I think that this is pretty great.
Friday [meme alert] 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 [how she practiced], 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! [Some who say that are assholes] 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. [That's because bikes are unnatural. If God wanted people to roll through stop signs, he would have, um, something] 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 [zombie style] 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.” [ouch]
7:30am: Bike to Walgreens to pick up some [sun-dried?] 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? [No, WABA pays old people to fist pump at newbie cyclists. It's an open secret] 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 [boo], and they’re closed. Bike to CVS. No bike racks there either [double boo]. Lock bike to a tree.[gotta do what you gotta do]
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.[this is another good reason to wear a helmet]
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.[not only have I inspired the riding, I've inspired the self-aggrandizing] She’s unimpressed [but she secretly is, right?], 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. [was he too late in yelling? It's like people who use their turn signals as they're changing lanes and not before] A simple directional “on your left” would have sufficed. Everyone passes me. No need to rub it in. [this isn't a big deal. Do you get upset when a car passes you on the highway? Speed is just speed. It's just a moral judgment]
9:30am: Research bike route to next appointment [clever] and find that it would require a motorcade based on my skill level. [What would a bike-only motorcade be called? Pedalcade?] 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 [second only to appletinis] for so long! Once again, I keep the helmet on for as long as I reasonably can in the office [this will protect you from falling debris, as well], and again, no one is nearly as impressed as I am [it might be because they think you're a weirdo. Carrying the helmet is normally a good enough indicator that you biked there]
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. [I find that it's actually better to take longer to get across the street than to try to rush it. This causes motorists to chill out a little and that's a good thing]
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. [and because you're screaming at her. Little kids don't like that]
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, [I often have similar discussions with my wife. You're not a loser and bike types aren't trying to make you feel bad. I promise] 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,” [isn't that the place where you plug in your car phone charger?] 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. [I know!] 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. [Finding parking is one of the worst things about driving and one that's rarely factored into thinking about car vs. bike. It just sucks when you have to lock your bike to a tree when there are 30 unused parking spaces taking up hundreds of square feet] Second—and this was mind-blowing to me since I have a lifelong aversion to exercise in general—it’s so incredibly fun! [Exercise is kind of lame. But active transportation can combine all of the salubrious elements of exercise with the motivating aspect of having to get somewhere] 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. [wow]
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!
Annotated Repost of Another's Tale From the Sharrows
One of the staff members of goDCgo (which is pronounced God-cago and I think might be those people who predicted the Rapture) has made the horrible mistake of reading what I write and decided that riding a bicycle around town seemed reasonable and useful. She wrote up her story here and I encourage you to read it. But, in case you don't want to click through, I'm reposting it below (with commentary in brackets):