Ride the Route in Reverse

4 Oct

Last weekend, my family and I were in Gloucester, MA for the Grand Prix of Gloucester – an annual cyclocross race held at historic Stage Fort Park (www.gpgloucester.com).  The weather was beautiful, and we spent many hours outside cheering the racers, riding our bikes, exploring the fishing piers, and watching the drawbridge go up and down.  The weekend also reminded me of some insights I had while training over the summer.

Gloucester1modMy morning cyclocross ride in Gloucester, MA.

I love riding my bike.  And the Pioneer Valley offers a perfect setting for cycling with its rolling hills, acres of farmland, and the Connecticut River.  Over the years, I have developed some routes that I ride regularly.  The familiarity of these rides leads to some efficiencies – I can anticipate what’s around the next corner, I know when to shift, and I know how to balance my effort.  For the most familiar, I can even put myself on autopilot, and my mind can wander as I ride without really paying close attention.

 Every so often, however, I ride my route in reverse.  Though the roads are the same, the experience is quite different.  Forests and fields are viewed from a new angle.  What had been fast downhills – with no opportunity to look around – become slow uphills when details are noticed.  And the route leads to new surprises and discoveries as the lack of familiarity forces me to really see.  From a training perspective, while these rides in reverse are perhaps not as fast or efficient, they ultimately make me a better rider.  The newness engages different muscles, forces experimentation, and heightens my focus.

 The same can be said of our approach to environmental problems and challenges.  We can get used to doing things the way we always have – whether that familiarity comes from our choice of major, our culture, or personal experiences.  To innovate, we benefit from riding the route in reverse, by viewing a situation from another perspective, from engaging with others who have experiences that are different and distinct from our own.  This diversity leads to better decisions and more sustainable solutions.  While not always easy and sometimes uncomfortable, we all benefit when we are willing to really see the world from different perspectives and to hear a diversity of voices.

– Andrew Guswa
Director of CEEDS

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