Two recent stories — one local and one national — illustrate that bicycles and the people who ride them can be powerful forces for good.
The first story is from The Oregonian. Last week, reporter Simina Mistreanu shared a heart-wrenching story about how northeast Portland resident Bonnie Holtgrew prevented a man from committing suicide:
… Wednesday around 6 p.m., she was thirsty and out of cigarettes, so she hopped on her bike and headed to the store. On her way back to her home on Northeast 92nd Avenue off Glisan Street, she took a detour onto the I-205 overpass to avoid a closed sidewalk.
Suddenly, she saw something that made her stop.
Holtgrew stayed with the man until police arrived and he was eventually pulled off the bridge railing to safety.
That story reminded me of the time a few years ago when I was cycling south on Michigan Avenue just north of Killingsworth. I saw smoke billowing from the windows of a house and stopped to check it out. There was a fire in the back of the house. While I was on the porch checking things out, a small dog ran up to me. It was unable to jump the fence and it was yelping like crazy. I picked the dog up and carried him to safety just as the fire department arrived. The homeowner was very grateful that I stopped to save her beloved pet.
As I rode away I realized if I had been driving, I would have likely just rolled right by. It was just another example of how, when we bike (as opposed to drive), we become engaged in our streets in ways that are extremely positive for our neighborhoods.
The next cycling superhero story comes from Pennsylvania via a story on CNN:
Five-year-old Jocelyn Rojas was playing in her front yard in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, when she vanished Thursday afternoon. Authorities believe she was abducted by a man who lured her by offering ice cream.
For two hours, neighbors and police scoured the area and asked if anyone had seen her.
Temar Boggs, 15, and his friend took off on their bicycles to search.
The kids on bikes were persistent and the kidnapping suspect (who’s still on the loose) ultimately stopped and let the girl out. Boggs and his friends had saved the day.
These two stories highlight benefits of bicycling — the community awareness they make possible and their versatility as a vehicle — that go beyond what’s covered at summits, conferences and in engineering plans. There’s nothing inherently heroic about riding a bike; but the many positive impacts that riding has on our communities can quite literally save the day — and a whole lot more.