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WHY COMMUTE BY BICYCLE?
Just a few years ago I was in pretty poor shape: a pack-a-day smoker, a frequent drinker, a tendency for exercise avoidance, rarely outdoors. Hoping to encourage a healthier lifestyle, a friend gave me an inexpensive mountain bike as a Christmas gift in 1994.
After a few short-distance weekend try-out rides, I got the crazy idea to start riding to work. A regular MUNI rider since moving to San Francisco, my seven-mile commute required at least two transfers and could take anywhere from 50 to 90 minutes each way. Considering the crowding and stale air aboard the bus, the lengthy waits between transfers, the cost and aggravation -- how could bike commuting not be an improvement?
So one Monday morning, I set out early on my bike. Looking back on it now, I'm surprised that I stuck with it. I had no mentors really, no one to advise me or offer suggestions. I had to discover everything the hard way. That first morning I set out fully dressed in my office attire. Now I ride in comfortable shorts and change upon arriving at work. If I had to carry something, I put it in a backpack, arriving with a perspiration soaked back. Now I have a rear rack and panniers. One morning after a rainstorm, I thought: "Hey, the rain's over, I'll be OK." Now I know the worst feature of wet weather cycling isn't the precipitation that falls down; it's the muck that splashes up.
Many years later, I can't imagine traveling to work any other way than by bicycle. I don't waste a second stuck in traffic. No long waits for an oil change, a car wash, service from a parts store or a muffler shop. I spend precisely no time filling my gas tank every week. Parking is a snap. My fitness is excellent without spending endless, boring hours on a stairmaster, a treadmill or -- ugh -- a stationary cycle. There are no payments for car loans, insurance, parking, registration, tolls, fines, and tow charges. Instead of enduring frequent episodes of "road rage," I enjoy lots of fresh air. I frequently find things in the street: tools, toys, money. (Mostly coins, though I once found $463 in cash, pocketed after unsuccessful attempts to return.) I arrive at work, flush with a heady endorphin rush, feeling fit and ready to be productive.
Nothing has enhanced my life as much as the decision to start bike commuting. I've stopped smoking, I don't drink any more, and I'm always outdoors. I'm saving money, I feel all self-righteous about not polluting, and I can eat plenty without worrying about getting fat. (Well, sort of.) And, in general, I arrive at just about any city destination faster by bike than if I'd driven. I discovered ways to combine bikes and transit for fun weekend travel out of town.
It's easy to start traveling by bicycle. After all, more of the world's workers get to their jobs by bike than by car. The challenge is sticking with it.
Bike commuting and economic downturn, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Will Gas Costs See Surge in Bike Commuters? - National Public Radio
Two-wheeling a joy for many commuters - Bike Commute Tips Blog
Bicycle as tool for planetary salvation - Bike Commute Tips Blog
Gas prices driving more to bikes - Bike Commute Tips Blog
U.S. Census: 10 best, worst cities for bike commuting - Bike Commute Tips Blog
"Driving a car versus riding a bike is on par with watching television rather than living your own life."--Bruce MacAlister, Calgary cyclist
Comments? Suggestions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org || Updated 08.17.11
Image: Andy Singer