Chicago Sun-Times

Best things about bike commuting

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I haven't been on my bike during these two days of rain, and boy, do I miss it. Here, as promised, are the 12 BEST things about bike commuting.

12. Freedom from obnoxious train passengers. I hate being on the L and listening to someone's "Like, Oh, my God!" punctuated cell phone conversation, or someone's IPod turned up to the max. I really don't like having to hear the bass line of other people's bad music, and getting cold stares when I ask them to please turn it down. Maybe I'm getting grumpier as I get older, or maybe people are getting ruder, but my tolerance for this stuff has really dropped.

11. Freedom from a train schedule and stops. When I bike, if I need to stop at the drugstore or the grocery on the way home, it's easy to do. I don't have to get off the train and walk.

10. Enjoying the weather. As much as I complain about rain and cold, I really do enjoy living somewhere where there is actual weather. Most of the time, I love being outside and feeling the elements -- it's too easy to insulate yourself from reality with air conditioning and central heating. On a bike, you can detect subtle changes in the weather -- like the first shift in the wind that foreshadows an autumn storm. And yes, I do intend to do more winter biking this year.

9. Not dieting. I'm Polish, and surrounded by good cooks. The idea of dieting is gruesome. But I don't want to gain weight and have to buy new clothes. I think biking helps keeps me thin.

8. Good appetite. Biking may keep you trim, but you aren't going to waste away, because you get REALLY Hungry when you bike. My commute to work is eight miles each way, and I find I really enjoy my lunch and dinner if I've biked that day.

7. Seeing the city. When you're in a car, it's hard to see the faces of people, or the buildings as you pass. While biking is faster than walking, it still gives you a chance to check out neighborhoods, and see people. I like noticing a new store or house I wouldn't have seen if I was in a car or the train, and I like noticing little things like "Hey, isn't that a new crossing guard?" Or "I see the Milwaukee Avenue drunks are sleeping it off on the grass this morning -- good thing it's not raining."

6. Being independent. Biking appeals to me in the same way gardening does -- it makes me feel a little off the grid. I'm providing my own power -- not power brought to me by oil produced by dubious governments in faraway places.

5. Being green. We've all got to find ways to create less pollution, and when you bike instead of drive, you not only cut your own carbon emissions, but you encourage other people to do it by showing them how much fun you're having.

4. Fun. What was your favorite Christmas present as a kid? A bike, right? It's fun to ride a bike. When I first started bike commuting in 2000, I felt like I was 11 years old again, pigtails flying. Wheee! I think I've actually gotten younger I started bicycling again, or at least feel more myself.

3. Better sleep. The more I ride my bike, the less trouble I have sleeping.

2. Saving money. I can't always bike commute -- because sometimes I need the car for work assignments. But I try to do it at least 10 times a month, and I figure that saves me about $5 a day in transit costs. That's $50 a month, and it goes into a savings account I use for vacations. Sometimes, if the wind is high and I have a tough time peddling, I remember the $5 and the chance of a train trip to New Orleans, and it helps.

1. Being here now. Number one on my list of "worst things about bike commuting" was "trying not to die." After I wrote it, I realized that was one of the best things, too. When I'm bicycling, I can't worry about work. I can't worry about what's going at home. I don't have to worry about what's on the news. I can't multi-task. My number one concern is staying upright and not getting hit by a car. And that's a kind of meditation. When I'm bicycling, I'm focused on the present. And in these weird, unreal times, that's a kind of gift.

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I absolutely love the ability to ride along the right side of the road, going past all of the 'stop and go' traffic.

Being able to eat just about anything I want to even though I'm in my 50's (still within 5 lbs of my high school weight)is the result of strenuous bike riding.

There's also something about the 'open air' feeling of riding a bike that clears the mind.

My # 2 best thing about bike commuting: You often as not arrive at your destination faster by bike than you would on public transportation.
My # 1 best thing about bike commuting: Your often as not arrive at your destination faster by bike than you would by car.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on October 23, 2009 11:21 AM.

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