7/10/17

New Commute vs. Old Commute

It's been a little more than a month since I traded my old bike commute for my new bike commute. Last time I did that was about a year earlier, when I moved and shaved off about 5 miles from my previous commute of about 5 years. This time, I changed jobs and my new office is a scant .6 miles away from where I live. It is an implausibly short bike commute and someone with more common sense and reputational (and financial) sunk cost in being a bike commuter would probably have upgraded to a more civilized walk to work, but I am not someone with more common sense. I have just as much common sense as I have. No more, no less.

Allow me to regale you with details of my route:

I go outside the building and cross the street to 17th Street, which has a one-way bike lane south. I ride in this bike lane from S Street to Massachusetts. There are a few stop lights and a few stop signs. There are even a few midblock crosswalks. And there are buildings and people and parked cars and all that jazz. You've seen a city before. At Massachusetts, I make a right turn and ride about halfway between 17th and 18th to make a midblock left up a ramp, onto the sidewalk and then into the building's front courtyard area, where there is ample, but poor quality bike parking. My bike stays outside all day and I ride home up 18th to New Hampshire and then for a few blocks before arriving. Both rides together take about 10 minutes and might even be faster.

Here are some things I miss about my old commute:

Hills. Yes, this is weird, but climbing uphill to work everyday made me a much better cyclist than I would have been otherwise. Seeing as I am a 'not very good cyclist,' hills are the only thing that kept me on the positive side of 'sort of knows how to ride a bike.'

Exercise. It was never much, but my rides used to be long enough that I could pretend they counted as exercise. It's really hard to do this now and I find myself sometimes feeling pressure to go for bike rides on weekends to, you know, actually bike a little.

Escaping my bubble.  Had I not worked where I worked, which was clear on the opposite side of the city from where I lived, I don't think I would have had nearly as much exposure to the physical and human geography of DC. There was something about having a crosstown bike commute that inspired/allowed me to try to come up with a bunch of different ways to get there and in so doing, exposed me to routes and roads and trails and neighborhoods that I probably wouldn't have seen had I just ridden recreationally. But then again, my idea of a fun weekend is aimlessly biking around the city, so maybe I would have see these things anyway. But I wouldn't have come to know them as well.

Parking inside. I used to have some nice indoor bike parking options, that I don't really have now. Policy would allow me to bring my bike into my office, but it's narrow and I have to meet with people a lot and I think the bike would be kind of imposition. I'm also new and I haven't seen anyone else do it and I don't really need to be a pathbreaker here.

Things I don't miss:

Changing clothes at the office. I get to ride in my work clothes now. Even in the middle of summer. I don't miss having to bring work clothes with me (and spilling coffee on them). I don't miss changing in a locker room or worse, my office, and I don't miss having sweaty/wet bike clothes that I either needed to find a way to dry or leave sweaty/wet and then put back on at the end of the day. I get to ride like this now and it really does make a difference to my overall attitude and readiness to work in the morning.

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Some bad stretches of road. There are definitely parts of the 6 blocks I ride that could be improved upon, but compared to certain stretches of the old commute, I feel pretty good. There are no downhill stretches where drivers would routinely do sketchy things where I wouldn't have been able to stop and the combination of stop lights and stop signs really make it so that I'm never traveling for long periods of time along drivers going any faster than 25mph. I'm not crazy about my left turn across two lanes of traffic on Mass to get into the bike parking area, but in the morning, that's mostly congested anyway.

The high cost of forgetfulness. With a longer bike commute, you really need to remember everything. Like socks. Or pants or a wallet or your lunch. It sucks to leave these things at home and in spite of knowing this, I would habitually forget these items and then I'd either be stuck at work without them (never pants though) or I'd have to ride all the way home to get them. With a 5 minute ride, there's basically no cost to be as forgetful as I want. I left my badge at home two weeks ago, realized it when I got to the office, went back home, and then came back, all within about 7 minutes. That was swell.

So that's about it. On balance, I think I wish my bike commute were a little longer, but even if the Goldilocks distance does exist, I'm not terribly torn up by the new routine. I think it'll pay even greater dividends in winter, but I never really minded riding in winter. I never really minded bike commuting ever- even on the bad days when the forces of man and nature conspired to make it harder than it needed to be- and I'm sure I'll continue not to mind this bike commute in its new iteration either. I do miss seeing lots of other bicyclists- I see about 8 a day, split evenly between morning and night, but never the same ones- and I'll miss feeling like I can get a pulse on whether it's a 'good bike day' or a 'bad bike day' (though this is far more art than science) accordingly. But when it all comes down to it, I still get to ride my bike to work, so how bad can things be really.

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