Why I Ride: A Conversation with Ashley Vitanza – Getting Up Close with Nature While on Two Wheels
by Lisa Montanaro of The Bike Campaign, April 23, 2022
Ashley Vitanza has had a love affair with the bicycle since she first laid eyes on one at the tender young age of four years old. And of course, it wasn’t just any bicycle, but a Strawberry Shortcake one. Her family’s home was in the woods, so she took to riding her beloved bike in circles on the deck of their Bloomington, Indiana home.
Now decades later, Ashley is an adult living in Davis who traded in her childhood bike for an adult one and enjoys venturing past the property line of her home. Yet, she hasn’t lost the wide-eyed wonder children experience when on two wheels. Even better, she has passed on her affection for the bicycle to her son Sonny, a seven-year-old. She started trailing him on her bike when he was a toddler, and then switched him to training wheels and then a regular bike.
Ashley and her husband moved to Davis in 2017 and immediately fell in love with the bicycle culture. “When we were looking for a place to live, we knew we were interested in a college town. We visited Davis and saw how bike-friendly it was and loved that part of the culture,” she shared. In the beginning, they mostly used their bikes for leisure rides as a family, but slowly started relying on cycling more for commuting to school and work, and to do errands.
In August 2021, they decided to take advantage of the Davis cycling infrastructure and use the bike exclusively for Sonny to get to school and Ashley to get to work, which is 5-miles round trip. Their reasons were many: it was faster, more fun, helped expend energy before and after school and work, and they didn’t have to fight for parking spots. Their decision to bike more and drive less now has taken on even more significance with gas prices skyrocketing. In addition to school and work, they bike ride to the Farmer’s Market, baseball games, the grocery store and to do other errands. Ashley finds herself using the car on average only about once per week, when there is inclement weather like high winds or rain, or if she needs to haul something large and use cargo space. That infrequent use translates into filling up the gas tank in her car only about once per month.
Ashley has successfully passed on her love of biking to her son, who is growing up in a cycling family and doesn’t turn to the car as a knee-jerk option for transportation. In fact, Sonny has embraced bike riding to school with so much gusto that he has logged 132 trips since August 2021 and is one of the top three students at Birch Lane Elementary for most trips to school on bike or by foot – an accolade that brings him a sense of pride. Sonny has joined Bike Club at Birch Lane, created by his friend Joe, and participates in a monthly organized group ride with other first graders and their parents. Fittingly, Ashley serves as the recording secretary for Bike Club. They are also signed up to participate in the Loopalooza ride on the Davis Bike Loop on May 1st. (see www.thebikecampaign.com).
Like her son, Ashley is encouraged by metrics and recently took note that she had logged 660 miles since she started using her bike for commuting. Yet, despite the impressive numbers, encouraging reasons, and financial savings, what really makes Ashley get on her bike again and again is her enjoyment of being on two wheels in the great outdoors. “When you commute without a car, you get to see the trees and flowers more, connect to the seasons, and see the sunrise and sunset more directly. I’m in nature, not just going through it.” Ashley recounts one of her favorite rides when there was a full moon at night. She remembers that they had bike lights, but the moon had illuminated everything, making the night so bright. “It was very special.”
Not only does bike riding help Ashley get up close with nature, but with Davis neighbors too. During her commute, she passes a house across from Holmes Middle School where the smell of bacon cooking wafts out into the street, appealing to her olfactory senses. She looks forward to passing that house so she can savor that smell. It’s those type of sensory details that she relishes when out on two wheels and that she would miss if she were stuck in a car. So, whoever lives across from Holmes Middle School and makes bacon every morning, Ashley thanks you!
This article was written by Lisa Montanaro, commissioned by The Bike Campaign. For more information about how to “Drive Less. Ride More.”, contact Maria Contreras Tebbutt at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.TheBikeCampaign.com.
Lisa Montanaro is the author of the book The Ultimate Life Organizer and is a freelance writer for print and online publications. She is currently revising her first novel. When not writing, Lisa helps organizations and people be more productive. And when not working or writing, Lisa can be found on two wheels cycling!