Friday, October 7, 2011

Reflections on My 8-Week Bike Commute: The Car is Sold

After Our First Test Run Ride

The car is sold and I am committed. The bike commute is a good thing. It is great for me to get exercise in my daily routine, I am able to appreciate and enjoy my neighborhood and the bike commute has made me more aware of all the great spots in my neighborhood. South Lake Union and Eastlake are changing so much and so fast and new restaurants and services are popping up all the time. Now that I am on my bike, I see the new restaurants and new services every day and I am more likely to remember the new spots and even old spots and give them a try. I even went to Serious Pie and Banya 5 for the first time ever. (Note to retailers: SLU and/or Eastlake needs a great shoe shop.)

Since our daycare moved my route has changed and I now ride through the campus. This is a busier route and previously it would have been a more intimidating route for me to try. Since my first blog entry, I am a much more confident rider. I am still a very safe and mindful rider, and seeing my son on my handlebars helps keep that in check.

It is great to be part of all the activity in my neighborhood and I love being social with people and I do feel more connected to the community. I even found out about two (count them: two) farmer's markets on my route.  I never would have found these in a car! One is on the campus and the other is on a boat at South Lake Union Park. A farmer's market on a boat is fun.

My son is pretty cute-looking sitting on the handlebars and we get tons of smiles and waves when we ride. It is a very nice way to start the day. I am not big on being a spectacle or attention-seeking and tend to shy away from engaging with strangers -- especially before my second cup of coffee! But I have to admit it is pretty nice to make people smile and that makes me smile and the day starts out pretty good.
I Should Not Have Gone Shopping This Day
My son loves to ride by the construction at the Mercer freeway exit and on-ramps. He has suggested that my next car should be a dump truck and he is hopeful that he can ride the “little bulldozer.” I think he is enjoying cycling too.

I started the bike commute hopeful that I could keep it going but not sure that I could. I am a working mom, I am busy and so many things that I want to do just do not get started, or if they get started they do not get done.

Another challenge with bike commuting is the extra time it takes and the challenge of transporting all of the stuff my toddler needs at daycare and the stuff I need for my job. I was not sure I could get myself, my son and all of our stuff back and forth. Me, I can manage if I forget something, but it is a lot harder to explain to a toddler and his teachers at his daycare if I forget something. That has been a challenge.

For the most part, I have the transportation of the day-to-day stuff figured out and sometimes we have had to drive or take the bus. I try and keep that at a minimum but if I am very tired I do not ride. That is just not safe. Other times, I catch a ride with my husband mostly because I can. I am not a hardcore rider.

Now that the rains have come and the weather is changing I will still ride my bike on dry days.  I bought a bus pass and I have a Zipcar membership. I am committed to alternatives to the car commute but you will not see me riding with my son in the dark in the rain. For my personal comfort level, that is too much.

On Our Way Home We Play in the Park
So far, I am happy with my cycling success. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time and I finally got it started. Initially, I did not want to invest any money into it just in case I could not keep the bike commute going. In the past, my bike has been used for recreation and only occasionally. In other words, I have been leisurely riding my bike about four times a year.

It is easy and fun to go out and invest in new gear. I like that it is called investing -- investing in your health and safety I guess, but really it feels like shopping to me. Years ago, I spent good money after deciding to take up rollerblading and I bought all the gear. I went once, it was scary and then five years later I donated the equipment to Goodwill. But if I keep this commute up, I think I will splurge. This winter, I am going to look into buying a new bike or a new used bike. That will be fun!