Friday was Bike to Work Day, but since it was my compressed work day off and I had some appointments scheduled, I had to make do and turn it into Bike to Wherever Day. I’ve been practicing my cycling skills for two weeks, gradually trying to turn myself into a bike commuter. Some might say that a suburban mom-type becoming a bicycle commuter is as likely as a unicorn! I hope this is not the case. I hope I’m one of many and that BTWD, which saw a record number of over 10,000 registrants, will be a catalyst for a whole new crop of bicycle commuters.
I’m not naturally talented on a bike. I hadn’t been on one for about 20 years, and I tend to be a little accident-prone in general. Stairs, for example, can be challenging. Or jogging in place while waiting for the light to change. A situation like that might end with me falling off a curb. So by all means, let’s definitely put a bicycle in the mix and see what happens. I say this, not only to indulge a predilection for self-deprecation, but also as encouragement to anyone out there who thinks they can’t do this.
Here’s the run-down on my magical day on a bike:
7:25am: The daughter and I hop on our bikes to go to school. I was running errands afterward, so I had rummaged around and found her backpack from the 2nd grade to use for toting around purchases. She made the same face that my mom makes when I’m having a bad hair day and politely suggested that perhaps backpack would be more comfortable staying home. I disagreed. By the time we arrived, she had invited me to not come pick her up after school. “Really. I’m fine. I’m sure you’re very busy.”
7:30am: Bike to Walgreens to pick up some sundries. On my way, elderly man does fist-pump in air and shouts “way to go!” Is it that obvious that I don’t do this every day? Is it the lack of spandex? Or is it because I can’t seem to commit to riding in a straight line? Anyway, there are no bike racks at Walgreens, and they’re closed. Bike to CVS. No bike racks there either. Lock bike to a tree.
7:45am: Bike around town to kill time before Dr.’s office opens. Find new secret bike path! Get smacked in the face by low-hanging branches.
8:00am: Get to Dr.’s office. They have bike racks! Beg nurse to draw blood now because there’s no way I can wait until the afternoon to eat “because I’m biking today”(!) Just in case she didn’t get the hint from the bike helmet which I’m still wearing so everyone in the waiting room will know that I rode my bike there. She’s unimpressed, tells me to go eat and make a morning appointment for lab work.
8:10am: Return home on W &OD trail. Get passed by spandex crew. The lead guy shouts “passing!” Thanks, buddy, I got that. The fact that you’re passing me is what tipped me off. A simple directional “on your left” would have sufficed. Everyone passes me. No need to rub it in.
9:30am: Research bike route to next appointment and find that it would require a motorcade based on my skill level. Decide against bicycling there until I take a Confident City Cycling class.
1:20pm: Off to my Dr.’s appointment! Excited to be back on the bike because it’s putting me in a really good mood. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on the sunshine-endorphin cocktail for so long! Once again, I keep the helmet on for as long as I reasonably can in the office, and again, no one is nearly as impressed as I am.
2:00: Back home again. I forgot to mention that each time I’ve had to stop to cross the street today, I have trouble getting my feet going on the pedals again. I live in a great bicycling town with lots of paths and sidewalks, and motorists actually stop for bicyclists like it’s totally normal (as it should be!). So thanks to everyone out there who stopped for me and endured the awkwardness of having to witness me slowly and not very gracefully get my bike going again.
3:20pm: Meet up with the daughter again to escort her home on bike. She’s happy to see me now that I’ve lost the backpack. I keep screaming at her, “Isn’t this fun?!” She agrees, but I don’t think she really gets the fun-ness of it because she’s still a kid and pretty much everything is still fun.
So that’s a wrap on my Bike to Wherever Day travels. And now a moment to reflect on everything I’ve learned…As I mentioned, I’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks now, using my bike to get to the metro and run errands around town. I started doing it because 1)my husband bike commutes around 30 miles a day most days of the week, and it was starting to make me feel like a loser, 2) I’m already “car-lite,” but because of gas prices and my increasing anxiety about the environmental impacts of being overly car dependent, I wanted to go “car-liter,” and 3) I just had another birthday and decided it was time to start making some serious changes to my health habits. Pretty good reasons, right? But there are a couple of things that I didn’t anticipate. First, it turns out that biking is a pretty efficient mode of transportation. Even as slow as I am (that will change!), I still found that it took roughly the same amount of time to get places as it would have in the car due to the volume of traffic and the time it takes to find parking, etc. Second—and this was mind-blowing to me since I have a lifelong aversion to exercise in general—it’s so incredibly fun! It’s almost impossible not to smile and feel good when you’re on a bike. I tested this theory out by riding in the rain too. Same thing, felt good.
Congratulations to everyone who participated in Bike to Work Day! I hope you had a great experience too. Please let us know how it went for you and if you plan to continue biking on a regular basis. We’d love to hear from you!
By Anne Factor at goDCgo