Becoming a Bike Commuter, Part II: A Few More Miles

My idea of bikewear has . . . evolved a bit since my early days of riding.

At some point after becoming someone who rides her bike to work occasionally, I became a bike commuter. An every day, rain or shine, clipped-in-shoes, road-bike-riding commuter.

No more swapping stuff in and out of panniers—it’s always in the bag (now a cute one) if it’s riding season (which is at least 10 months of the year here, if you dress for the weather). Hassle factor gone.

The road bike and shoes were thanks to my sweet road-riding husband. When we started dating it was January, so my Costco special wasn’t much of an issue. When it got nice and we started riding some weekend distances, he was kind and patient. (I later learned that our pace is referred to as a recovery ride….)

Then he found my Specialized Dolce road bike and brought it home. Once I rode the 18-pound sweetie, I was hooked.

We loaded it up as a commuter with racks, lights, and fenders, which I suppose makes a “real roadie” cringe, but I’m not big on defining people as “real” riders or “not real”.

I can easily put in 10-20 miles a day riding from work at the Riverpoint Campus to meetings and errands everywhere from downtown to the Spokane Valley to the north side, or just my little 2.5 miles each way to and from work. (We moved and I’m a mile closer. Right after we moved, the city put in a bike lane a block from the house. I’ll just keep moving around town until we have a full bike network.)

When the snow gets too heavy (we had two crazy winters in a row), I ride the bus. (My road bike can’t take studded tires, and I worry about drivers sliding into me.)

But even in those years with crazy-deep snow, I was able to ride my bike every month of the year, finding days with open, dry roads in December, January, and February. I just don’t drive if I can help it.

Along the way I became a bike activist. I founded and chaired Spokane Bikes (formerly Bike to Work Spokane), served on the City of Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board, and on the leadership team of SmartRoutes Spokane (our participation in the Rails to Trails Conservancy 2010 Campaign). I joined the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and the League of American Bicyclists.

I made a final transition to go “back” a step. I stopped wearing bike shoes and locking my feet to my pedals because that too represented a hassle, and I now ride in any kind of shoe. My pedals have an SPD clip on one side, a regular platform on the other, representing my dual identity.

I also began adapting my wardrobe to make it easy to ride in everything in my closet.

I remind people that I don’t “use alternative transportation” when I bike or bus—I make a transportation choice. Each of us makes a choice every single day when we go out the door.

A bike runs on fat and saves you money. A car runs on money and makes you fat.Choice #1: Carry car keys. Park keister behind the steering wheel of a single occupancy something that uses a nonrenewable fuel. Drive (40% of all trips are within two miles of the home). At end of trip, circle the block looking for a parking spot as close as possible to the destination door, to minimize walking. Pay for every element of this choice, from the fuel to the parking-and while you’re at it, pay for a gym membership to get some exercise.

Choice #2: Hop on bike. Burn calories per mile instead of miles per gallon. Breathe fresh air. Greet neighbors. Smell flowers, green growing things, running water, roasting coffee, wonderful aromas from local restaurants. See–actually see–the architecture of local buildings. Arrive at work energized. When a midday meeting beckons, ride, lock bike to convenient signpost, walk in, sit down; you’re ready to go while the drivers circle the block.

Remember that feeling when you learned to ride a bike as a kid? Riding a bike meant freedom, independence, the ability to get somewhere under your own power instead of relying on others to supply the resources.

Your Turn

  • If you’re still an occasional rider, can you foresee going through more evolution to become an everyday commuter?
  • If you’re an everyday commuter, would you ever go back?
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6 Comments to "Becoming a Bike Commuter, Part II: A Few More Miles"

  1. Jean says:

    Whenever there is no snow/ice on the roads, I am cycling to work or grocery shopping. Have been like this for over last 18 yrs. I am car-free.

    Certainly it does contribute to overall health –physically and mentally. Thank goodness. I don’t have a car license.

    I did calculate approx. how much money can be redirected to other stuff ..away from car ownership, maintenance, fuel. http://thirdwavecyclingblog.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/30-car-free-years-cycling-pumps-money-into-my-wallet/ It’s pretty significant over a few years, if not decades.

    So then I take taxi for the few times annually when we need to transport something or ourselves. I have lived in cities with transit which does make this lifestyle easier. It is a conscious decision.

  2. [...] Becoming a Bike Commuter, Part II: A Few More Miles [...]

  3. [...] Personally, I have experienced the profound mental shift from “I ride my bike sometimes–when weather is perfect and it’s not complicated” to “I am someone who rides a bike for transportation nearly all the time.” [...]

  4. [...] didn’t start riding a bike as a diehard year-round commuter. I didn’t start as a “practical cyclist” who was making a political statement through my choice of [...]

  5. [...] Becoming a Bike Commuter, Part II: A Few More Miles [...]

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