May is Bike Month, and on a challenge from the FOX40 morning producers, I’m seeing if I can ride my bike to work all month. Today, the final verdict: 12 days biking to work, 11 days driving, plus 1 holiday where I did neither.
This has been an eye-opening experience, from co-workers who looked dumbfounded when I arrived at work with a helmet and shorts on, wondering if I was safe riding down Stockton Boulevard, to the physical demands of it (yes, I wussed out on rainy days), to the dangers of sharing the road.
Trading your car for pedal power frees you from the confines of steel and glass, and lets you really feel a part of your community. It forces you to think differently, and plan ahead, from your wardrobe, to your lunch plans to your errands, and the streets you’ll take. You save money on gas, of course, and lose time, of course. It’s a hassle, but also enlightening.
In summary, here’s my month:
*2 near head-on collisions with other cyclists. Some people just choose to ignore rules about riding with traffic, and become dangerous kamikaze riders, barreling toward you in a narrow bike lane.
*3 near collisions with animals. Twice with squirrels, and once with a well-fed tabby cat. I’m either super quiet, or super fast. I think it’s neither. They’re just really nonchalant squirrels.
*5+ dead bugs in the teeth or eye. Not fun, but free protein won’t hurt anyone. Much.
*7+ encounters with cars who are trying to be too helpful, and actually creating problems. If I’m in the left turn lane of a busy intersection, don’t slam on the breaks and stop in the middle of the street, as if I should ride in front of you. Just drive through, and let me follow the rules and make my turn when it’s clear! It’s so confusing when a driver just stops for no reason.
*8 drivers trying to squeeze me between a traffic light pole and their passenger-side mirror. Good reminder to self: Always check the rear view mirror for on-coming cyclists before turning right!
So, what about regularly riding to work? For me, the answer is yes, but not daily.
The most powerful thing in leaving a car is experiencing your community firsthand. Smelling what your neighbors are having for dinner. Smiling at the lady out watering her rose bushes. Noticing the new paint job on that corner house that is 3 blocks off the busy “car commute” street, and letting the owner know “hey, it looks great!” when you bike past. It’s invigorating to get a workout before work, and for those of us too busy to work out, it lets us combine the commute with the cardio. Most importantly, though, was realizing driving is such a privilege. As I biked past many people who don’t have the option of driving, I realized how fortunate I am to be able to make this decision. Seeing families in South Sacramento all commuting together by bike, I realize compassion from those in cars is critical. I also realize how much harder it can be for people to recover from adverse conditions to gain a roof over their heads, a job, and a reliable car. Biking to work should be a monthly routine at least, so more people realize the value, and perspective pedal power can provide.
Me? I’ll aim for every Friday.