I made a commitment …

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Three years ago I made a commitment to myself. I committed to commute by bicycle throughout the year, not just when it is warm and dry, or when it suited me. I committed to cycling to and from the office every day regardless of the weather. No excuses.

Cycling was not new to me. After all, I had trained, toured, and even commuted for years. It’s just that when the weather got cold and wet, I would drive, walk, or take public transit. This time, things were different. This time, the stars aligned. I had a suitable bike, and clothing for all seasons. I could bring my bike into the office without fear of the ubiquitous bike thief. The office had a very casual dress code. There was a shower in the office to clean up, and change when necessary. And, there was a community of like-minded cyclists in the office.

What started as a one year experiment, turned into a three year adventure. Although I had cycled seriously for years, cycling became an indispensable part of every day. Every day I cycled 40 km, and very often, a lot more. It is only a 5 km trip to the office in the morning but a 35+ km workout on the way home.

There are the obvious benefits. I saved money on gas and parking, managed my weight without much effort, and spent more time outside.

And, there are unexpected benefits.

I didn’t expect to become a much better cyclist. I guess I thought I was good to begin with. Today, I am more technically proficient. I pedal in circles without even thinking about it. I spin faster in lower gears minimizing the wear and tear on my knees. I climb, and descend faster. I shift easily, and often, maintaining a consistent cadence. I cycle longer, and farther. I complete centuries faster, and more easily than ever. And, the wind and hills are actually fun.

I take better care of my bikes. I need to. I depend on them. I’m a better bike mechanic confident installing and adjusting stems, saddles, bars, derailleurs, tire, tubes, wheels, chains, cassettes, cables …

I eat better. I eat to fuel my rides, not to feed insecurities. No meat. No fast food. No sweets. And fresh, local produce whenever possible.

I’m acutely aware of how inefficient the automobile has become, creating more problems than it has solved. Congestion. Noise. Pollution. And, the wasteful use of land for roads and car parks.

And, perhaps most importantly, I live more simply. I need less, but have more. What began as an experiment to cycle more has shifted my priorities.

Cycle commuting isn’t for everyone. I understand that. Some need a vehicle for work. Some live too far from their work. And, others are not able. But, as urban densities increase, there is an opportunity, no a necessity, to get more people cycling. Municipalities and local businesses have a part to play by providing the necessary infrastructure – bike paths, dedicated bike lanes, traffic calmed streets, end-of-ride change facilities, bike lock ups … A carbon tax and bridge tolls are being considered here, and if implemented, will spur commuters to look for alternatives.

What are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint?

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22 thoughts on “I made a commitment …

  1. Hmm… What am I doing to reduce my carbon footprint? Making lamps from recycled glass jars… No? That doesn’t count? Oh.
    Amazing achievement though! You must be proud. 😊

    • Amazing to meet you here, Elissaveta! I am not much of a cyclist, dear Pedalworks! What attracted me to your site was the passion for what you are doing. Then again, it isn’t so amazing any more to meet people here whose life is enriched by the passion that lets them follow their dreams. I hope I am making some sense to all your followers, Pedalworks!

      • I know. Elissaveta is everywhere. She is not much of a cyclist either, so don’t despair. Thank you for the kind words. I only write about cycling but am passionate about a lot of things. What’s the point of doing something if your not committed to it.

  2. I’m relatively new to this cycle commuting stuff, but have committed to keep on two wheels for as long as I can through this coming winter (hopefully all of it). You’re right about it making you see the world differently. Cycling has become an integral part of my day and I love it.

  3. People who choose to cycle are choosing so much more than a means of transport, your piece says as much really eloquently. Really enjoyable read.
    (PS. I was on your follow list before as Ian Duke who I have ummm..discontinued… New blog started now under my own name but with a more photographic bias.)

  4. My carbon footprint? Well, that’s quintupled since I started cycling. Yours has probably doubled. You ride 40 km a day instead of driving 10. I live 40 miles from work, so I can work where the money is and live where the taxes are low… I guess you could say I lowered my tax footprint so that’s all good…

  5. In fact, now that I think about it a second… Maybe you should think about how much you’re willing to pay in tax for that extra 30 km you ride every day instead of going straight home. Do your duty, pay for that carbon footprint.

    • You’re right. I pay more property tax, pay more to house my family, but have extra time each and every work day to pursue things of interest. Cycling is just part of it. It’s a personal choice, and not for everyone. For me, it has always been a priority to live near where I work in a culturally-rich city where there is a wide selection of choices for both myself and family.

      • I’d like to add that cycling as much as I have in recent years has afforded me the opportunity to recognize there is a better, more human way to build our cities, one that gets us out of our cars walking (and cycling) more. We have a new Liberal federal government in Canada that has promised to spend on infrastructure in our cities. I will do my part to advocate for more bike paths, dedicated bike lanes, quiet calmed streets, end-of-ride change facilities, and more green spaces.

  6. Pingback: I made a commitment … | Kite*Surf*Bike*Rambling

  7. Well done for sticking to it. Lack of alternative routes means my cycle commute is a hell of constant fast traffic and unsafe junctions. I can cope when I get to and from work in daylight but now it’s dark when I leave home and when I leave I work I’m not willing to risk cycle commuting in the winter months. Agree with your last comment to bgddyjim above. I’d go further though and say that the increasing trend towards urbanisation means we will need to reinvent our cities wholesale to make them suitable spaces to accommodate the differing requirements of pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles. I look at the well intentioned efforts in my home town of Swindon, England, and can’t help but think that shoe-horning cycle paths into road spaces that aren’t adequate for today’s motor traffic, let alone shared use, isn’t a solution. I can see the need for major rebuilding programmes in the future that replace existing streets and buildings with a new network.

    • Thanks Aaron.

      We have a community nearby that has no streets. No streets. No traffic. Cars are parked underground and above there are town homes, apartments, co-ops, green spaces, walking, and cycling paths. It is next to the water and has become a magnet for walkers. This model makes the pedestrian a priority – a model of what is possible if we put our minds to it.

      I’m fortunate. I can cycle to the office on a network of bike paths, and traffic calmed streets. The route home is (mostly) on a dedicated, seaside bike path. I can cycle for almost 2 hours and not see a car. If it were not for this route, I may not have cycled as much.

      Infrastructure makes a big difference making routes safer, faster, and more enjoyable.

  8. Well done to you! This post was great to read. Yes the weather can be miserable sometimes and we end up soaking wet on our bikes, but it’s these times I feel the most alive. And then I appreciate the dry warmth of my home when I get back after my soggy commute. It’s so worth it. We wrap ourselves in too much comfort these days and I believe this is at the expense of our humanity.

    • Thanks Rachel. You are right. I feel the same way about cycling in the rain, and cold. Yesterday, I was accused of being a “granola eating, smarty pants”. I cycle because I love it, not to reduce my carbon footprint. I’m vegan because it makes me feel better, not to reduce my carbon footprint. It’s a coincidence that I may also being doing good for some others as well. But because I cycle and eat more simply, I am more appreciative, and more determined than ever to advocate for a cleaner, more human environment for us all.

  9. It’s great to read how you became such an avid bicycle commuter Gary. Your transition from seasonal cyclist to all weather rider, is inspiring. It’s often true that our best choices for ourselves – to cycle more, eat well, live simply – are also the best for our communities and our planet; and expand exponentially beyond what we might imagine.

  10. Pingback: And you question global warming … | PedalWORKS

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