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my vehicle, my bicycle

If you commute to work in a car, I suppose you spend a lot of time in the car. If you get to work on a train, you spend a portion of your life on the train. As for me, I'm on a bike.

I've been bike commuting for over ten years now. It began when I was trying to lose weight and was actively seeking enjoyable modes of exercise. Every September there's a Bicycle Commute Challenge, so I decided to give it a try with my employer's blessing and support, and lo and behold I loved it. When the challenge ended, I kept commuting by bicycle and never stopped.

The exercise component of biking is huge for me, but there's something very empowering about absolutely never ever buying a tank of gasoline. Come on, doesn't that sound good?


my vehicle, my bicycle
janice leber 2014

This is my vehicle. This is how I get around.
Me and my vehicle, we cover plenty of ground.
Morning or evening, rain or sunshine
I'm on my vehicle, the back roads are mine
I get around, I get around on my vehicle, my bicycle
I get around, I get around on my vehicle, my bicycle

This is my vehicle, my transit of first resort
Me and my vehicle laugh at the traffic report
We bask in sunshine, we soak up the stars
Makes me feel bad for those people in cars
I get around, I get around on my vehicle, my bicycle
I get around, I get around on my vehicle, my bicycle

And if the world falls apart tomorrow
As we all know it will in due course
I have a bike you can borrow
and you can be a renewable resource
when it all starts going kablooey
and getting worse by the hour
we don't feel desperate, do we?
'cause we can get around on our own power

This is my vehicle. Don't build no freeway for me
Me and my vehicle, we know that that way ain't free.
Always a good time, never a chore,
A little sweat never started a war
I get around, I get around on my vehicle, my bicycle
I get around, I get around on my vehicle, my bicycle

writing the song
Riding a bike puts the body into a certain rhythm. As I pump the pedals, things come to my mind in a metronomic beat that corresponds to the movement that makes the whole thing go. A lot of my songs start with my mind looping in that rhythm, and this love song to the bicycle is an obvious one.

On a warm morning ride through the back streets of a flowery, tree-filled neighborhood, I was celebrating the wonders of the bike commute with the rhythm of pedals going round and round, and this song just rolled into my mind. When I came up with the hook, "I get around, I get around on my vehicle, my bicycle," I thought, "Yeah, this song might just work." The lyrics took some thought and work over the next few weeks, but I'm pretty plessed with the final outcome. OK, I admit it: this song was written in 2013. But unless you were at the bike clinic at Base Camp last July, you haven't heard it. And if you were there, I suspect you won't mind hearing it again because you are just cool like that.

my biking posse
For a couple of years I've been riding with the PDX Bike Swarm, an eclectic bunch of activists who came together during the days of Occupy Portland/Wall Street. These people love bikes even more than I do, which is probably a little over the top. They expect bicycles to save the world. They -- I should say "we" -- ride with purpose. Occasionally I have taken videos while riding with them, and of course some of those clips are in this video.

making the video
I used iMovie on the ol' ipad we call the Hypnotoad. Working on the Toad is always fun, and it does a great job with video clips and still photos. I also did some lip-synching here and there from time to time. Those selfie inserts were shot on my ipod while getting around on my vehicle, my bicycle. My favorite shot is the very last one. I was riding in Portland's Waterfront Park when the cherry trees were in spectacular bloom, and I craned the camera around to show the river, the skyline and a couple of bridges before the fade to black.

It was nice to take a break from doing animation, which (I keep forgetting) is unbelievably tedious and time-consuming. I will probably mention this again in the future, maybe even later today.

Compiling this video was really enjoyable because I got to relive some fun outings with my bike swarm pals. Near the beginning there's a very brief bumpy clip of people riding around in circles (Nate in a red t-shirt is doing a wheelie). One late afternoon, we spontaneously rode into an empty parking lot and circled around randomly for 10-15 minutes as the sun was sinking. It was an epic moment for all of us. I was lucky to get a little video of that.

There are also clips here from "Civil Discobedience," an evening in early summer 2012 when we rode to freeway side roads and overpasses and shook our booties shamelessly to loud disco and reggae, promoting human joy in an increasingly robotic world. If any of that looks like it might have been fun -- well, you are 100% right about that.

There's also a long clip in the beginning of what I saw on my morning commute last fall, when the giant maples in Portland's Laurelhurst neighborhood were turning the streets to gold. That was magical and I wanted you to see it.

You will see us planting vegetables in the middle of a freeway. Toward the end of the video there's a still photo of a guy on a bike, pulling a trailer of sound equipment by holding it with one hand. That's Neill. He's a crazy son of a bitch with a heart as big as all outdoors. The beautiful smiling girl putting on a backpack is Peri. The guy in the silver sequins is Dan Kaufman, who rides the famed Disco Trike. Wonderful people, all of them, and riding with them keeps me young.

This video is dedicated to the Portland Bike Swarm and America's Bicycle Capital. Like, duh.