Why I Started Biking to Work

Bike Safety and the Suicidal Squirrel
When Did You Last Give Someone a Chance?

Biking to Work - First Day

About to head off on my first day of biking to work (June 20, 2017)

I have failed.

Specifically, I failed at my goal of biking to work year-round and selling my car this spring. But you know what? I did bike to work for several months, saved some cash, got a bunch of free exercise, and reduced my carbon emissions. So yes, I failed to reach the moon, but I still flew pretty high up while others were too concerned to even leave the ground.

So why on earth did I want to start biking to work? And why should you care? (Well, obviously because I want to encourage everybody to bike to work…)

I know, I know, you are full of excuses and reasons why that’s not going to work for you. But hear me out, because I used to be in that same camp. It’s not nearly as hard or as dangerous as you might think.

And thus begins Part 1 of my new Bike to Work series! Off and on over the next few posts, I’ll share some thoughts and analysis into why I started biking to work, how you can do it safely, how much money it saves me, and why I keep doing it. I even journaled for the first while, so if you’re lucky (or unlucky?) I might just dust that off and share it, too!

So let’s get going…

Kelowna from the Trestles

The bike ride that started it all: Myra Canyon Trestles. Checking out Kelowna way over there…

My first ride to work was on Tue, June 20, 2017. But the transition actually started in the summer of 2016. While on vacation in the Okanogan Valley we rented some bikes to ride the Myra Canyon Trestles rail trail (a fantastic ride with 2 tunnels and 18 trestle bridges). The bike my wife rode was far superior to her beater bike back home that she never rode. This ride encouraged us to buy her a much better (used) bike that she would actually ride, which we did and which she still rides almost every day. (Particularly to bring the kids to school.)

Looking at Trestles Across the Canyon

The bike ride that started it all: Myra Canyon Trestles. We’re about half-way around, looking at the trail on the far side of the canyon.

Of course, then I started thinking about my own bike. It was 10 years old and needed some repairs. But more importantly, it was too small for my tall frame. My back and neck hurt after most rides. It also was a bit of a tank, and not very efficient. So I also started looking for a new bike that fit me better.

I eventually found one that I liked. In January 2017 I ended up getting one of the cheapest “bike shop bikes” around, which was a far better bike than I had ever bought before, and far more money than I had ever spent on a bike. I’m typically a $200 bike guy. But all-in with accessories and tax, this one was about $750. Yikes. Chump change for the serious cyclist, but scary for me. I sure hoped it was worth it…

Well, I was not to be disappointed. This new bike begged to be ridden. It is fast, efficient, smooth, and ergonomically perfect for me. I love riding it.

As the weather warmed up and I was able to get out a bit more often on my new bike, I grew more and more fond of it. Then something interesting happened. I read this post from Mr Money Mustache about a lawyer who rides to work each day. And then my sister shared this post from the London Bicycle Cafe about their proposed cycle tracks for London, Ontario. I also found this post on money philosophies of the rich. #2 on the list is biking. “If it is good enough for billions of people worldwide, it is good enough for you.”

And so then I thought, if they can all do it, why can’t I?

It was really that simple.

Next I got a bit more specific. I set a goal of riding regardless of the weather (which I upheld last year until I bailed in November). And I set a goal of selling our second car in a year (which would be now-ish, which I have failed at). I estimated how much money I would save, and I liked it. I’ll get more into that in a future post.

But my commute is about 15km each way and is about a 20-30 min drive depending on the time of day. That’s a long way for a noob to ride a bike. But I’m often up for a good challenge, so I figured I should at least give it an honest shot.

I also thought about my schedule and my health. I’m a pretty busy guy, but this way I could get about 1.5hrs of exercise for the cost of only about 40 minutes. Seemed like a good deal to me.

Finally, I thought about safety while biking to work. Plenty of cyclists complain about drivers, and plenty of drivers complain about cyclists. I’ll talk more specifically about the right way to bike safely in a future post in this series. In short, it involves selecting the best route to minimize your interaction with traffic, following the rules, being highly visible, and maintaining correct lane positioning. It’s not rocket science.

This is rocket science:

In closing, I would like to share an encounter I had with a stranger shortly after I started biking. I was at a friend’s birthday part and met one of his friends. We got on the topic of biking to work, and then this guy started throwing out every excuse in the book. It’s too far. The weather sucks. London drivers are terrible! It is so dangerous. Yada yada. Non-stop complainy-pants and Bike Excusitis Disease.

I asked him what steps he was taking to address his concerns.

That served no other purpose than to elicit more complaints, this time about how the city never listens. (Please explain to me how it is solely the city’s fault that you don’t ride your bike?)

So then I told him the story of how our local playground’s new sand would never drain after it rained, and how I had approached our local city counsillor* who made sure it was tended to. I’m sure this guy could contact my counsillor too, particularly since he’s also a London resident.

“Ahh, but no. I don’t live in your ward, so I can’t ask your counsillor to help me.” Can’t, or won’t?

Then I gave up. I guess I failed twice…

Pencil with ShadowYour Turn Now!

Do you ride your bike to work? Why did you start riding, and what kind of experience have you had? If you don’t ride, what’s holding you back?

* I thought this was a typo until I checked the spelling on the city website. I guess you learn something every day!

Bike Safety and the Suicidal Squirrel
When Did You Last Give Someone a Chance?

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