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?