3/23/11

Guest Blogging from the Sharrows: Lori


Hi, I’m Lori.
I am a biker. Bicyclist? Whatever.
I am guest blogging while our fearless leader is out of town, and thought I would make my inaugural blog a message of support to people on the fence about bike commuting. A “go team” kind of thing – boring, safe, unchallenging.
This isn’t my first blog, in fact, I am an experienced failed blog-starter, having presided over a short-lived work blog related to a specific project (most of my time was spent trying to get others to do the work), and having started two of my own – one I called “Dinner At Eight” for reasons I cannot for the life of me recall (and to which I never posted even once), and one called FLAT RAT. That last one was intended to be a blog about my bike commute. If you’ve ever biked in a city, you can quickly infer why I chose that title. I’ve tried to not think about the fact that I regularly ride over oozing smashed mammals and unrecognizable decaying birds, and then bring my bike through the living area of my home, over the hardwood surfaces on which my children sit and play….much.
Flat Rat never saw the light of day, either.
I began bike commuting four years ago at the age of 40. After years of driving the four miles (in my defense, most of that time I was also driving kids to schools, or multiple schools), or taking the God-forsaken Metro (two lines), I was inspired by two friends who successfully biked to work – one to downtown D.C. from Alexandria (south of Old Town) and one between Capitol Hill and Woodley Park. More challenging than what I was facing.
A girlfriend bought me a set of panniers, and there went my last excuse. I will forever be indebted to her.
If you live in DC, or in ring suburbs, you should bike to work, and here are some reasons why:
  • Traffic is horrible, and frustratingly unpredictable. On the rare occasions that I drive to and/or from work, some days it’s 20 minutes, and some days it’s easily double that. It really does make you want to poke your eyes out.
  • METRO sucks. This is a well-documented fact. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this. And I am speaking as someone who lives two blocks from a metro station and works two blocks from a metro station. And saying with authority and experience that the convenience of the metro is not a convincing reason to use it
  • You’re out of shape. So am I! But whenever I say that people say “but you bike to work every day!” Gives me credibility, if not the figure of my dreams.
  • It’s good for the environment. Duh. But those of us living where we can do this, should. Because there are so many millions of people who don’t care, don’t know, or can’t do anything about it.
  • It pisses drivers off! So, even when you obey all the rules (which by the way I do declare that you must) they still get angry. Primarily, because they don’t know the laws. I once had some lady call out to me “get your a** on the sidewalk!” And I had the pleasure of chasing her down the street lecturing her on why I *can’t* be on the sidewalk. Fun!
  • It’s easy! Seriously. My office has one dreary, dank, unventilated shower in the basement. But by having that I can say that My Employer Supports Bike Commuting! That, and I am allowed to bring my bike into the office for protection from thieves and rain (a holdover from the ‘70s when Dupont Circle was not so tony).
  • It really is easy. I bought a Rubbermaid-type box at Target, filled it with necessary stuff (shampoo, soap, deodorant, hair dryer, brush, etc.), and leave it, and a towel, in my office. Yes, I look like a freak coming into the office in the morning, dragging my bike up several steps, wearing three flashing lights of varying colors and a neon yellow windbreaker. When I do this after a commute in below-freezing temperatures, rain, or snow, I think it gives me gravitas. Or maybe when people stand back it’s not from respect. I choose not to know.
  • For me, as a D.C. resident, it shows support for the previous administration which advocated alternative transportation (bikes AND streetcars!), alternative energy (rebates for solar panels), and in general had my priorities. And support for Gabe Klein, the previous D.C. Director of Transportation, who installed the fabulous Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, of which I am such a fan (and which invite derision and resentment from drivers – unfortunate but true).
  • More bikes on the street raise the profile of biking, and make drivers more aware and (hopefully) more careful. That is the most important thing we as bike commuters can do (and why I dress like a goofball in my neon yellow and flashing lights).
What are YOUR reasons? What tips and advice can you offer beginners?
How do we start a revolution?

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