One of our most loyal readers is my grandma. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts and – to my surprise – bought a folding bike last week. I decided to take this opportunity to learn more about her history with bikes. Without further ado, I present a Let’s Go Ride a Bike exclusive: very special interview with Gram.
What made you decide to buy a bike?
I hadn’t ridden in a long time but you inspired me to start again.
Why a folding bike?
I’ve had my Mongoose bike for ten years, but it’s a big bike. I wanted a lighter bike, so when I saw you riding your friend’s folding bike I decided to buy one because I can take it on the bus and train to Boston and other places if I want. I find it easier to ride, too. I have arthritis in my hips and knees so when I ride it hurts at first but then the pain goes away. I’m interested in learning about yoga, too, because I read that it helps arthritis.
What is your primary means of transportation?
I’ve never gotten around to getting a driver’s license and have always walked or taken public transportation. I passed the written test for a learner’s permit but never followed up with driving school.
What was the first bike you ever owned?
When I was a kid my sister Marilyn and I shared one used bike. I bought my first new one when I was about 27 years old [my age!]. I think it was a Schwinn 3 speed.
Can you tell me about my mom’s first bike?
I bought your mother her first red and white Sears bike for Christmas when she was four years old. It had training wheels on it.
Did she ride a bike to school?
They lived near the school except for high school later and they usually walked there.
[Gram on left] [3 daughters – my mom on left – also has 3 sons]
Did you ride your bikes together as a family?
We used to ride long distances on any kind of road available, but not more than about 25 miles away, because we brought all the kids and picnicked at Crane Beach in Ipswich and Marblehead Beach. Grampy and I rode with all of our kids and their friends. No other parents came with us because no other parents we knew rode bikes. Some drivers would do double takes thinking we had fifteen kids because we usually had that many with us. Joey was four when I got the new bike and I had him in a baby seat on the back. Joey rode his own bike when he got big enough, too. All of us did.
How do you feel about biking around Salem? Does it feel safe?
There are only two bike paths in Salem and the bike commission people want to make a lot more. I’m hoping Salem will get on the ball and build the many more bike trails they’re always talking about. They built two but then the economy slowed down.
The traffic here is terrible and this state is one of the worst for bad drivers and congestion. I bought a helmet and it’s the first time I’ve bought one. I’m more nervous to ride than I used to be. Back at Rainbow Terrace I lived next to a bike path where there were railroad tracks long ago that went quite a ways from that area into Marblehead. It was a nice way not to have to worry about cars.
How has biking around Salem changed since you were a kid? Did a lot more people bike back then or fewer?
I think biking was on an upswing in the late sixties when I bought my first bike. There was a big movement towards saving the environment then, just as there is now. It kind of went underground though until recently.
There weren’t many bike paths around. The Marblehead one was around but not the newer one in Salem. I think the streets then and now weren’t any safer or any more dangerous. We never used helmets but safety is more stressed now. Seat belts for cars and baby seats weren’t used then either.
Thanks, Gram! You’re awesome.