Friday, April 21, 2006

Riding again

I rode my bike to work again today. I ventured onto busier streets both coming and going in order to save time, distance, and uphill stretches. It worked out quite well—I cut off at least 10 minutes on the way home.


The event that gave me the push to figure out how to ride my bike more was watching pictures of the mass exit of people in cars jammed on the freeway leaving Houston last fall as Hurricane Rita approached. All I could think was, "We are prisoners in our own cars, and we've locked ourselves in them."

I started riding places I needed to go on the weekends and then, finally, made the first commute to work.

One of the Web sites I had read some time ago that gave me the idea that I could commute by bike was Riin's Rants bike page. I re-read her page and the sites she linked to, especially about how to ride in traffic on a bicycle.

Now I also read Carfree Family by Paul Cooley and the sites to which he links.

Here are a few links to posts I particularly enjoyed this evening:

    "Bending the Rules" by Jim at Oil is for sissies. I tend to follow the road rules pretty closely, but I am seeing the advantage of not always coming to a complete stop when the road is clear. So far I've only gone through red lights when the signal doesn't register that I'm there, for example, when I need to make a left turn on a left arrow.

    "Commuter Bike Considerations" by Kent Peterson at Kent's Bike Blog. This is a transcript of a talk he gave. It reinforced for me that not all (real) bikers need to be flashy road racers or mountain bikers. I, too, am a fan of my handlebar-mounted rear view mirror. It makes riding in traffic much less stressful. I also read somewhere that drivers are more respectful of bicyclists who have a visible rear view mirror (an argument for having it on your handlebar).

    I was also very interested in the pictures at the end of a report Kent wrote of a recent ride. I need to mount my rear flasher and reflector differently so that they are more visible. I'm also curious about what riding in Washington might be like (all that rain...).

    "A Cycler's Day Off" by Joe of Cycler's Life. Joe writes about riding for two hours to get to a fishing spot.
    When I first started riding to streams, I had the same two thoughts that everyone else does: Wouldn't it take a long time? Wouldn't I be too tired to fish? As with most things living carfree, we tend to think of things in the wrong terms. We worry about loss and are completely oblivious to gain. Pedaling to a stream is not just a slower, more tiring way to get there anymore than bicycle commuting is a just a slower, more tiring way to get to work. It is an entirely different experience.

    What I notice on the bike is not that my speed is slow but that my time outside is long. The transitions from travel to stream become seamless in a way opening and shutting a car door can never be. Sitting on a padded seat in a sealed chamber, doing no work while moving 75 miles-per-hour, and then stepping out into quiet woods is jarring to say the least. It lacks something real, like watching television, and our minds only follow easily after acclimation.
    (A very different context, but here's a link to a quote I copied out about how long church services can work in the same way to help us transition from a state of "fuss, rush, and care" to a place of inner quietness.)

    I also enjoyed Joe's post about his wife, "Rachel," who now has her own bike blog.
There is plenty of inspiration and advice out there, and I'm grateful.

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