The following is written by Ken Miguel Cipriano, a Grand Rapids citizen and Rapid rider.
From biking around Burton Heights with my brother and neighbor in the late 90’s to present day bombing down Division heading downtown on my way to work, biking around town was my first form of alternate mobility. What’s the saying about your first love? You never forget them?
I’ve made it a part of my life to walk, bike, and ride public transit. Sure it saves me a ton, and I mean a ton of money, but that’s not the main reason I do it. I do it in part to relate to my father. Wherever I go I try and retrace my father’s footsteps when he first came to this country, all alone. Whether it’s walking all of Grand Rapids (my father used to walk past 44th street) or walking all of Manhattan. I do it to connect to how my father felt in a foreign land with no money or transportation. I do it to connect to my surroundings.
That’s exactly how it feels when you walk, bike, or take public transit! You see your city with new eyes. You notice the street level features of your block, you notice the different smells certain neighborhoods have, you notice which neighbor is the bravest to start grilling on a 40-degree day in early spring. You start to realize how large your city can be if you literally stop to smell the roses.
So let me drop some knowledge you may or may not know about going carless. When going straight home after work, a rarity, I average about 17 minutes on my bike. That’s Center City to the southside, about three miles in rush hour traffic. Jealous yet? The other nights I have meetings or events to attend I pull out my phone and check the ETA on the bus routes. If I’m going to the westside I like to hop on the DASH and either walk, if I have time, or bring my bike and pedal. Going east is easy so I just hop on the Route 6. Southbound is my favorite because if I miss the Silver Line, I just walk over to the Route 1 and it usually arrives right as I walk up.
Zoning out on the bus is possibly my second favorite thing to do when I’m commuting. Listening to music and just looking out the window or people watching helps me to just unwind and be present. Then there’s jumping on two wheels and going fast!
So you might be thinking to yourself, but Ken how do you bike to work, go to meetings, and do activities? Check the pictures below for my must carry when riding my bike. There is work mode, chill mode, and soccer-mom mode. Also, I’m the captain of a local team for the Grand Rapids Champs League, so I haul all the goodies!
– Converse Chuck’s keep my feet breathing and feel best in my bike’s toe cages.
– Backpack to keep my laptop, portfolio, and work clothes.
– Waterproof bag, because getting caught in a downpour really sucks for your gadgets.
– Boombotix Bluetooth stereo for blasting vibes
– Gloves to save me from getting road rash again. Never again…never again.
– Phone holder for checking my phone when friends change plans and send me to the other side of town, thanks, guys…
– Wallet with my ID, credit card, and 31- day pass, because Division has so much glass that you’re bound to catch flats. Nothing is worse than catching a flat and realizing you either forgot your bus pass or it expired.
– Converse Chuck’s not getting paid to say this they’re just extra comfortable for riding
– Backpack usually for a sweatshirt and an extra tee
– Boombotix for playing better music at the light than the car next to me. People don’t play enough 2pac.
– Phone holder
Soccer Mom mode:
– 150 Liter Base camp waterproof bag
– Soccer ball, futsal ball, ball pump
– Futsal shoes, Soft ground cleats, turf shoes, socks
– 2 one-gallon Gatorade jugs, because we drink at least that much.
– First aid kit, cones, extra jerseys
– Phone holder
So now you know why you should ride your bike, and I just let you know what you should bring while on your bike, all that’s left is to tell you how to ride your bike around the city. Spoiler alert…go fast.
You can find two kinds of cyclists, one who usually bikes on trails and country roads or the ones who stick to the city. Since I stay away from all the SUV madness on country roads, here are a few tips for riding in the city:
1. Say goodbye to Midwest Nice: Your safety is of the utmost importance. So be loud and be seen. If you’re driving recklessly around me you’ll hear a loud and long “AAAAYYYYOOOOO!” or “ YO YO YO”. Either way, I try to make sure to be heard, and I’m not afraid to give a car a love tap when they inch over too much.
2. Move fast. This one might feel counterintuitive but once you’re out on Fulton or Division and you’re pedaling at 5 mph it feels scarier as cars zoom past you because of your relative speed to them.
3. Helmet and gloves. You don’t want to gash your head or hands up
If you see me and my 150L bag zipping by in the city be sure not to honk, just roll down your window and give me an “AYO” We need to keep these streets friendly, it’s always good to have another friend and set of eyes out there.
See you on the blacktop.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ken Miguel Cipriano has lived in Grand Rapids since 1990. He works for Silicon Valley-based startup but holds his office here in downtown Grand Rapids. He likes to pull weeds, practice Muay Thai, watch Indie Films, and get in arguments. Ken has slept on a park bench overnight in Boston in the fall and has walked NYC all night because he didn’t have enough money for a hotel. You can see Ken riding down Division on his bike, running around the Southside, or on every bus line across the city.
Learn more about bicycles on The Rapid here.