“When I ride my bike I always have a guaranteed seat on the trip, I’m comfortable, fresh, relaxed, and I get to exercise. I don’t spend money on gas or produce contamination, and I’m in control. I feel free!” says Gustavo.
Gustavo lives in Buenos Aires province, Argentina. He is an architect and works in Jorge Newbery Airpark, located in the second largest metropolitan area in South America, Buenos Aires City. He rides his bike to work twice a week, saving the congested public transport from another passenger and the traffic jams from another vehicle on the road.
In spite of having an ample public transport system, the city, together with the Buenos Aires’ conurbation, reaches a population of more than thirteen million people, making any conventional mode of transportation (car, bus, train, and metro) congested, slow, and inconvenient, especially in the rush hours.
Gustavo’s job is only 19 miles from home, but either by private or public transportation, it has taken him up to one hour and forty minutes to get to work. “Riding the bike always takes me exactly one hour,” he affirms, “and combining transportation with physical activity makes these days the best days of my week.”
The feeling of freedom…
For Gustavo, and many other cyclist in the city, riding the bicycle is more than just avoiding the stressful and irritating traffic jams, strikes, and ‘piquetes’ (groups of people protesting by blocking main roads and streets to express a particular problem or demand) nowadays so popular in Argentina. Besides feeling fresher and brighter and getting a workout, riding the bicycle means ‘one less vehicle on the road.’
“What I enjoy the most about the bicycle is that feeling of freedom that surrounds me, the breeze that hits my face, the heat that generates in my body, the endorphins that run throughout my pores, and the lassitude that embraces me and tells me ‘good job! You are a little bit healthier now,’” he confesses.
The self-control and autonomy that the bicycle offers is priceless. Coming from a big family, Gustavo explains how important it was having his own bicycle while being a teenager and relying on the availability of the family’s car wasn’t an option: “My bicycle was the ideal form of transportation for all my personal matters: nobody else could claim it and it was cost free.”
The ideal bicycle and the ideal cyclist
Feeling safe on your bicycle is one of the most important aspects of cycling. Tires riding smoothly and breaks working sharply, a comfortable seat, a protective fitted helmet, reflective stripes, and working front and back night lights. These together with respecting the transit rules, being aware of climate changes, and being alert of every car and vehicle surrounding you should be the perfect combo for a safe bike ride in the city.
“Having the right amount of air in your tires is also an essential detail,” Gustavo explains, “riding on asphalt with low tires can make your experience harder and a bit frustrating.”
For beginners, he recommends riding in open places with no or low transit: a park, a bike circuit, or any place away from the city, and to always keep in mind that you have to turn around and go back, so save some energy and day light for the return trip. It is also important to measure your physical limits and to bring enough water with you. For long distances it’s a good idea to bring some basic tools and an extra tube in case of a flat.
“The bicycle has become a part of my life, a sort of philosophy, a positive alternative to the dependency and comfort of the car or any other vehicle that runs on non-renewable energy and generates pollution.” And he adds, “Now, almost instinctively, my body asks me to pedal and every time that I can avoid driving the car, I’m happy to mount my bike and take off.”
Gustavo also enjoys running local marathons, sometimes accompanied by his two teenage boys, a great activity to interact with the family. His objective is not to set any records, he likes the personal challenge and connecting with his body. He loves art and music as well, especially classical music, and he has played the piano since he was a kid.
As a part time job and a hobby, Gustavo teaches Sustainable Architecture in the University of Moron, a modern technique that focuses on environmentally conscious designs for public buildings and multi-family residences. This new style of architecture offers long-term solutions with low impact on the environment by combining high quality materials, energy efficient designs, and cost.
The Bicycle Thief, or Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di Biciclette), is a masterpiece of Italian neorealism which tells the story of Antonio Ricci, a poor unemployed father in post-World War II Rome, whose bicycle first gets pawned, then stolen, threatening his only mode of transportation to a job opportunity that could support, if not save, his young family.