inconvenience

The inconvenience of cycling

Slow down, indeed.

Slow down, indeed.

This morning, I rolled out of my house around 7:10am to make it to my chiropractor appointment at 7:30am.  Of all the steeds in my stable, I chose the E-Bike to get there, and wore “normal” clothes, (as in, regular pants and jacket, not a cycling kit).  I had a bright red jacket on, my bike is bright red, and this time of year it’s full-on daylight at this time of the morning. 

I chose (fairly) lightly-traveled, low-speed limit roads plus a large portion of bike path to get from home to my destination.  It was, however, still rush-hour.  (Insert typical cyclist rant about a motorist buzzing or side-swiping…)

Today is day 4 of my #carfreeweek … I committed to riding and not driving this week, Tuesday through Sunday. (Monday was raining so I went for 6/7).  This means my car is locked in the garage for 6 days, no matter what. Between weather and schedule, this week presented the perfect opportunity to ditch the car keys for a week.

Keep in mind, I own a perfectly lovely vehicle.  I absolutely love my Toyota 4runner.  LOVE IT.  I can throw the bikes, dogs and anything else in the back, it drives through any kind of snow or conditions, I feel safe it in, it has a wonderful sound system and sunroof.  She’s black and looks totally badass when she’s all cleaned up.  (She’s nicknamed Black Mamba (you Kill Bill fans will get it)).  I like my car a lot. 

So …it occurred to me this morning, after several large trucks and SUVs (all carrying just one person, the driver, by the way) buzzed me closely, giving me far less than three feet, (and one hothead Cadillac-guy took a curve super hot, nearly side-swiping me), that it’s ironic how motorists view me on my E-bike doing 20mph, as inconvenient.  That I should have the audacity to force them to slow their roll for a moment, to pause behind me when there is an oncoming car, and to give me the three-feet I am allowed by law… that these gestures (also known as safe and courteous driving techniques) would be so inconvenient to passing motorists that they choose instead to risk my health and bodily safety so that they can maintain their over-the-posted-speed-limit-speed … is ironic. 

Because- I am the one inconvenienced.  I left my wonderful 4runner home in the garage – the vehicle that would have carried me most safely, and most expeditiously, to my destinations today. The 4Runner would have provided me heated seats this morning, A/C later today, and commercial-free bass-bumping beats via satellite radio.  The 4runner would’ve ensured my hair was unfussed (unmussed? whatever you know what I mean) and I was sweat-free when I got to where I was going.  Make-up perfect, clothing unwrinkled.  I mean, clearly, the car is THE convenient way for me to transport myself. 

And yet.  I chose to sweat, rock helmet-hair, take longer to get where I was going, be cold this morning and hot later today, tunes-free with chilly air blowing in my ears.  I am the one inconvenienced by my decision to ride instead of drive. 

In so choosing, I made a few other choices, too:

I decided to reward my body and brain with restorative movement – to get my blood pumping, to burn some calories, to absorb some Vitamin D and move my body.  That means I am decreasing the odds I will be a burden to our health care system; the chances are lower that I’ll need pills to sleep, pills to wake up, pills to feel happier, pills to lose weight, or expensive hospital stays to combat the ill effects of being overweight, under-exercised, and to cope with deteriorating health.  My ride means I am investing in my health in a way that does not contribute to our burdened healthcare providers, hospitals, and insurers.   

Countries around the world are only starting to tabulate health care savings due to bicycling. Denmark, which plans to expand its bicycle highway network after such a project in Copenhagen’s suburbs was judged a success, estimates the country saves €40 million annually ($53.3 million) on health care costs. That is ... an impressive sum in a nation of 5.6 million people.
— https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2013/how-bicycling-cuts-health-care-costs-businesses/59121

I decided not to impose any wear and tear on our roadways.  A human on her bicycle inflicts approximately ZERO negative influence on our roadways.  Whereas, my 4runner and any other vehicle beats up our streets and leads to them, over time, needing expensive repairs and upgrades- today, I did not beat up on any concrete or asphalt.  The streets did not suffer as a result of my need to transport myself. 

It would take 700 trips by bicycle to equal the damage caused by one Smart Car.
— https://streets.mn/2016/07/07/chart-of-the-day-vehicle-weight-vs-road-damage-levels/

I decided to exhale Co2 – aka, produce substantially less CO2 than driving:

Traveling 2 miles (3.2 kilometers):
By car: 0.88 kg CO2
Walking: 0.039 kg CO2
Riding a bike: 0.017 kg CO2
Walking or riding a bicycle does reduce the production of CO2 relative to driving.
— https://www.globe.gov/explore-science/scientists-blog/archived-posts/sciblog/index.html_p=186.html

I decided to burn fat and not fuel.  Stating the obvious here. (And, yes, it’s an E-bike, so it was charged, which does use electricity, so alright there’s that). 

I decided to spend $0 – I didn’t have to pay for fuel, or a car wash, or vehicle maintenance to ride my bike today.  I simply rode. For free.  On a bicycle that does not depreciate or require of me the upkeep that my vehicle does.  (Wanna be a millionaire? Check this out).

I chose happiness over convenience.  Even with the close calls, riding my bike still makes me –and leaves me –happier than when I drive.  Road rage inside a vehicle is a thing.  I don’t experience that on my bike.  (Perhaps I should, since I am far more vulnerable and I experience far more close calls which would really have serious implications for me than close calls in my car).  But –as it stands, the bike makes me happy. 

I see something cool every single time I ride.  Birds.  Grass.  Flowers.  Dogs with their heads hanging out the back window of the car they are riding in. A motorist with their window down, waving at me. A horse, donkey, you name it. 

This state of hyper-stress has contributed immensely to the staggering growth of serious health issues we face today. Many turn to medications for stress and anxiety and mindlessly consume large amounts of caffeine, sugar and refined junk just to get through another day.

Mindfully taking the opposite approach, slowing down when we can, becoming unhurried can benefit and enhance our lives physically, spiritually and mentally. And we just might accomplish more.
— https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11668/why-you-need-to-slow-down-for-better-health.html

So, motorists perceive me on my bike as an inconvenience.  But instead, I did drivers a favor today; I didn’t contribute to traffic mayhem.  That massive I-70 closure this morning that forced traffic into alternate routes?  Yeah … I wasn’t a participant in that.  I actually removed a car from the traffic jam.  I got sweaty and my hair was messed up.  I showed up to work engaged, awake, alert, friendly, happy, and motivated.  I burned calories, I thought about things (this article, for one), I processed some stress. 

My ride made me a better human, a better member of your community, and a better employer/lawyer/friend/daughter/dog-momma.  I asked a runner to take my photo and I got to talk to a stranger for a minute.  Not bad, inconvenient bicycle, not bad.

I chose inconvenience today (and every day) when I pick my bike over my car.  I don’t expect thanks or appreciation from motorists, but I do demand and deserve respect as an equal road user.  Instead of seeing cyclists as inconveniences, motorists, I’d appreciate it if you kept these things in mind next time you see me on the roadway.