"When I'm biking, I'm saying thank you." — Yolande's Story

Yolande started commuting daily by bike earlier this year after experiencing a Year of Yay! ride.
Yolande started commuting daily by bike earlier this year after experiencing a Year of Yay! ride.

Name: Yolande Berger
Resides in: Reynoldsburg
Works in: Downtown Columbus @ the Ohio Department of Education

“Columbus is a bike city!”

Yolande moved to Columbus in 2009. Inspired by the cyclists she saw riding the road, she was immediately compelled to commute by bike.

“I always knew I was going to do this commuter gig, but I didn’t know how,” she says. Fresh from a 1-mile ride to our lunch date at the North Market, Yolande’s enthusiasm for her new-found passion radiates. “Columbus is a bike city!”

Knowing her desire to ride, a friend gifted Yolande a bike soon after her move to Columbus. But, at that time, her physical abilities were limited and riding a bike was out of the question. The bike sat, collecting dust in the garage of her Reynoldsburg home for more than six years.

“Just keep moving your legs.”

Fast forward to early 2015, Yolande’s health had improved and she felt confident from achieving her first half marathon the prior year. At the urging of a friend, she and her 24-year-old daughter found themselves at a Year of Yay! ride in March with an Underground Railroad theme.

That day Year of Yay! travelled from Upper Arlington to Clintonville, through Linden to Sunbury Road where they pedaled uphill before stopping at Ohio History Connection. It was 17 miles in a cold, miserable drizzle. “It was intimidating, but the welcoming and patient community [of Year of Yay riders] made it accessible. I kept thinking, just keep moving your legs.” Yolande pedaled with purpose during that first ride.

“A different face of Columbus.”

Along the way, kids peeked from windows in neighborhoods along the route while business owners cheered from shop entrances. Despite the weather, or perhaps because of it, the group of more than 50 Year of Yay! riders brought the energy of a holiday parade. The community was excited to see them. “You see different face of Columbus when you’re on the bike.”

Her first ride since childhood sent a spark through Yolande. Just a few weeks following her initial ride, she sought out a Yay Bikes! Ride Buddy to help her learn to navigate the roads. The experience riding the busy streets allowed Yolande to gain comfort in the skills, signals and rules of the road she had learned during Year of Yay!.  After that, she was hooked.

“It’s a moment of gratitude.”

Just a few months later, Yolande is a proud bicycle commuter motivated by the benefits to her health, the environment and her pocketbook. Each morning Yolande travels from Reynoldsburg to the near east side by car before parking and riding the final 2 ½ miles to downtown Columbus on her bike. Commuting by bike has added a time of quiet reflection and peace to Yolande's day. Removed from the chaos of the typical morning commute, Yolande now rides streets lined with oversized trees and picturesque homes. “The only word I can use to describe how it makes me feel is calm,” she says.

And Yolande is grateful. “I don’t take physical activity for granted. When I’m biking, I’m saying thank you. It’s a moment of gratitude.”