So I started limited bicycle commuting two weeks ago. This is nothing new to me; I commuted two or three days a week several years ago, but since having children (okay, Carolyn had the children, I was a bystander) and moving five miles farther from work (from 14 to 19), I gave up on it.
To be honest, I pretty much gave up on any physical activity beyond mowing the lawn and carrying children up the stairs. And down the stairs. And to the car. And back to their own bed at 1:00 in the morning.
Tell it to me straight, Doc
For many years I have enjoyed good health, with nothing much more serious than sinusitis, stomach flu, and astigmatism. The results of my last two physicals revealed, however, I was starting to fall off the wagon, as far as my triglycerides and cholesterol were concerned. I lay the blame squarely on poor diet and lack of regular exercise. Not to say my diet was all that great before my wife and I had children, but at least I kept up a regular workout routine of weight training and cycling to counter the effects of Oreos® and pizza. At my worst, I was almost 30 pounds heavier than I was just before I got married, when I was about ten pounds lighter than I should have been. My doctor also believes the mysterious knee pain I have experienced over the last few years is due to weakened leg muscles not supporting the joint. I had stopped exercising a few years before even that started, so no wonder.
It’s a Gas
Whatever the cause may be: market forces, speculators, or greedy oil companies, gasoline prices are going to stay high for good. This is my completely unresearched and fatalist opinion, but it ties for second as a motivating factor in my decision to bike commute. My ’03 Odyssey doesn’t get stellar mileage, but it’s better than my wife’s ’97 Cherokee. I can save a couple of gallons of unleaded each time I ride to work, with the added benefit of not polluting the atmosphere. For my round trip of 38 miles, using a conservative mileage estimate, I save two gallons of gas and prevent almost 42 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. If I achieve my goal of three days per week (98 miles round trip total) that’s about 5 1/2 gallons of gas and almost 108 pounds of CO2. Save money and save the environment- such a deal!
But, saving gas has also cost me money, through the purchase of bike stuff. Amortized across eight years, the cost is reasonable (at least to me- Carolyn has a different perspective). I own two bikes, the youngest of which is about fifteen years old, and by this time the only original equipment left on either are the frames and forks. And, clothing doesn’t last forever, so I have to replace my biking wardrobe. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the sake of the environment and the local economy.
The Road Less Traveled
I wish I could find one. At least I don’t have to ride along Telegraph Road for very long, but I wish there were a real sidewalk. I am encouraged by the ongoing construction of sidewalks along my route through West Bloomfield. I will selectively use a “pedestrian walkway” depending upon the likelyhood of encountering a walker, runner, dog or car. Simply put, a driver pays less attention to what’s coming down the sidewalk than what’s coming down the street at an intersection or end of a driveway. A driver would never pull into an intersection without looking, but will routinely stop across a sidewalk. In some cases I am safer riding in the road where drivers are more likely to see me and, hopefully, give me ample clearance. I think most of the sidewalks in the townships I ride through are considered multi-use and open to non motorized travelers. In the actual towns with the more traditional narrow sidewalks, I stick to the street.
Where am I going with all this?
Carolyn fears for my life when I do my commute, and I fully understand, but I have much more riding experience than she, and I am comfortable alongside cars. I would prefer an open road where I did not have to hug the white stripe, but I take what I can get. My commute is long, and I don’t recommend it to just anyone. A ten mile commute would be perfect; it’s a good workout in a more reasonable amount of time. I have no intention of moving, however, at least not while I am still working for my current employer. I am using this bike commute to challenge myself back into shape with the added benefits of saving gasoline and reducing pollution. Maybe others will try commuting, if they see what I can accomplish- then maybe more atention will be paid to accommodating more cyclists and pedestrians in this region. It has to start somewhere.