So I was sitting in my car last week, fiddling with my radio and wondering idly about all the other cars around me. It was a beautiful day, and as I sweated and drove courteously, failing to find a good song, I thought once again how I should have just ridden my bike. Could have just ridden my bike.
I mean, I’ve spent a lot of my life getting good at pedaling, and I live in a town with one of the most-lauded bike path networks in the country- what was my excuse? The more I thought about it the harder it was to find one.
The facts: We’re hitting an unprecedented 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere; ice caps are melting, polar bears are starving and I’ve driven/flown over 15,000 miles in the last six months. At this point I think we’re all aware of the problem, but what are any of us really doing about it?
I’ve always been a kind of fair-weather commuter- but if it’s more convenient or I’m tired I usually just opt for the car. So I decided to really commit to commuting for a week. It wasn’t the easiest week to start being a commuter, with two dogsitting jobs, coaching and my own training to keep up with- but I’m a sucker for a challenge. Plus I figured the more I should have driven, the more I could bike, the more emissions I’d save.
It started with reckless optimism. I packed a huge bag and crammed commutes between training rides and dog walks. It was really hard. The end of day one saw me laying facedown on the floor while an Australian Shepherd licked my tasty ears. I hated it but I was too feeble to wave him off.
So I very quickly became more realistic about how much I can pedal in a day- while commuting isn’t the same kind of workout as, well, a workout, it still takes a lot out of you. Or at least it takes a lot out of me; you’re probably just fine, superquads.
One thing I must clarify, in case you were wondering, is that I am not a “hip” commuter. I ride a cross bike with gears AND a freehub, I wear soccer shorts, and I learned early on to make peace with flashing my crazy tanlines to the world. My hair resides in a crusty, sweaty bun, and I’ve had the same bag since middle school. I tried to channel my inner Copenhagen(ite?) but I’m just not that cool. Literally. I sweat a LOT.
Which allow me to walk dogs, hunt and gather through the grocery aisles, AND still pedal home afterwards. They save a ton of room in my bag and make me happy in that weird way that only shoes can make a girl happy.
By day seven (and it did really take all seven days) I finally began to glean more satisfaction than discomfort from commuting. In a big town like Boulder there are a million different ways from A to B, and by the end of the week I’d ridden a bunch of roads I never even knew existed. In fact, my overall perception of my surroundings expanded- on a bike you see, hear, and smell things you’d never smell in your car. Which is sometimes not a good thing, but is always an interesting thing.
My concept of distance also shifted- have you ever wondered what distance should feel like? I spend so much time driving my car or riding a fast bike that seven miles seems like a jaunt, but with a heavy bag and a possibly-peeing dog waiting on you, seven miles can stretch into eternity. Sometimes I really had to zen out and enjoy the journey. Man.
Urban sprawl is a real thing, and if non-city-dwelling Americans want to commute like our counterparts across the pond, we kind of have our work cut out for us.
The flipside of sprawl is that we also have a perfect opportunity to combat our prevailing obesity. I swear I burned so much extra energy commuting that no amount of food was enough. I polished off a tub of ice cream in under 48 hours and still lost weight. Could we combat the health crisis with our own weird city planning and preoccupation with owning “space”? Maybe?
Here are my numbers for the week:
Miles pedaled: 228
Gallons saved: 9.12 (my car gets 25mpg in town)
Money saved: $34.20 (at $3.75/g)
CO2 NOT in atmosphere: 178 lbs
So basically it’s like this catfish, if he was made of CO2, is not floating around in the sky, Just because I chose to ride my bike for a week! (Win!)
Unfortunately, and I have to be honest here, my travels this spring already gave 84 CO2 catfishes wings (Lose.)
This week was hard. It was sweaty, logistically challenging, and maybe not the best choice for race legs or whatever. But for the first time in a long time I felt like riding my bike might actually be doing the world some good. So I’m gonna keep doing it, and you should too!
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