It was my turn. “I lived in Vietnam for three years. I’ve played the guitar since I was 11. I never really learned how to ride a bike.” Everyone laughed at the last statement. “I hope that last one’s the lie,” my boss told me. Well, it wasn’t.
Having never really learned how to properly ride a bike as a child to then being assigned to a nonprofit revolving around a bikeshare system, it was something to laugh about with everyone. But the reality was that I had never learned a skill that was necessary for this job.
When a five year old first learns how to ride a bike, they typically practice on a tricycle, and then they carefully transition to learning to balance themselves on a traditional two wheel bike with a loving guardian or older figure by their side helping them along the way. I did not have this luxury. On that very first day after work, my partner Sam and I checked out MoGo bikes and took it to a nearby parking lot. While she rode with ease, I couldn’t travel two seconds without nearly toppling over.
Despite the frustration of those first thirty minutes on the bike, I was determined to master this universal skill that was necessary for the job. All I needed was practice. Every day after work, I checked out a MoGo bike and rode it around the same parking lot in an effort to practice my balance and turns. The precious time that could’ve been used to relax at my apartment was devoted to learning how to ride a bike.
But as these practice sessions continued, I found that my ability on the bike was increasing exponentially. By the second week, I had gained enough confidence to venture onto the local streets myself and put my biking to the test. Though the consistency of my balance and turns was questionable, sure enough, I was riding a bicycle. I found myself riding on the bike lane passing the familiar businesses I walked by everyday. And as my trust in my ability increased, I turned onto new streets that were yet to be explored and viewed the old style Detroit homes of nearby neighborhoods.
Although I didn’t venture far, I was fascinated with what I was yet to truly see from Detroit. I sought to practice my biking everyday and found myself adventuring to different parts of town I had never encountered, rode through neighborhoods and streets filled with beautiful murals and construction sites. It was a therapeutic process away from work, away from technology. It was a time to simply enjoy what was around me. I didn’t see the same businessmen and women on the QLine on the way to work, the luxurious brand name stores in Downtown, the glamorous tourist attractions I would see during enrichment activities. Despite the lack of grandeur and the hints of abandonment in the distant neighborhoods far from Downtown and my own residency, the mere act of biking allowed me to witness a community that was filled with unique art and a determination to revive itself through its construction efforts. Walking merely allowed me to see the perceived beauty of Detroit: Downtown, stadiums, restaurants. But biking allowed me to witness a true authentic beauty I never would’ve witnessed before. Though Downtown is attempting to alter the perception of Detroit by improving its grandeur and attracting younger generations, we mustn’t forget about the surrounding neighborhoods and the people residing in them that make up the authentic Detroit we know. It just took a little bit of practice to realize this.