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I use the words “freedom” and “empowerment” frequently to describe the profound impact that CyclingSavvy has had on my life.

But I don’t think most folks believe that I really mean it. One reason, among several, is that bicycling is not seen as a real transportation option. Using a bicycle in Dallas is, for most people, including myself, a recreational activity. If my bicycle was taken away today, I would be sad but my livelihood would not be taken away from me; I can still do my job, go to church, visit my friends, and enjoy life (quite a bit less fun, though!).

Some of you know and have followed Eli Damon’s story over the past few years. Even though we have only met in person twice, I am proud to call him a friend and cycling educator colleague. Last September I wrote about his police harassment and legal issues on the I Am Traffic site (Reality Check: The Hadley Harrassment Case).

Since I wrote that article, Eli has won a landmark case against the Hadley Police Department and is finally able to share his own story. I highly recommend reading his post on I Am Traffic: “Overcoming Ignorance and Fear“. If you’re more in the mood for listening, Eli also shared an overview on Diane Lees’ “Outspoken Cyclist” podcast, show #178.

I take for granted the ability and freedom to move around my city. Rarely do I feel trapped or unable to go where I want, whenever I want. Eli, however, had been trapped for the majority of his life…until he found true freedom and empowerment through driving his bicycle.

I continued to exploit my newfound freedom and expand my sense of possibility, cycling on a wide variety of roads under a wide variety of conditions, even making a couple of three-day, two-hundred-mile journeys. I made these trips because there were opportunities at the end that I wanted to take. I could never have made those trips or taken those opportunities before my transformation. It would have been overwhelmingly difficult, stressful, and scary.

The “transformation” that he refers to is his understanding and practice of the techniques that CyclingSavvy teaches.

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One of the reasons that Eli’s story excites me is that, for Eli, bicycling isn’t a fad or a lifestyle. It is now critical to his livelihood. And society didn’t just hand it to him. He had to work at it, practice at it, and persevere through overwhelming circumstances.

How many more people like Eli are out there that can find such personal freedom through cycling?