This week is Bike To Work Week. This week, yours truly will be riding her bike to Howard Station and from the Downtown Station to the office [approximately 5.5 miles]. Last week, for encouragement, I turned to my friend, Scott. That is because, for Scott, every week is Bike To Work Week.
[ck] Scott, how long have you been commuting to work by bicycle?
[Scott] For the last four years, my primary methods of commuting are either by bus or bicycle.
[ck] How far do you commute?
[Scott] I commute about three miles each way.
[ck] What was the impetus for taking your bike to work?
[Scott] There were several motivating factors. Efficient exercise. Enjoyment. Believe it or not, it is often much faster; and, it allows my family to remain a one-car household.
[ck] So, I get the exercise. Talk to me about enjoyment.
[Scott] I really enjoy riding my bike. It makes me feel like a little kid riding to school.
[ck] It’s actually faster? Come on…
[Scott] No kidding. When school is in session, it is faster than the bus. In rush hour traffic, it is just as fast as a car.
[ck] You said that it allows your family to remain a one-car family. How does that impact your family financially?
[Scott] Financially, it is a big help. No insurance, gas, maintenance. The money saved actually gave us the option to afford to live in town.
[ck] What do you feel is most rewarding about the experience?
[Scott] Riding my bike puts me in a great mood to and from work. It seems like no one stuck in their car is smiling as I pedal along. I love that my two-year-old son connects me riding my bike as going to work; the normal and typical way of commuting. Hearing “Daddy,work,” as he knocks on my helmet each morning gives me an awesome feeling.
[ck] What concerns do you have about commuting by bike?
[Scott] Bikers have very little margin for error. The bike lane is “protected” by a three-inch paint stripe that is supposed to keep me safe from a four-thousand-pound vehicle. That said, there is a certain amount of danger that goes with commuting by bike. I would LOVE a dedicated lane with protective curbs.
There are also the people that honk and yell at me for riding on the road. There are drivers that cut me off [one driver intentionally pulled way over to the right of the lane so I couldn’t pass him when he had to sop because of gridlock]. I have even had stuff thrown at me on occasion. These are more a distraction than a discouragement.
[ck] Thanks, Scott, for the honesty and the encouragement.
So this morning, at 7:00 am, I went over my checklist. Helmet? Check. Tool kit [in case my chain broke…]. Check. Air gun, air cartridges and replacement tubes in the seat pack just [in case I get a flat…]? Check. Bicycle lock? Check. Backpack? Check. Water bottle? Check.
Kiss husband goodbye. Check. [I think John was more nervous about this ride than I was.]
By 7:15 am, I was off. I have to tell you, Scott was right. There is something very invigorating about riding a bike. The morning sun on your face and the wind whipping through your hair feel wonderful. Riding through the neighborhood was so peaceful. Even the intersection at McNeil Road and Parmer Lane [which was my biggest worry] was not as difficult to maneuver. There have been many accidents at that intersection and I knew that I should use extreme caution there. Still, everything about the morning ride had been pleasant.
Listening to Scott’s experiences, my apprehension had given way to confidence. The thought of using my own energy to get me to my destination was the most motivating reason for biking to work – then I encountered my first hill…
Now, I have traveled McNeil Road to Mopac by car numerous times. I never paid attention to the fact that from Parmer Lane to McNeil High School, it is uphill all the way. It is a subtle incline in a car. But on a bike—that hill is a monster. I pedaled as long and hard as I could. Then, I had to get off and walk the bike the rest of the way up the hill. It was the walk of shame. All those passersby had seen that hill defeat me. I sat for a five-minute spell and caught my breath before I hit the pavement once more.
The remaining ride was great. I pedaled hard on the downhill stretches to give me momentum to climb the next hills—which were slight in comparison to the one that had defeated me. When I turned into the train station and rode up to the platform, I felt like Lance Armstrong crossing the finish line in the Tour de France. One lady at the station, who is a regular rider, told me that she had seen me riding on McNeil Road and that she was so proud of me. [Obviously, she hadn’t seen me when I was gasping for air by the YMCA.] She told me she had just bought a bike and had been riding around the neighborhood; and that she was now inspired to work toward riding to the station. Wow! Only 7:55 am and I had already inspired someone. What a GREAT morning!
When we boarded the train, another woman who rides regularly asked about my ride. I admitted to my walk of shame up the hill. “Honey,” she said, “the fact that you were able to even make it to the hill [much less to the station] was more of an accomplishment than most people would experience in a day.” She was right. I had nothing to be ashamed about.
By 8:54 am, I was at the office. My first day of Bike to Work Week—a success. Now, I suppose that Bike to Work Week is also Bike Home Week as well. One thing about it, it will be downhill all the way home.