How a bike saves Maria money and helps her connect with her community

Maria framed in red rings

By Heidi Beierle, Volunteer Storyteller

Maria earned her bike on Valentine’s Day earlier this year during a Create a Commuter workshop. In the opening circle of that February workshop, Maria said, “I look forward to riding my bike to save money. I had a bike, but it was stolen.”

This April, Community Cycling Center follows up with Maria on a sunny day in the Kenton neighborhood to learn how the lessons from the workshop and having a bike have helped her.

Maria fun on a bike“This bike is my first transportation,” Maria says sitting up straight and smiling.  “I ride my bike every day, from my house to my job, the grocery store, even church on Sundays. In my culture, in Guatemala where I come from, people ride bikes for fun, but they don’t think you can use a bike for transportation. When people see me ride to church, they’re surprised to see me on a bike, and then they want to ride a bike, too. I’m showing them that a bike can be used for transportation.

“I save so much money with my bike. Transportation is expensive. Before I got my bike, I pay $5 every day, Monday through Sunday, to take the bus. With the bus I wait a long time, but with my bike I’m just going and going. My cousin asks me if I’ll get a car. I don’t drive, don’t want to. A car is very expensive. You pay for gas and insurance. And if it breaks down,” she shakes her head, “No.  A bike is easy.”

“My bike is good for health, too. From my house to my job is about five miles – morning and going back, that’s 10 miles a day. It’s a good workout.

“Another really important thing I learned is keeping your bike locked really good.  Secure.  And different ways to lock your bike. I also learned to fix a tire, but so far, no flats!

“Since I took the workshop, I feel safe. I follow the bicycle route on the road. I learned things you have to do to be safe. Back when I had my other bike, I was a little nervous to ride it in the street. I just rode it on the sidewalk. I always wear my helmet even to go somewhere little, like down the street. It’s good, protects my head.

“And compliments. People say nice things about my bike and ask me where they can get one.”

Maria's bag close upMaria shows me her blue Timbuktu shoulder bag with a white stripe down the center, like Guatemala’s flag. “I got this bag at the resale store down the street. It’s good, waterproof, and not expensive. I made this,” she says with a big smile, pointing to the detailed patches decorating the outside of it.

“When I ride my bike, I like seeing people riding, too, and getting fresh air on me feels good. I also really like the smell of cut grass when I am out riding. I’m looking forward to riding my bike far, like on Marine Drive and Forest Park. Sometimes I ride with my niece at Columbia Park in my neighborhood.

“Also, after I got my bike, I rode with kids in the Cully neighborhood. I work at Verde, and they had their first neighborhood bike ride. I was glad to have a bike so I could ride with them.

“Thank you, Community Cycling Center, for giving me a bike and for the program.”

Maria and I ride to Kenton Park in her neighborhood. During our ride, we discuss rules of the road, unexpected things to pay attention for, and how to ride so other people know what to expect of us as bicycle riders. Maria points to a shop on the right, “That’s where I got my bag.” While we’re at the park taking pictures, Maria’s niece shows up. “This is my niece who I go ride with.  And this is her brother. And my sister.” We try to organize all of them for a picture. Every time we say “smile” her nephew sticks his lower lip out in a pout until we’re all laughing.

Thank you, Maria, for sharing your story with us.

Maria smiling sisters

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