Technically, Bike to Work Week ended last Saturday -- but who's counting?
Not Juan, whom I met biking home from his job at a downtown construction site. Juan declined to give his last name and exact place of work because, he said cheerfully, he has no papers — he's illegal. And like a lot of the "illegal" workers building our fair city, he rides to and from work on a bicycle.
There's a prevalent myth that biking, and bicycles, lie squarely in the domain of rich white folk — an idea that assumes people only bike for pleasure. So when Juan began enumerating for me the benefits and practicalities of bicycling in Miami, I knew that the Bike Blog had found a kindred spirit.
"La gente no saben," he said -- "People don't know that riding a bicycle is the best method of transportation there is." Juan, who is 63, lives in Wynwood.
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Juan's first batch of reasons were indisputably practical: "More safety and less trouble." Juan pointed out that by avoiding driving, he avoided getting himself into situations where being without papers could land him in the hot seat. On his bike, he is unlikely to be pulled over; he doesn't have to worry about insurance. He says a lot of immigrants he works with — illegal and otherwise — ride bikes to work for the same reason.
But the best of Juan's bike-talk is his more philosophical bent: He believes in bikes, and is happy to explain why. "It's the best exercise: It's good for the legs, for the heart, and for the circulation. People think you'll sweat and smell bad," he adds, "but the reason most people smell bad is that they're cooped up in their cars all the time."
"And a lot of people in cars are fat," he added finally. With that we shook hands and, in opposite directions, peddled home. --Isaiah Thompson