Deric Gruen, intern extraordinaire, is the newest addition to Sightline’s research team. He’s already hard at work on Cascadia Scorecard 2007.
Bicycling is my primary way to get around town, and that’s how I like it. It liberates me from the stress of traffic congestion, saves me a ton of money, and feels great… about 90 percent of the time.
I’m not saying I haven’t had my share of flat tires or moments of misery and exhaustion. But if I’m healthy and I don’t have a major mechanical problem, I’ll probably get there on my bike.
As the days grow darker and wetter people seem to have difficulty understanding why I’m on two wheels. And lately, I’ve been getting more offers for rides.They come from well-intentioned friends, who make sincere but seductive suggestions to get me off my pedals and into their smooth leather-seated, climate-controlled automobiles.
Sometimes, I’ll bike across the city to meet a friend. But when we say adieu and they find out that I’m on a bicycle, there’s a moment of awe, followed by a wave of concern spreading across their face.
“Wow, you biked here?” they’ll ask, as if I’d just swum the Straight of Juan de Fuca.
Then they make the proposition: “So, do you want a ride?”
No, I’m fine thanks
“Are you sure?”
I’m sure. And honestly, it’s really not a big deal. Roughly 2 percent of all trips in this city are made on bikes and they’re made by people just like you and me. While I appreciate my friends’ offers, I genuinely prefer to ride my bike.
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For me, getting around town is a breath of fresh air, not a burden. And this is especially true in the winter when I spend so much time indoors.Most of the time riding is faster than the bus and less expensive than driving.I do have a bus pass, and I have cars at my disposal, but mostly I choose to ride my bike just because it feels right.Actually, it feels wonderful.
It’s possible that my chosen mode of transportation may not be for everyone, at least in Seattle’s climate.In truth, I can’t claim to be unfazed by the amount of rain this November.On a few days I decided it was easier to take the bus to work or borrow a car to drive across the city for a Sunday evening poker match.There have even been times when I’ve wanted to collapse in bicycle fatigue. One particular winter night comes to mind, when I was riding home late from West Seattle in the pouring rain alongside roaring Highway 99.
But the biggest obstacle that I encounter in riding is never traffic or a hill or even the persistent rain. It’s the mental block created by conventional wisdom that tells me cycling is not an option. I still feel its presence every time I’m offered a ride and the power of suggestion—to get off my bike—can be very strong.But I usually get back on my bike, and my doubts soon disappear.
Perhaps it has become strange to mix physical exercise with transportation nowadays.But unless I’m riding up a steep hill it really doesn’t feel like all that much work.After all, bicycles are still arguably the most energy efficient transportation devices ever invented. I’m always impressed with how far I can go running on PB&J, rather than petroleum.
The difficult times are far and few between, even in winter. It’s easier too, because I generally cycle with the confidence that if the going truly gets rough, I can always latch my bicycle on a metro bus. Recently,I bicycled home to Seattle from the Canadian border, alternating each county behind riding my bike and riding the bus. It’s a beautiful ride and it certainly beats what Greyhound is charging (as long as you have a whole day to travel).
During this recent chilly spell in Seattle, I’ve actually been off my bike.Not out of fear of frostbite or black ice, though those are both rational concerns, but because I got a flat.I really hate changing tubes and I’m too proud to get someone else to do it.Still, I’ll fix this flat before I start driving or taking up those offers for a warm car ride. There are plenty of people who need a ride—like, perhaps, all those people driving solo and paying hundreds of dollars each month park—but I’m just not one of them.
I identify totally with your experiences.The worst for me is that my preference for cycling gear is cycling shorts. While I have leggings for below freezing weather, I otherwise like the freedom of motion. Never mind that the shorts I use in winter are lined and at least a bit water resistant, people keep asking how I can cycle with such little warmth.
I think Deric has bicycling in Seattle nailed down. I don’t have regular access to a car, so I can indentify with the difficulties even more.With all the rain and hills, biking in Cascadia can certainly be chellenging. However, if used in conjunction with public transit (metro) it’s entirely feasible for most persons.Also, during the day, it’s usually more efficient to bike than drive, at least downtown. So often I see cars crawling in downtown area gridlock when I just cruise past them on my bike. Since bicyclists ride along the side of the road auto traffic is only a minimal hinderance. We just need to be careful of opening doors and sudden turns, but most of the time we can ride as if the cars weren’t even there.