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Ninja teacher hates biking but does it anyway and discovers life lessons along the way

“Often in the morning, especially on those red sunrise days,
I reflect on how lucky I am to ride to work.
I’ve stopped numerous times to watch the sky change as the
sun rises - on those days I reflect on how much my life has
changed in the last year.”                      - Mary Beth Leland

You may have spotted her riding one dark morning with a 15-pound watermelon bungeed to her bike rack, slow stealth rider who rescued an infant from a pit bull and stopped bullies from smashing school lights.

But, you don’t have to be a superhero to ride.  Redwood High School teacher, Mary Beth Leland is a beginner who commutes “6 miles up-hill both ways” on a $150.00 refurbished mountain bike sporting a frame she found on the side of the road last summer.  Despite the pitch black, icy cold weather and the extra frizzy wind-blown hair and frigid fingers, Mary Beth has clocked 87 out of 90 possible commute days – 60 miles per week totaling 1044 miles!

“The act of biking is a pain in the [*&$$**#] to me… I really don’t like it,” Mary Beth admits.  “But not liking something is no excuse not to do it – for environmental, health, traffic and cool-factor reasons, there’s really no excuse not to bike when you live this close to work.” 

“And that’s an amazing feeling – to do something you don’t like because it’s the RIGHT thing to do.”

May Beth’s newfound friends that she met through her biking experience are the freedom to shrug off disappointment and clarity to put things into perspective.  “[Biking] has given me a stronger self-image; the ability to do what I feel is right without seeking others’ approval.”  Calling her commute “Zen-like,” Mary Beth gets to her destination “clear headed and settled.”

Perhaps the biggest reward for this rider is the sense of connection that she feels with her community.  “I learned that I really value the gesture of a friendly ‘good morning’ - and for some reason on my bike, I am not shy to talk to the folks I pass by. I show up at work having exchanged a dozen friendly greetings - what a way to start the day.”

 By Gwen Froh, Safe Routes to Schools

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