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Tree-Hugger Tuesday: Let’s Ride Bikes!

May 1, 2012

Prior to 2009, the last time I rode a bike, I quite literally thought I was going to die.

There was no shoulder. It was pitch black and cars were flying past us. I was blinded by headlights! I could see nothing! Were these drivers really playing Knock The Haole in the Dirt?? Despite having grown up on bikes as a child, I hadn’t been on one in about a decade when I rode with a friend on a beer run while living in Hawai’i. At the time, the only vehicles at our disposal were government rigs, in which we were not allowed to transport alcohol (a bit of information I was less concerned about unaware of the year previous, when I drove from Livingston to Gardiner, MT, with a keg in the back seat). Being about 23, we needed alcohol. Hence, my terror-filled ride of about two miles from my house to the grocery and back. Did I mention there was no shoulder that I remember and it was dark??

After that ride, I was cool with not riding bikes again, well, ever.

Cut to my drive to work in early spring, 2009. I was solidly in the Buy Local camp, had a brand-new composter, and was working on diminishing various aspects of waste in my life. When I realized… that shoulder is about eight feet wide…

Maybe I was just too amped up on all that composting and local-food buying, but suddenly that dark terrifying ride seemed a distant memory – and an eight-foot shoulder? What was my excuse for not commuting by bike again?

Yep. Didn’t have one.

Look. I know biking can be really intimidating – from riding in traffic to simply getting on the damn thing. I know there are also logistics, such as where do I ride? What do I wear and how do I get my stuff to work? What do I do when I get to my office and I am a sweaty mess?

Honestly – I can’t answer those questions for you. I can, however, challenge you to look closely at all your reasons, and determine which ones are actually excuses.

To help, some motivation:

  1. Decrease use of fossil fuels:Not only are you burning fossil fuels in your car, a shit-ton of that energy goes into extracting, manufacturing, and transporting the fuel you end up buying at the pump. Prius owners? You ain’t off the hook either. Hybirds still create pollution, electric cars are the only ones that don’t, and both have energy costs in manufacturing and transporting.
  2. Decrease pollution:According to the EPA, the average car (“passenger vehicle”) on the road emits about 5.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. This will, of course, vary depending on the fuel, the fuel economy of the car, and the number of miles driven per year. Cars also release other pollutants like methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and hydro fluorocarbon (HFC). While volume emitted of these is much smaller than for CO2, these gases have a much greater global climate change potential, on the order of hundreds and thousands of times times higher.
  3. Save money on gasoline and car maintenance: On average, it costs about 20-30¢ a mile to drive your car in terms of both gas and maintenance (but does not include things like taxes or insurance). My commute is just under 20 miles/day – saving just under $20/week. If I bike five days a week from May – September (usually I bike weather-permitting, which can be March through December), I save $40o. Bam.
  4. Exercise instead of commuting: Yes, of course, riding in traffic can be stressful – but I also get the endorphins of exercise as a trade-off, and the enjoyment of my ride. In addition, I don’t have to waste time at the gym and I get outside!
  5. Reduce traffic: Since images speak louder than words:
  6. Look really awesome: What, spandex shorts with a built-in diaper aren’s super cute? Bike helmet ain’t sexy? Ok, ok. So some things I can’t help!

So take a quick look, as with everything else we talk about on Tree-Hugger Day, at your “reasons” for not leaving your car at home. Are they legit, or are they excuses for not giving it a try? I mean, google maps can tell you biking routes, and does your work have a shower available to you? How strenuous will that ride be, and are there back roads to make it easier?

I know one of the biggest issues is the intimidation factor. Maybe you were like me and hadn’t been on a bike in a long time. Maybe you aren’t sure how to get where you’re going. Maybe you don’t know how to go about finding a good bike.

I know how you feel. It was how I felt. What did I do? I turned to my friends.

I asked those I knew biked to help me think things through, and for advice on a good route to work. They also put me in touch with the best bike shop in the area, where the great staff helped with my first bike purchase, and maintenance since. I also wrangled a couple of girlfriends to start learning to ride too, and we toodled around the neighborhood together until we got in the swing of things and I felt comfortable commuting on my own.

I think this part, the friend support, was really key to not only get me from inspired to doing, but also to make me more comfortable and to take the intimidation edge off.

In addition, keep in mind that you don’t have to jump on the commuting-by-bike train to make a difference. Many of the trips we make in our cars are short and local – think about making those on your bike instead! You could make a big impact this way, as cars (including hybirds!) have the lowest fuel efficiency stopping at stop signs and stop lights – in other words, those local, short distance trips! You can therefore make a big impact on shorter trips that may be less intimidating and you may not have thought about.

You also don’t need to spend a lot of money. I have what I can a “mom bike” – you might know them as an upright bike:

My bike looks like this... from

Her name is Norma Jean. She’s dark blue and goes well with my bright pink helmet. I actually spent more than I needed to – you can easily get a good bike for a couple hundred dollars or less. In addition, maintenance is minimal. Grease up the gears, keep the tires filled, and get a check-up in the spring. Done.

Yes, of course there are some additional things to take into consideration – such as, yes, biking can be dangerous. Yes, you can get hurt – even if you’re nowhere near anyone else or a single car (last spring I fell over because I was trying to buckle my helmet while barely moving – so, yes, quite literally fell over, and hurt my shoulder… and my pride). But, hell, what in life is without risk? You just really need to take it slow, become comfortable over time. If it’s been awhile, take your time – there’s no rush. I spend practically an entire summer re-learning to ride before I felt confident to commute on my own.

