How We Met in "Bike Love" by Melissa Ott

My boyfriend's name is Brenden. In this photo we're at the Santa Cruz Bike Party Bike Prom in Spring 2013. Here's our bike-related love story: 

Brendissa.jpg

We met at last year's Harvest Festival at the University of California, Santa Cruz Farm and Garden. We were both working for sustainability-related student organizations, so we were tabling at the Festival to promote student job opportunities and ways to be more sustainably minded. His job as Transportation Campaign Coordinator for the Student Environmental Center was to ride a energy-generating bicycle that was powering a blender full of fruit smoothies. I was the Education & Outreach Coordinator for the Campus Sustainability Office, encouraging people to make a pledge to be more sustainable in a particular way. He kept coming over to my table to deliver me smoothies. It was a really hot day, and I had been working all day in the direct sunlight, so I really appreciated those smoothies and the excuse it gave him to come talk with me. 

We saw each other later that week at a sustainability event, and we decided to lead a hike to bring together students from the more than 13 different sustainability organizations at UCSC to bond outside of events or meetings. We planned it out, emailed everyone, made a Facebook event... and no one showed up. It ended up being our first date, and we spent 6 hours hiking from campus to the ocean, ending with a nice picnic by the water. People always suggest to me when I tell them this that Brenden secretly told everyone not to show up. Either way, we're both glad that no one showed up that first time because it gave us a chance to get to know each other. Hiking and biking both have a way of bringing people closer than they might be if they were sitting. (We later planned some more hikes, which people did attend.)

So how does this story relate to bike love? Well, in high school I rode my bike to school and was an advocate for sustainable transportation, but when I began attending UCSC, which sits at the top of a hill overlooking Monterey Bay, I left my bike at home. Last year, I began riding my bike on campus, realizing that it was far more efficient than walking or busing. I stayed motivated to bike because I had Brenden to share my triumph with when I rode up the hill to campus. We rode up to campus together often enough that it became less and less of a terrifying, lung-destroying calamity and more and more of an incredible challenge that I looked forward to. I think by the end of the school year, I was biking around campus and town more than he was.

This year, I'm co-coordinating a couple of my own sustainable transportation projects, including a student-led class and an internship with the City of Santa Cruz. Brenden and I still bike together when we have time, but he works for Tesla Motors now and I'm finishing up my last year at UC Santa Cruz. Though he's moved on from electricity-generating bikes to electric vehicles, he still bikes to work most days and keeps me motivated by replying enthusiastically each time I text him after I bike up the hill. 

In addition to having met an obviously awesome, bike-loving, motivating boyfriend, I think the best part of this story is that I've been able to take the awareness of how fantastic it feels to be supported while biking and pass along the encouragement to fellow students who need some extra support to stay motivated. It's all about showing people how to look forward to the challenge of a good hill, enjoy the fresh air, and learn to love their bike. And some bike-blended smoothies help, too.