with it and realize that the city has begun to reveal itself to me in a way that driving in a car never did. I’m starting to see this city as a friend and discover an authenticity that many Angelenos don’t have the chance to experience. Also, thanks to cool new bike hubs, I'm beginning to look a little more stylish on the streets.

While cars are whizzing past and blaring horns,  I’m breathing in the deep scents of Jasmine trees on a secret detour that takes me past some of the most incredible street art.

After work, when the metropolis is racing to happy hours, I set out into the exhausted city with an hour ahead of me in the open air to ponder the day.

Often, I ride up to my favorite pupusa stand on the outskirts of the city (delicioso!). I pull my bike to the side and lean it up against the metal chain fence where the mother and daughter duo are expertly paper plating up these corn and cheese delights for local families. Still wearing my helmet, I sit on the concrete curb and dive into the steamy goodness. As I look out at the blood-orange sunset over this quaint pocket of life , I realize that this is just one of the many vibrant communities I’ve discovered on my rides throughout this city. Pockets of depth and humble living that make me savor the here and the now.

This is why I’ve grown to love biking to work in Los Angeles, and frankly, why I don’t regret selling my car. I’ve come to know this city and her people in a way that is honest and real.

When I first moved to LA, I thought I could change the town with my big dreams of being a designer and filmmaker. While still working on those goals, I’m just beginning to realize that the city is actually changing me and I’m okay with that.

I’m enjoying the ride.

Colleen Monroe