Neighborhood Observations while Pedaling through the Pandemic

Keep Rolling. Everything is going to be ok. This is our new mantra. Daily bike rides with my better half help us navigate the safer-at-home restrictions and cope with this new way of life.

The rides started as a way to explore our neighborhood and utilize some new found free time. Fortunate to have our full-time jobs and the ability to work from home, our reduced commute time (dropping from 45 minutes daily to about 10 seconds) and lack of errands left us with evening free time. Sure, we have plenty of home improvement projects, and there is always something to wash, wipe, mow or mop, but who wants to do chores every evening? Our bicycles beckoned and we heeded their call.

Motivated to scout our local community, we pedal on unexplored streets discovering varied architecture, lush landscaping, chalk messages drawn on nearly car-free asphalt, driveway gatherings with appropriate social distancing, but most surprising - more bicycles than we have ever seen before. Yes, it appears there is a pandemic-inspired bicycling boom. Families, couples, even a before-unseen tandem on our little cul-de-sac, the streets and sidewalks are now home to more bicyclists (and walkers) than we have witnessed in the decade we have lived in the neighborhood. It's not just our imagination, rumor had it that bike shops are referring to bicycles as the new pandemic toilet paper - difficult to keep in stock and flying off the shelves. Peering through the windows of our local bike shop proved it true, normally filled with ceiling high racks of bicycles, just a few stragglers remained, waiting for the right owner to come along and show it the world. As an ambassador of cycling for exercise, transportation, and recreation, I am thrilled that more people are discovering the joy of bicycling. The health crisis can go away, but can we please keep all the bikes rolling?

For me, urban cycling is a slow roll and affords the time to notice details not apparent when driving a car, the landscape seems more vibrant than usual, like the earth is more alive. As a self-described brown thumb, I rarely notice specifics of foliage, but my recent two-wheel explorations put the Foxtail palm on my radar. Full, rounded fronds resemble a fox's tail and are stunning again a clear blue sky. Now I see them everywhere, the house across the street even has one. How did I not notice it before? Was I charging through life with such speed that I was missing much of the beauty?

We are grateful that most of Sarasota County's 160 parks remain open during the statewide stay at home order. With beverages packed in my trunk bag, a shaded park bench or picnic table has become a frequent stop for a quiet happy hour in the great outdoors. Pinecraft Park, named for the neighborhood that is home to the largest population of Amish and Mennonites in Florida, is situated along Phillippi Creek. Ample open space, bicycle trails, amazing water views and a peek into the Amish lifestyle make this one of our favorites. One evening we spied a birthday party parade celebrating a grandmother's 90 years. Later we found a tiny walk-up cafe previously unknown to us. A return visit to try their caramel macchiato coffee is on our "to-do" list.

Sidewalk chalk is in vogue. Colorful artwork and messages are plentiful and often express gratitude for first responders. Having extra chalk to share, we leave it in The Little Free Library boxes we find along our route, hoping to spark the creativity of the finder.

The world is changing before our eyes, but the view from the saddle shows a strong sense of community. Every bike ride gives us hope for the future, so my husband and I are going to keep rolling. Everything is going to be ok.

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