27 April 2011

Bicycle Commuting; or, 101 Reasons to Go by Bike

Part I in a Three-Part Series

How did you get to work today? If it was by bike, foot, or a combination of one or both with public transit), chances are you arrived at your destination a little more alert, a little more energized, and a bit less harried from sitting in rush-hour gridlock. The best part? You can carry this sense of freedom with you whenever you choose.
Photo, left: with his voluminous Black Star Cycling Bag, BicyclingHub.com employee and dedicated bicycle commuter Adrian Richardson can haul just about anything...including 10 lbs. of packages to the post office for prompt delivery!)

"You don't have to bike daily to be a commuter cyclist. If you use a bike every time it makes sense to use a bike, then you're a commuter cyclist," says Sandra Looft of Simply Bike.

"I never feel like I'm going to work in the morning; that's why I ride. I just feel like I'm going out for a bike ride," notes Randy Rocheleau, a commuter and recreational cyclist who resides in Albany, NY. An 18 mile trip each way, he leaves the house at 6AM and enjoys the peaceful and serene moments on the sections of the Mohawk-Hudson bike path he utilizes during his daily commute. "One of the things I notice [bike commuting] is being at one with nature so early in the morning, and seeing the deer, fox, and skullers out on the river."

Morning sunrise on the Hudson River, January 10, 2011. Photo by Randy Rocheleau. Entitled: "This is why I ride my bicycle to work." (Side note: Susy, a friend a his, commented: "Beautiful. You know, you can see it from the car too! " Rocheleau ‎responded: "Not the same... I can't stop every ten feet in a car, well I could, but the others might not like it.")

Patti Randolph, who lives in Houston, Texas, takes the team approach to multi-modal transit. "My husband and I work less than a mile apart. On pretty days, he will take me to my school with my bike in the back of his truck. He drops me and my bike off at my school and I ride my trail bike home - about 5 miles. I try and do this about 3 days a week, if not more. I ride on all city streets, mostly major streets. I love it, and my students enjoy seeing me leave on my bike!"

Fellow educator Paul Moore in Fresno, California teaches at a high school 25 miles from his home in a small town about 15 miles west of the outer edge of the city. Logging 50 miles per day, two or three days per week in winter, and three or four in the warmer months, Moore observes, "The 100-200 miles I commute each week are excellent preparation for my weekend rides, which typically involve climbs in the foothills and mountains to the east."

Photo, left: Paul Moore on the fixed gear he uses mostly for commuting: "cheap, reliable, simple to maintain."

How it started: "I had been getting an occasional ride to work in a colleague's truck--with my bike in the back so I could ride it home later in the day--for several years, when one day, a student asked: 'Mr. Moore? Do you ride your bike all the way from Fresno...BOTH ways?' I replied that, no, I only rode home, because to ride both ways would involve getting up--when? I paused. I was forced to confront the truth: it was only a matter of getting up an hour earlier. Suddenly, I felt inspired. The Chinese say that the longest journey begins with a single step. I set my alarm. I headed out the door in the darkness (with lights, of course) for the first time a few years ago, a feeling of uncertainty threatening to send me back to the comfort of my warm bed. As soon as I turned the corner of my street, however, I knew I was onto something good. More than 100 commutes later, I am positively HOOKED!"

Bob Palkon started bicycle commuting to work in Joliet, IL primarily as "a reaction to when gas prices reached $4.00 a gallon. I have been riding for most of my life. Both for recreation and exercise, and thought it would be a great idea to add the benefit of saving money too. On average, I use about 15 gallons of fuel per week, so that's about $45-50 dollars saved if I ride every day, maybe even more soon. More important than that though is the intangible cost savings. I am diabetic. Exercise is HUGE in fighting this disease! I am able to save of the cost of some medicine that I don't have to take. Health insurance companies don't have to pay for as much treatment either. This might be a stretch, but since riding is environmentally responsible, I am doing my part to save the cost of recovering our planet."

Want company on your two-wheeled travels about town? Adrian Ortiz prefers the four-legged variety. "I attached a milk crate on the back of my On-Way Raleigh fixed gear so I can bring my 20-pound dog named Ferris to work. I have the ability to bring Ferris to work and thought, 'I hope you’re cool in traffic.' He didn’t respond so I figured he was fine with it.

"I am in sales so I have to have my car during the day. To solve this, I commute about 2-3 times a week. I drive to work, bike home and back to work then step and repeat. I used to be really worried about odor and sweat using wipes, cologne and pollyana’ing in the bathroom at work. It all just felt like I was swirling everything on my body. Then I just told myself that commuting is cool and if someone asked why I smelled, it’s something to talk about. So now I just get to work, cool off and change. Since then I’ve only been asked how I lost so much weight."

It's one thing to venture out on your bike when it's a sunny 72 degrees and your route is designated bike paths and low-volume surface roads. But what about commuting when Mother Nature, poor roadway designs and the convenience of the single-occupancy motor vehicle might tempt us to do otherwise? Stay tuned for Part II of our Bicycle Commuting Series on challenges and overcoming obstacles.


Unknown said...

Cool! I'm looking forward to reading about even more commuters. Thanks for including me...I feel honored.

Ryan said...

Nice profile of commuters. I've been doing to multi-modal commute as well. I take the commuter train part way with my folding bike and then ride the rest. I use a Montague Bike which has full size wheels and rides just like a traditional non-folder. Wouldnt be able to do it without the folding feature though!

LBJ said...

I'm like Bob Palkon...I started bike commuting when gas prices started going up. But since I need my car sometimes too I got a folding bike to make it a little easier to mix and match the bike and other kinds of transportation for commuting.

Rodney Blanton said...

I recently viewed this on youtube, fits the topic well. I love "cycling" no matter what you are doing while pedaling:.....check it, hilarious! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9j6f5eTkFU&feature=share

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