Used to be, I’d walk into a room for a business meeting and get a look or two as I stripped off my helmet and bike gloves and dug my notebook out of the pannier bag serving as my briefcase. I’d guess I was viewed as a trifle . . . eccentric for riding my bike to business events.
But that was five or six years ago, when I completed my shift from “I bike to work once in a while,” to “I bike to work pretty often,” to “I’m a bike commuter.” That’s when I started showing up everywhere with my bike gear: at meetings in the Valley, early morning or lunchtime downtown, after work at the Davenport.
Along the way as I evolved or mutated or whatever it was, something else changed–and I’m not just talking about the near-$4/gallon gas. It’s the attitude.
Now, when I walk into one of those dark-suit meetings with my helmet and pannier, people confess.
- “I would love to bike commute, but I live clear up by the Rocket Market” (about 3-1/2 miles from the core of downtown, downhill all the way, and a bus can take you up the hill on the way home).
- “I’ve been meaning to start–I just need a good bike.” (What are you waiting for–the winning lottery ticket? Might I suggest Two Wheel Transit or any of the others on a pretty long list of Spokane bike shops, or Pedals2People if you have a DIY budget?)
- “I wish I could bike commute like you.” (“If wishes were bikes….”)
- “I almost took the bus.” (“Almost” counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.)
I imagine this is what it feels like to wear obvious symbols of religious authority. People confess, they seek absolution and forgiveness, they’re ready to do penance, they’re laden with guilt. In the moment.
Or it’s like the conversation I have any time I meet a dentist or dental hygienist: “I mean to floss daily. I do! Really I do!” (I had this conversation just yesterday with the hygienist at my dentist’s office, in fact.)
Like those religious and dental figures, I suppose, I’m a visible reminder that it is possible to make a different choice. This engenders guilt. But, my child, you can change your ways.
Bike commuting: It’s good for the soul. And you can sleep in on weekends, although it does nothing for your gums.
Yes. I hear the rationalizations. Sometimes I’ll reply, “It’s OK. Everyone starts from the same place.” Sometimes folks just need a bit of encouragement to change a lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to.
The body can always take more punishment than the mind thinks it can. People can always take more pain than they know…it’s a matter of accommodation. I’ve been reminded of that lesson time and again at various racing venues.
The question is: If you want to make a change, what are you going to do about it? Be honest with yourself.
I have taken to smiling and nodding when I hear people’s confessions. Then I say “when you are ready to give it a try, I would love to help you. You might try biking to the store or to a coffee shop and take baby steps.” and then I add my “If I can do it, ANYONE can!”