Auto Manifesto

February 19, 2008

Why I Bike to Work, Part 2

Most people I’ve talked with think it’s great to bike to work, it’s just not for them. They can see the benefits but they can’t see themselves making the changes in their lives to do so. The changes are not that big.

The key to commuting is obviously your Point A and Point B. They have to be within a comfortable distance of each other, and there has to be a reasonably safe route for biking. Both need to have showers, and a place to store your clothes. In my case all these criteria are met. Most of my ride is on a bike trail, and there’s only one main intersection I have to cross. Every other consideration can be adapted to. Here’s what I did.

First, there’s a bicycle rack by the door of the building where I work, the best parking space of all. And it’s covered. Since no one else uses it, I leave my bike lock on it when I go home so I don’t have to carry it around (dead weight).

Next, I bought a wardrobe from Home Depot and put it in my office, put my work clothes in it. Now I don’t have to carry each day’s change with me. I use two plastic storage bins for storing socks and undergarments, and another one as a hamper. Since we wear business attire here my slacks and suits only need to be dry cleaned once in a while. I’ll take them to the cleaners with my car. On a weekly basis I’m hauling my hamper home in my backpack with my undergarments, shirts, and socks. I also iron the shirts in the office so I don’t have to worry about them getting wrinkled in transit. Ok, so clothes are taken care of.

Everything else is just an accessory to make the actual bike riding part safer and more comfortable. Most important are lights, for me to see the road at night (the bike trail is not lit) and for others to be able to see me, especially cars. The first headlight I had didn’t work too well. It was dim and only used two AA batteries so I switched to an LED type that uses four AA batteries. On the back I have a highly visible flashing red LED. Every we weeks I recharge the batteries.

So night riding is accounted for. The only other conditions to consider are temperature and precipitation. Hot days are easy. Just wear less. Cold days require varying layers of clothing. I find a ski cap, gloves, long johns, a sweatshirt, exercise pants, and a sleeveless fleece are comfortable down to about 20 degrees (F) – and it rarely gets that cold. I have a balaclava which covers my whole head except for the eyes, but found I’m allergic to it so I don’t use it any more. Also, I use reflective velcro straps for my pant legs to keep them from making contact with the chain (and provide some additional night time visibility), and I switched from clipless pedals to flat pedals so I can wear normal shoes..

What happens if it rains? That’s the question I get a lot. Well the short answer is you get wet. I have a rain jacket. One at home and one at work prevents . It’s rarely needed, though in the spring I might need it more often. The other thing is a rear fender for the bike to prevent your backside from getting splashed by the tire. It’s very effective. And if the weather gets really bad, I still have the option of driving.

I’ve been commuting this way for about 7 months, from summer to fall and through winter. It requires a paradigm shift but is ultimately better and more rewarding. The bicycle is an incredible mode of transportation, and I can’t imagine going back to the grind and commuting every day with a car and all the hassle that comes with it.

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