Bicycle Commuter

It’s 7 AM. Do you know where your car is? Increasingly my car remains parked inertly in my driveway. Instead of driving to work I am finding I’d rather bicycle instead.

I realize I am fortunate to have this option. I haven’t really ever had it as a realistic option before. Yes, there were times when I biked to work all the time. But it wasn’t because I had much of an option. My one car family growing up meant my Mom usually couldn’t drive me. Actually since I was one of eight siblings it never occurred to me to ask. So biking was the only way to get to work short of walking for an hour or more in each direction. This was the case in my first job (1973) when at age 16 I worked at a Winn Dixie store in Daytona Beach. It was three or so miles in each direction to the store on the peninsula from our house on the mainland. In 1978 I had moved to Maryland and lived a couple miles from where I worked. Bicycling again was the only realistic option, unless my hours worked out so that I could catch the bus instead. My car at the time was too expensive to fix up. I had no credit cards and only a couple hundred bucks in the bank.

But now I can choose between biking and driving to work. And unless the weather doesn’t suit I choose to bike. It’s about three miles in each direction and largely a straight shot on a bike path next to the Fairfax County Parkway. And ironically I can get there in about the same time it would take me to drive it. That’s because when I drive I have to deal with rush hour traffic. I often have to wait with my engine running for three minutes just to get on the parkway. Then it can be stop and go for the rest of my commute. No executive parking spot for this GS-14. I’m back at the end of the parking lot, which means several minutes of walking just to get to my building.

All these issues are rendered moot by the bike. At most it adds a couple minutes to my commute. On a bad traffic day I can beat the traffic. No parking for me at the far end of the lot anymore. Rather I zip my bike up the main ramp of my building dodging the jersey barriers. I lock my bike in the bike rack right next to the main entrance. I arrive with my heart racing but feeling so very alive. My only concern is that I’m not so sweaty that I offend my coworkers.

As best I can tell there is no downside to bicycling. On most days the six miles of bicycling suffices for daily exercise. I don’t have to add a workout or a run when I get home. This gives me more time to do what I want. Rising gas prices no longer frighten me. I don’t worry about contributing needlessly to global warming or the ozone problem. The only way that would happen is if I ate too many beans with meals.

And it’s not a bad commute either. I would prefer my commute to be a bit more bucolic. Instead I hear the roar of my fellow commuters thirty feet next to me. But when peddling at 20-30 miles an hour the wind drowns out much of the noise. And in the morning the ride is usually cool and a bit bracing.

The ride home can be a bit more problematic in the summer time. Thunderstorms are a frequent occurrence in the late afternoons this time of year. I am sure a thunderstorm one of these days will drench me. But I also have the Internet now. I can see if rain is approaching by going to Weather Underground and checking their radar map. If I am proactive enough I can leave work early and dodge the rain. Once home I can telecommute until my workday is over. Or I can wait until the storm passes. These storms don’t usually last long.

There is never a traffic jam on the bike paths. I may pass one or two fellow bicyclists in each direction but as far as I am concerned I am on my own private expressway. The only thing that really slows me down is crossing the Fairfax County Parkway. Alas, there is no bridge to carry me over the traffic so I must wait at the light just like a car. But sometimes I get lucky and have little or no wait and cut a couple minutes off my commute.

I’m wondering how long I can keep it up. I won’t do it if it is raining. There will be code red or code orange days when it would be healthier to take the car, even at the expense of adding to the ozone problem. Once the morning lows hit forty or lower I may weenie out. But for now my goal is to keep riding. I could always stand to be a bit trimmer. Perhaps bicycling will be the way I finally lose those last necessary pounds. I’ll find out in time.

I find it healthy, fun, invigorating and a great way to arrive at the office full of energy and ready to be productive. I wish more of us had this option. Starbucks would sell a lot less coffee because we bicycle commuters don’t arrive at work half asleep.

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