It’s been a while since I last blogged and truth is that other than sheer busyness and a touch of writers block there’ll be no great explanation forthcoming.
In the world of urban cycling there’s always a lot to write about, beautiful 2016 bikes, amazing new products, genius technological break throughs, brilliant new cycling apps, quality club rides, an absolute plethora of upcoming cycling events not to mentionwhinging about the continued incompetence of Highways Authority, the never ending absence of space for cycling, the bitingly cold weather and why Birmingham Cycle Revolution doesn’t look much like a revolution.
Once in a while something floats through our lives in such a manner as to pierce right through such self-indulgent pitty, something or some one whose presence reminds us that cycling has us gripped because something about the bicycle points forward to a world more hopeful, more joy abounding, more worthy of a life well lived. In the words of author H.G. Wells ‘Every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the human race’.
For most of us the truth is that riding a bicycle costs us little while adding to our lives in abundance. We cyclists have a dogged tendency to whinge about the quality of road surface or the beasts with whom we are destined to share such space but in our hearts we know that there is undoubtedly a struggle greater than ours.
I recently recovered my own sense of gratitude for the thing we call cycling as the result of two chance encounters.
Firstly when an otherwise random email led to my becoming aware of Amna Soliman. To understand why Amna is so important it’s important first to observe her context. Amna’s main cycling route is known as the Salahuddin Road, the main highway through Gaza. That’s right; ‘Gaza’ a land not lacking in desperate signs of the strangulation enforced upon its infrastructure and its people by the government of neighboring Israel. Nor a land lacking in the sometimes difficult to understand political and moral ideology of Hamas.
While the Israeli stranglehold means that Amna can only dream of the bikes you and I take for granted, note also that the very act of cycling is Amna’s own two fingered salute to the ban imposed upon women cycling by extremist forces within her own country. Ahmad Muheisin Gaza’s current undersecretary in Sports and Youth; states only that he will ‘not try to stop the women from cycling’ (how very good of him) unless religious leaders address the matter in a Fatwa. Here’s hoping religious leaders have much better things to do with their time, maybe like working out religion before they worry about cycling.
Ask Amna why she cycles and her answer is deeply humbling, ‘it reminds me of my childhood’ a time when life made a lot more sense and the days felt like less of a struggle. Amna’s friend and co rider adds, ‘Riding my bike makes me feel like I’m flying. . . I feel free’. Isn’t that why we all love cycling?
What a wonderful image; that cycling is for the women of Gaza a foretaste of the hope of a nation.
Secondly I met Paul. Paul was born with a shrunken right arm which is about two thirds the length it otherwise should be. I met Paul as he rolled up to the pod asking for us to service his bike but not to bother with the right hand break as he’s unable to use it. I quickly learnt that Paul’s daily commute involves major A roads and the canal network which in case you hadn’t noticed still involves the need for your bike to be carried up a hideously steep set of steps.
Paul is a remarkable man; not because he has overcome his disability but because in so many ways it has become an extra ordinary ability. Not a hint of complaint or self pity but rather a bold, joy filled confidence exudes from his every word.
Next time I grumble at my inadequacy to fully comprehend the benefits of Di2 v Dura Ace, next time I berate that un-repaired pot hole or the unenthused local authority I hope that somewhere in my soul I will be tempted to remember Amna and Paul; to give thanks for a protest which stands for something and to celebrate that for an often forgotten diversity of people the bike is and always will be a wonderful thing.
If you have stories of what inspires you and your riding experience feel free to share them in our comments section.
Have a wonderful week and remember #keepriding