By Jennaye Derge – Bike Durango
The first day I commuted by bike was the worst. It was hot, the hills were long, it was taking forever to get to where I wanted to go, and I was thirsty and tired. I hated it.
But I rode my bike again the next day, and the next day, and the day after that.
Now, fifteen years later, I only commute by bike, and when the unfortunate days come, when it’s necessary for me to get into my motor vehicle to drive in traffic, I become a totally different person. I become a sad bear and an angry monster.
The traffic, the chaos, the smells, the middle fingers; road rage is real, and it is thriving inside of us all.
Road rage keeps me out of my car and puts me in my bike saddle, but there are quite a few other reasons that I continue to avoid driving at all costs, and crave pushing my pedals throughout the year:
The obvious, and what I mentioned above; the happiness factor.
There are actually studies done on how commuting by bike (or alternative methods of transportation) makes you a happier person. I’ve spent a lot of time reading over these articles, and the diluted version is this: increased heart rate pumps out more endorphins, makes you healthier, all the fresh oxygen, sunshine, and the fun factor of actually riding a bike. These articles also cite that there is a community aspect of riding a bike that cars just don’t offer. I.E., seeing other friends outside walking or on bikes, and stopping to say hello.
You can’t do that in a car.
Then the obvious reason to greater happiness, no road rage. Or, at least very little. When you’re on your bike, your enemies become your friends. There are fewer traffic lights to stop you, no slow cars in front of you, no fast cars behind you. You are just out there, cruising down the roads in fresh air, thinking about life, listening to birds, hoping to get to your meeting on time.
For one, I can’t even remember the last time I paid for gas. Like, I don’t even remember what season it was. I don’t remember if I was cold or hot when I stood outside with the pump in my hand, watching the dollar numbers quickly roll upward. I do, however, remember that number being quite large, and being very shocked at it.
Same for changing my oil – and other car-related expenses. I one day looked at my truck, thought, “hugh, it’s been awhile since I’ve visited those oil guys. It’s probably time,” and when I asked the nice fellows down at Grease Monkey to check their records to see when I’d been there last, they told me it had been about a year and a half. My oil was still full and clean however, and I probably didn’t even need it changed that day. They changed it anyway, gave me a carnation, said they’d see me in another couple years, and told me to have a nice day.
This one is obvious. Ride a bike, get in your daily exercise. Cardio and muscle. You don’t even have to buy a punch pass to the Rec Center, and it’s built into your day.
One of my favorite reasons for bike commuting (really, everything is a perk), is the convenience of parking, and the ability to go anywhere whenever I want (for the most part).
This year, on the day of the Snowdown parade, I casually cruised onto Main Ave. and 9th Street just before the parade started – arguably the most congested intersection even on a non-parade day. While others, I saw, were parking all the way up on 5th, 6th, 7th, maybe even 8th Avenue. I bet it took me just as long, if not faster to get to my spot than it took them to drive, go around in circles trying to find a spot, and then walk downtown.
This happens pretty much every and any old day. I park right in front of wherever I’m going, don’t have to pay the meter, and walk a few steps to the front door. All I need is a red carpet and someone to open the door for me to make it any more VIP and convenient.
There are so, so many good reasons to ditch the car and ride a bike, and like I said, these are the diluted versions. I didn’t even start on the environmental impacts, economic impacts, social impacts, the cost of a car vs. the cost of a bike, etc. The list goes on.
Just like life, the hardest part is committing. That first time getting on a bike and riding up a hill to get back to your house, or head towards your job might feel terrible. It might feel awful, and hard, and sweaty, but after some time, I promise you’ll realize that it gets way easier, and it’s a million times better than sitting in traffic, trying to turn left on North Main at 3pm when school gets out, only to pull up to a gas station that is going to charge you $100 dollars so you can go sit in traffic again, while you try to find a place to park.
I however will already be there on my bike, parked, ready to go, with a smile on my face.