Bike to Work Week, Day 1

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.

Scott with his son

[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.]

Carol's ready to ride

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.

9 thoughts on “Bike to Work Week, Day 1

  1. Erik

    I’m a 100% bike commuter myself, and I’d like to give you props for stepping outside of your comfort zone and doing this (even if it’s purely for PR purposes).

    But I’ve got to say, quite honestly, does a 1.5 hr commute each way sound like the ‘system’ is working for you? That’s 3 hours of your day: gone. Add that to 8 hours of work, probably 1.5 in the morning getting ready, an hour or so for making/eating dinner, and you’re left with just over 2 hours in the evening before it’s time for bed. This is the fundamental flaw w/ transit in its current form/state.

    Best of luck in your efforts to climb those hills. Getting rid of those thick/nobby tires will certainly help 😉

    1. Erica

      Erik,
      Carol is not affiliated with Capital Metro at all, so I’m not sure what she has to gain by “talking CapMetro up”… it’s def. good PR for Capital Metro to have a happy rider talking about it, but I don’t think Carol’s doing this simply to give Capital Metro good PR… that doesn’t make sense.

    2. Carol Keesee

      Thank you for your comments and your advice on the tires, Erik. I’ll have those changed out soon.

      Personally, I have never considered any transit system to be “convenient” in any form or fashion–Metro Rail included. Like most Austinites, my mentality has been that there is no service that will ever be as convenient as walking out my front door and turning the key in my own vehicle. That convenience comes with a price as well: poor air quality, rising gas prices, vehicle wear and tear, etc.

      I do not promote Metro Rail in any form or fashion other than as my personal choice for an alternative commute to work. Call me a train snob if you must; but, the bus system was never a system that I would take advantage of.

      The experiences I write about are my own personal journey and experiences using Metro Rail as my vehicle for change. One person’s personal commitment to do her part for the environment, to combat rising gas prices and improve my overall health by being forced to be more active. One person’s shared experiences with others who are taking that step outside their comfort zones.

      This experience has taught me that I do want to push the envelope a little bit more and be more like you and my friend, Scott. Convenience may be the tradeoff; but, I promise you that the rewards have been worth it. For me, that ride to the train station yesterday was certainly a challenge and a monumental feat. Because of the experience, I will continue to ride my bike now because I know that I can do it.

      As Erica said, I am not employed by Cap Metro and I do not get paid for my submissions as a contributor. I contribute to Cap Metro’s blog because, like me, there are other people considering making the choice to step out of their comfort zone. Capital Metro is where they will likely turn. I write because I want to offer them encouragement and support.

  2. Carol, did you ever look into the express buses? (the 98x series)? They run from the first two park-and-rides that the Red Line does; many also hit a closer-in park-and-ride on 183 near Duval (the one I disembarked at many times on years of reverse commutes with my bike). My early assumption was that if you were 5 miles from Howard and chose that station, you must have been driving down from Round Rock, but you’re clearly coming across from the west instead.

    Those express buses have wifi; and unlike the Red Line, they actually go somewhere useful – the front door of UT; close to the Capitol; and much closer to downtown offices.

    1. Carol Keesee

      Good to hear from you, M1EK. I have taken the express bus. It has been quite awhile ago. I took it from Congress Avenue to the Duval Park and Ride for about a week when my vehicle had broken down. I don’t want to “bus bash” other than saying that it didn’t appeal to me. I get intimidated by routes and schedules; and, I it was uninviting. That is one reason why Metro Rail appeals to me. I would be willing to try the express bus again and write about those experiences. But I really do like Metro Rail.

      1. It’s interesting because both the Red Line and the express buses have schedule problems in the same exact way – in that they don’t run very often, and the reverse commute direction runs even less often (in the 98x bus case, for instance, I had to wait for a 983 north even though I would have taken 982 south; the 982s just turned around and headed back without picking up).

        I put my bike in front of (and underneath) those express buses about 500 times over the years, by the way. Quicker than the Red Line for almost every possible commute. I wouldn’t write it off.

  3. Pingback: Philosophical observations: biking is like life! « Capital MetroBlog

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