The Green Commute — Bike to Work
It’s a beautiful Spring day. What shall I do to save the planet from self–destruction today? My superhero suit is at the cleaners, so maybe I’ll just ride my bike to work. Hey, let’s bike together!
What do you mean, “Why bike?”
I can answer that: Bicycling saves gas, reduces my carbon footprint, and doesn’t pollute. The exercise builds muscle and controls weight. (Hey, check out these glutes — you can’t get these sitting in a bucket seat.) It’s even good for my heart. What’s not to like?
Oh, I see. You’re one of those people who has to find something to complain about. Have at it. Nothing you can say will phase me. You’re not talking to just anyone, you know; I’m the Green Commuter!
YOU: But, I’ll stink by the time I get to work. You know, B.O.
ME: Yes, you will raise your body temperature. Your heart rate will increase, and you may become winded. But if you should break a sweat, all you have to do is one simple thing: Slow down. If you’re prone to sweating, try wearing a Lycra shirt or cycling jersey. Polyester will wick away any moisture from your body, but not so for cotton. Try a pace slow enough that you could whistle or talk or sing while you ride. The secret is to breathe steadily — don’t hold your breath. And there’s no need to race against cars; just smile at the drivers and think about how much money you’re NOT spending on gas.
YOU: If I slow down, I’ll be late.
ME: I hate to tell you you’re wrong, but you’re wrong. It depends on your commute, of course, but think about it: You can easily escape traffic jams, and you’ll never have to park your bike way at the back of that giant company parking lot. You’ll be surprised how fast you can go and not sweat. But make sure you start early enough to enjoy your ride. You’ll see a whole lot more of nature than you could from a car. You might even like it.
YOU: Ah, bikes are too expensive.
ME: And cars aren’t? Car insurance. Gas. Upkeep. Parking. Traffic headaches. Stress. Obesity? What’s the price of your health?
YOU: I have too much stuff to carry.
ME: Don’t tell me about too much to carry. When I was a little kid, I rode my bike with a violin case laying across the handlebars and my school books in the basket. And you’re complaining about a laptop bag? Sure, for every pound of weight you carry on your bike, you’ll need more energy output. (To some of us, this is a good thing.) There’s a solution to that: Be selective about what work you carry home. Plan ahead. You can always get a bike bag, or even a bike trailer, if you really feel it’s necessary to take your entire desk home at night.
YOU: I can’t listen to my music when I’m on my bike. Gotta have music.
ME: I agree, music is important. But headphones aren’t the smartest thing to wear while biking. If you miss your music too much, buy a bike stereo, for Pete’s sake. Just think about it: You’re a breakable human body balanced on a few pounds of steel and rubber, surrounded by tons of fast-moving steel and rubber driven by highly caffeinated, aggressive, poor planners, who, by the way, are probably late for work. I’d opt for clear ears, clear eyes, and a clear head.
YOU: Oh yeah, you’re making my case for me. Riding a bike isn’t safe.
ME: You’re right, if you ride like one of those New York messenger cyclists, weaving between cars and through traffic lights, racing against time, eventually, you will go down. The way you ride determines how safe you are.
And, it’s true, you’re unprotected. So wear a good helmet, and always have front and rear lights, day and night. Check their batteries, or buy the kind that recharge with use. If you use the recharger type, remember, they tend to stop when you’re not moving. Or get a light with a small capacitor to hold the charge long enough to stay lit at short stops. It’s worth the investment.
Listen, if you cycle to work, chances are you’ll begin to cycle for pleasure. You know, weekends, evenings. You’ll get the spirit.
The more you bike, the more you’ll learn about the mentality of the road. There are rules: You follow them, you stay alive.There comes an interesting point where your body, your knowledge, and your peace of mind allow you to enjoy the pleasures of nature. You’re not just a piece of mindless flesh behind a steering wheel.
You’ll see things you can never see from a car. Beautiful things. You’ll hear things and smell things you didn’t realize were there (good smells, like roses and lilacs). You’ll become a part of nature, not separated from it. And by the time you get to work, your brain and your body will be up for the challenge. Keep pedaling!
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