Bike Log #3

It’s been three months since I started biking into work, and my biggest regret is that it was only this year that I decided to give it a try. Cycling is a great way to get to work: you save time and money, all while getting some exercise and reducing the amount of pollution that is being pumped into your city’s air.

In fact, according to the Commuter Challenge site, by cycling to work during Environment Week (June 1 to 5), I saved:

  • “approximately $26.94 in fuel and maintenance (based on driving a car with average mileage and using Motor Club maintenance estimates)”, and
  • “approximately 36.75 kilograms of Greenhouse Gases” from being pumped into the air.

But before anyone thinks I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and am now a full member of the Cult of the Commuter-Cyclist, I do think there are some drawbacks to cycling into work:

  • You are taking your life into your hands. I’ve spoken to lots of other cyclists, and this topic almost always comes up. In Ottawa at least, most cyclists I know don’t feel very safe on any roads that are also shared with cars and buses.
  • You might as well throw away your ironing board. Though it may no longer seem obvious, I do know how to iron my shirts; the problem is that I take those nicely ironed shirts and stuff them in my sports bag on my way out to work. There are lots of strategies around this—I could drive in over the weekend and bring a whole week’s supply of clothes to the office; I could replace my wardrobe with only wrinkle-free clothing; or even wear the clothes themselves while cycling and hope I don’t sweat too much. I’ve always loved wrinkle-free clothing, but my strategy is both simpler and more grandiose: start a new trend of wearing wrinkled shirts. I’m calling it “business wrinkled.” Who’s with me?
  • Ottawa weather. In Ottawa, one can experience all the seasons in a single day. A beautiful and sunny morning can turn into a rainy and cold afternoon. Overnight temperatures below freezing can be followed by a heat wave the next day. This unpredictability can make it very hard to dress appropriately, and you only need to be caught a few times without proper attire in the rain and the cold before you wonder if those exercise-deprived, environment-hurting, but dry and comfortable car-commuters don’t have the right idea after all.

On that last point, I’ve noticed that car-commuters are taking an increasing amount of flack. One day soon, people who drive only themselves to work may be treated like social pariahs (smokers everywhere would breathe (or cough) a sigh of relief as they contemplate having company at the bottom of society’s reject pile).

That’s an interesting reversal that’s occurred in the last decade. When I was a teenager, getting myself from place to place on a bike, the coolest thing was to have your own car. Now that I’m an adult with my own car, it’s stopped being cool. And the cool thing now? Using a bike to get to where you need to be. I guess I was just ahead of my time.

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