Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Perils of the Commute

I ride my bicycle to work each day
It's not so far
It's better for me than my car.
I wear a helmet that is made of rigid Styrofoam
Inspected by a French guy named Guillaume.
I downshift my Shimanno gears
I pedal hard and I'm out of here
Glad I am that the coast is clear
Glad I am to be my bicycle and me.
- “Bicycle” by Livingston Taylor

My commute to work is too long and too short, all at the same time.

That doesn’t have the same ring as the opening sentence of “A Tale of Two Cities” but Dickens got paid by the word for his writing, and I don’t get paid at all (which is why there’s no charge for that literary reference right there. It is one of the many free services that we here at the blog provide).

My commute is too short because, when I ride my bike to work, the trip is over too soon.

My commute is too long because, when I ride my bike to work, especially in the summer time, I get pretty darned sweaty, and there are no showers at work. Now, this isn’t much of a problem for me, but it may be a problem for those I work with. They haven’t actually said anything about it, but I’m waiting.

I do not live in a bike friendly town. There’s some good riding out in the county, but it’s not so good in and around the town itself. I have very little choice about the route I take to work, and the road I have to take is fairly well traveled and doesn’t have much of a shoulder. In fact, a lot of it has pretty much no shoulders at all. Kind of like me, really.

Now, there are all kinds of good reasons to commute – health, the price of gas, saving the planet and so on, but the best reason of all is, of course, that it’s more time on the bike, and you can’t beat that. In fact, I would have thought it was self evident that commuting is a good idea. It turns out, it isn’t self evident to everyone.

I know this because people often:

(A) Try to talk me out of doing it

The arguments for this are usually based on two points. The first is that I might get hit by a car. Well, yes, I suppose I might. As Livingston Taylor put it:

Pedal that bike,
pedal that bike
Don't open that door 'til I go by.
Pedal that bike, pedal that bike
That little old lady in the Dodge Diplomat
I don't think she sees me
I hope she don't teach me how to fly

The second point is usually about how much effort is involved. I don’t really have much to say about that, except that it’s fun. I do it because I enjoy it. Really. I do. Honest.

(B) Give me the freakshow look when they see me on the road

If you’ve ever been out riding fully kitted out, someone has given you this look. A head turns as you go by, and you know that, if you could hear the person in question, they would be saying something like, “What the…?”

(C) Give an amused look when they see me arriving

These are the same people who, on very cold or very wet days like to ask, “Did you ride that bike today?” Sometimes I startle them by saying “Yes,” and they grin and shake their heads in a knowing way.

That’s all okay. I get a ride out of it, and that’s all I’m looking for. There must be some other commuters out there. Aren’t there? Let me know.

See you on the road.

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