Greg Raisman, a safety specialist at the Bureau of Transportation in Portland, Oregon (PBOT), rode bikes all over his neighborhood in Warwick, Rhode Island when he was a kid. Riding back then was freedom and personal transportation for him.

When Raisman got his driver’s license at age 16, however, a wider field of freedom was his. Biking went by the wayside.

Years later when Raisman was in graduate school in Bloomington, Indiana, a confluence of events put biking back in his path. First his roommate’s girlfriend left her bike at their shared apartment, and then she left the city, leaving the bike behind.

Greg had known he was getting out of shape, but when he decided to take the roommate’s ex-girlfriend’s bike for a spin, after just one mile he still got a surprise.

Greg and his wife beth on a four-wheeled pedalcar. (Photo Damon Eckhoff)

Greg and his wife beth on a four-wheeled pedalcar. (Photo Damon Eckhoff)

“I rode it a mile and basically I was just falling off of it onto a lawn, lying there trying to catch my breath,” he said.

But in spite of feeling out of shape, he also felt invigorated. Greg suddenly re-discovered he really had lots of reasons to ride.

“It was kind of a revelation – like not eating chocolate for 10 years and then having your first piece and thinking, ‘Why did I ever stop?'” he said. “Suddenly I was not in my car, I was falling in love with my city, because I was seeing a lot more of the place I lived in.”

In addition to the improved health and feelings of freedom, another of the reasons to ride Greg was discovering was the sociability that biking gave him, and he just kept adding more biking to his life. Now 43, Greg and his wife Beth live car-free and have 7 bikes between them.

Luckily, he said, he and Beth can share bikes without even adjusting the saddles. As he has experienced some muscular difficulties, Raisman has found a lot of ease in riding an electric assist e-bike. He’s thinking of possibly buying an ELF – a solar powered, three wheeled electric bike with its own weather-proof shell.

Greg loves the culture of group rides that pervades Portland (he’s a dedicated and skilled amateur photographer of events) and he also loves being out in the city with his bike, talking and interacting with people. After getting a rescue dog named Velma, he’s also getting a custom-made basket for carrying her wherever he goes.

“My bicycle is how I move around but it’s not just transport,” he said. “I get to interact, and not just with people on bikes but with people walking. There’s the freedom with the bike, but I also love the human interactions and the fact that on any ride there are surprises along the way.”

 

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