The bottom line is that, for me, leaving my car at home most of the summer is a bit like compostingit just warms my little heart. In addition, I save time riding my bike over going to the gym. Finally, I’ve come to really enjoy my rides – which is less than I can say for my car trip every day in the winter.

So. Who’s with me? Let’s ride bikes!

26 Comments leave one →
  1. May 1, 2012 9:49 am

    I’d ride with you! I report on local cycling in western Massachusetts, and have written articles on topics you’re looking for, like how to commute to work and stay clean-looking in all weather (even freezing). I also ride a hybrid bike because I like how sturdy it is for hauling. I have hauled compost up a hill on a bicycle. What a workout.

  2. Alex permalink
    May 1, 2012 10:03 am

    My commute is really long, so unfortunately, riding to work is not an option for me, but I do the next best thing (I think), which is ride a little every day. I keep a bike that folds in my trunk, so as soon as I get within a reasonable riding distance of my office, I park and ride the rest of the way. And I ride at a pretty moderate pace, so I’m not sweaty (usually) when I get to work.

    • May 3, 2012 8:26 am

      Perfect! I agree that it doesn’t have to be whole-hog, but I believe that little things count, and we all should do what we can, as opposed to giving up right away. Serious Kudos to you for finding a viable option!

  3. May 1, 2012 3:25 pm

    Not too mention how great it is to have a bike when going to the pub! Free transportation home… bruises from falling over not as great, unless you have mastered the swaying cycling style which I had down to a T as a student.

    Now though, I still like cycling but my poor bike does not get much exercise. It is motor way all the way to work and let’s face it… I live in Ireland. The monsoon zone of Europe.

    It is handy to go to the shop on a bike though. Better parking 🙂

    • May 2, 2012 10:19 am

      Biking to the pub is only one of the many short-distance trips you can take on your bike! Although, we should mention that you can get a “under the influence/while intoxicated” ticket on a bike here in the states!

      Riding in monsoons is not that fun. I’ll admit that one. 😀

  4. May 1, 2012 8:20 pm

    I used to fly on my red one speed, it was my freedom mobile. These days not do much, with my legs always in knots, bad knees and ankles.

    But summer is here again, although not for a beer run. Could hit a bump and break a few. Yikes!

    • May 2, 2012 10:20 am

      Take it slow getting back into it Bob, and you might do ok!

  5. May 3, 2012 12:04 am

    Work just started charging us $150/month for parking. I *wish* biking were an option. I live close enough, but a back injury prevents me from being able to sit on a bike seat for more than a few seconds. Also, I don’t leave work until 2 a.m. Alas, me and the Prius are stuck with each other for now.

    • May 3, 2012 8:30 am

      Hmmm… is there a public transportation option? That could help. Bummer about the back injury! Le sad times…

      Regardless, Prius better than many alternatives! Hooray!

  6. May 6, 2012 5:01 pm


    What a lengthy article on bikes lol.

    Anyway,I just stumbled on your blog by chance,and it seems to be interesting so far.

    BTW,I’m a Pick-Up Artist,and a coach in the men’s Seduction community.Basically,we coach men on how to get laid(more).

    So,we basically trod different courses yet we shared the commonality of blogging about relationship,love and sex.

    Feel free to check out my blog.But I warn you:what you’ll discover will blow your mind(a lot of our stuff are seen as misogynistic and degrading to women.

    • May 9, 2012 8:50 am

      Hi Kenny,

      Thanks for stopping by and attempting to read about bikes. Unfortunately, I don’t agree with the “pick up artist” mentality. For one, yes, I think it’s often very misogynistic and degrading (though I doubt it will “blow my mind”). For two, I also think it’s degrading to men – to assume they need your help, they can’t be themselves, and that they would want to be turned into some misogynists ass just to get laid. For three, it’s degrading to relationships – completely re-invents the idea that men just want sex, and women should avoid giving it up, completely negates relationships built on trust, communication, and genuine interest in one another for a “game” that ends in sex.

      For these reasons, I won’t be checking out your blog. I am sure you’ll find someone in your spamming who will – but I also won’t really wish you luck, either.

      • May 9, 2012 10:01 am

        Misogynistic and degrading lol?You can’t be serious.

        Well,it seems like you’re an undercover PUA lover since you can speak on what we do.

        You come off as a typical man-hating feminist who cannot get a real man,nor a man who’s alpha.But your desires is to associate with Beta males/weak men(like the ones regularly commenting on your blogs).

        You haven’t met a pick-up artist yet.I can guarantee I would seduce you in less than 10 minutes and have your granny panties sliding off shortly.

      • May 9, 2012 10:24 am

        Ha! This is the most ridic comment stream on a Tree Hugger post ever. I guess that’s something, and thanks for the chuckle!

        • May 9, 2012 12:31 pm

          Please don’t try me.I’m guaranteed to have you dumping your significant other in a heart-beat.

        • May 9, 2012 12:40 pm

          Guaranteed! Do you throw in a set of knives? Free shipping?

  7. May 9, 2012 1:01 pm

    @Justin- Lol nah no knives bro.Just pure skills of a pick-up artist.You should check it out and become a rockstar with women.

    • May 9, 2012 1:17 pm

      No need to… I do very well already.

    • May 9, 2012 1:49 pm

      … and it just keeps getting better. Justin, we are clearly overmatched. I think I’m falling for it al-red-dy….

  8. May 9, 2012 3:41 pm

    Justin might need some lessons in how to seduce women.

    @Justin-I really can’t see why or how you claim that your “good”,when it comes to attracting women.If I threw you in a bar with a bunch of hot women,I doubt you can be social.

    That’s the art of the seduction community;we teach men how to be confident and social with women.


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