Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why bike commute?

In my case it's nothing complicated. It works out well and it suits me.

I lived for 11 years in the Mt. Pleasant area of Washington, DC, where I had a simple and ordinary commute to and from work. A Metrobus picked me up two blocks from home and dropped me off two blocks from my office. The return was just as easy. On crummy days or when the buses were running slow, I’d grab a cab – which under DC’s bizarre taxi zone system, cost just $4.20. Easy peasy.

In 1998 I moved further out into northwest DC. I loved the new house, but it wasn’t near any meaningful mass transit, so my commute came to entail either an unreliable and time-consuming walk-bus-subway combination, or a drive through DC’s dispiriting traffic. I thought I wouldn’t mind the new routine but I did. Then, one cold, snowy day the prospect of waiting at the bus stop seemed particularly grim and I decided, pretty much on a whim, to try riding my bike in. I’d always been a pretty active cyclist, on occasion even venturing out in snow for a change of pace and a challenge. I had a mountain bike in the basement with fat tires and knobby treads, and after throwing on a couple of layers of wool and some long tights, I set out for work.

It was a blast. I wasn’t “commuting” that day; instead I was going for an invigorating bike ride – which, conveniently, left me off at the office where I needed to be! I rode in the next day, and the day after that, and so on until one day the bike simply became the way in which I got to work.

That was 12 years ago. Since that first day I’ve gotten married, moved again and had two kids, but have continued the bicycle commute throughout. I ride year-round and whatever the weather. (Black ice is the one exception, a hard-learned lesson.) My current commute varies from about 6.5 to 10.5 miles, depending on the route, which in turn depends on how late I am to where I need to be. In those 11+ years I’ve logged more than 26,000 commuting miles – those little numbers add up.

Bike commuting suits me because I like to ride bikes and because I live both close enough (and far enough!) from work to make it practicable. And, I have been able to do it so regularly and consistently because it does not interfere materially with work or family obligations. (My wife, realizing that this may be all that stands between me and 270 pounds, is in fact highly supportive.)

These highly favorable circumstances may not hold for everyone who is thinking about commuting by bicycle, but of course there’s nothing wrong with bike commuting three days a week, or “sometimes”, or until the first kid comes along. In the series of entries I’m planning for this site (or “blog”, I’m not sure what it will turn out to be) I hope to make it a bit easier for prospective bike commuters to get underway. I’m also hoping that folks who are already riding to work will stumble across the site and find it enjoyable or useful in some fashion. It's Bike to Work Week right now, and Bike to Work Day is tomorrow - it seems like a good time to get started. Let’s see how it goes.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Fellow Bike-Commuter!

    I am looking for advice on how to bicycle to the George Shultz Center in Arlington, VA. (4000 Arlington Boulevard)

    Silver Spring/Bethesda, I’ll be biking down the Capital Crescent Trail to Georgetown and then was thinking of crossing over the Francis Scott Key bridge. Looks like Arlington Blvd goes right there, but traffic probably bad. Maybe part of the route would be to cut through Arlington Cemetery somehow?