I ride my bike to work, the gym, the Sprouts Farmer’s Market, the coffee shop, or sometimes the mall. And it can be a major pain in the neck even for cycling enthusiasts, which is why I think it’s relatively rare for folks to ride a bicycle to work. Pedaling in inclement weather and dress clothes makes it even more problematic.
People stop me on the street sometimes and ask me, why do you do it? (Actually they don’t, but I sometimes fantasize about people interviewing me about bicycle riding). The answer is pretty straightforward: I don’t do if for the environment, for the planet, or because I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint. I did not become suddenly conscious of my duties as a global citizen.
The sad truth is that I ride my bike A) because it’s actually sort of fun and B) I’m a cheapo who doesn’t want another car and all the irritations that come with owning a vehicle.
That’s it. Those are the only reasons why my wife and I have decided to scale back to one vehicle.
But aside from saving money and actually experiencing my morning commute from a different point of view, I have actually learned a few lessons.
Getting by on a bike gave me a new sense of self-sufficiency.
Of course, anyone with more than a ten-mile commute is probably not going to be able to bike to work. I live six miles away, and even though it pains my posterior, it’s manageable. I only ride two days a week, but if I needed to, I could do it every single day. I’m not a slave to a vehicle.
I feel a part of a community.
Although I wasn’t motivated by environmental concerns, I actually feel a bond with the eco-conscious crowd. All I need for a grocery trip is a backpack and my bike. “No need for bags ma’am. Just toss the groceries in my reusable pack please.” The cashier smiles, I beam. We have a green moment.
I get to see my city.
Do you know where you live? Not how to get there. Not the name of the street. Do you know where you live? I know what some neighborhoods eat for breakfast from the smells wafting over back walls to the bicycle path. I know who takes the bus, and I know the guy in the snazzy bike shorts and jersey who passes me on his way to work each morning. Wave at the old lady with a five iron in her hand walking to the bus stop. Smile at the 4:45AM joggers on the trail, even though they can’t see you because it’s dark outside.
Rereading that paragraph makes me sound like a stalker. But at least I know where I live.
I guess it makes me a bit of a hypocrite, but I sort of enjoy the looks I get from people waiting at a red light. Yesterday on the way to Sprouts, I pulled up alongside a striking sport utility vehicle. The woman in the passenger seat looked at me, smiled, and leaned over to her male escort. “Now there goes someone who cares about the environment,” she seemed to whisper. “Making the world a better place. Why don’t you ride your bike to work sweetheart?”
Driver of the SUV gives me a dirty look, then looks at his wife like she’s insane. They don’t need to know that I’m too cheap to buy another car.
I smile, change my point of view, and maneuver my eco-machine into the setting sun.