Meet Janet Swim, seventeenth in the 2018 series of rider profiles, and one of the 2018 trip leaders. Get to know the riders for the PA to DC rides as the series unfolds, then follow the trips! Learn more. Donate.
I love to ride my bicycle. I associate it with a sense of freedom and joy. Growing up, my bicycles represented new stages of maturity. When I was five, I transitioned from my tricycle to my mom’s two-wheeler. My dad ran down the side walk with me, pushing and balancing the bike as a learned to balance. Then there was the sudden pride when I stepped over the line to being a skillful rider who could even ride all by myself around the block.
In third grade, I graduated to a really cool banana seat bicycle. I knew I was getting a bicycle because my two older siblings got new bicycles when they were in third grade. But I did not know that my parents knew what a cool bicycle was. In addition to mastering tricks like
riding with no hands and jumping off of curbs, bicycling became a mode of transportation. It allowed me to separate myself from the slow, hot, drudgery of walking to and from school to the ability to move more like a bird flying with ease with the rush of air cooling me off and fresh air filling my lungs.
I learned mechanics with my high school bicycle that I bought with money I sold from delivering newspapers. Modeling myself after my brilliant older brother, Martin, who could do no wrong except to always be right. I took my bike apart down to tiny ball bearings so I could clean and oil every moving part. I did need help putting it back together again but I learned how each of the parts worked, and the mechanics were less of a mystery.
I continued to bicycle in college, graduate school, and pre-tenure. Bicycling extended my adventures and allowed me to be transport myself without a car and fossil fuels, which in our “age of consciousness” about climate change takes on a new dimension. Now that our children no longer require us to transport them, I am back to bicycling again.
So, why do I ride to DC? I ride to DC because my bicycle is an expression of myself. I love the outdoors. I respect and find wild animals amazing. I want them to be able to live free. I hate seeing them killed by cars who seem to have taken over the world. Plus, we destroy their homes for whatever building or road we want to construct. We eat them even when we eat too much. Then to top it off, we are not only causing local problems but global problems by changing various ecological cycles, like the carbon cycle which is warming our planet and destroying our oceans. To top it off the problems we create with our consumption, while, ironically, employing many, are also harming many.
I ride specifically with PA-IPL, because I find religious groups are dedicated to attending to ethical dimensions of climate change—attending to impacts on both people, animals, and more generally the biosphere. These group consist of supportive intergenerational communities effort and express spiritual messages that moral, unifying, and hopeful messages of change. PA-IPL is working to facilitate and unite these groups to give them more strength.
There are various ways to fight these problems and I have dedicated my academic life to this task, and, when I can squeeze it in, I support others in their activist efforts. The bicycle ride viscerally represents my passion for the need to make changes. Moreover, symbolically, it represents going beyond what we now define as ordinary ways to live to engaging in new ways to live that are more symbiotic with nature. The new ways are not poor replacements for the old ways. Rather, like riding a bicycle, they can be freeing and bring joy.
Donate online to PA IPL in support the PA-to-DC riders (or send a check, memo: bike 2018 to PA IPL 243 S. Allen St. #337, State College, PA 16801)
to our 2018 SILVER sponsor Sun Directed,
Read Janet’s past profiles