Sunday, May 23, 2010

What's so great about it?

Here are a few fun things about biking to work.

Most obviously, you get to go for a bike ride! And even when you’re crushingly busy at work, you’re outside, in fresh air, for at least the length of your commute. Of course you might not feel like riding every day (some days I dread it), but a lot of those 50/50 or even 20/80 days will tip over to the positive 10 minutes into your ride, and suddenly you'll be grateful to be out on the road again - days that start out bad don't have to stay that way.

You are miraculously able to opt out of the tedious and enervating commute that everyone else, in their cars, buses and subways, must endure. You ride through the chaos, it surrounds you, but you’re not in it any longer. Their problems aren’t your problems. Traffic jams may slow you down but won’t stop you; you can always find a way through or around. Problems on the Red Line? You don’t have to fight for a taxi or stand in line for a bus. Sure, you’ll encounter some new, small and unaccustomed indignities – like, in the rain, you get soaking wet – but you may even come to enjoy the seeming drawbacks (see below).

You’ll almost never be late again because of traffic. Ninety percent of my morning rides take between 21 and 26 minutes. My (longer) return route home requires 38 to 47 minutes. Three or four times a year a Presidential or Vice Presidential motorcade stops all traffic, including me, but bike commuters in other parts of the country can safely discount that risk.

Spontaneity flourishes. Wondering what’s down that side street? Go see. If you ride past something interesting – a new public art installation, or someone’s handing out free samples – you can just pull your bike out of the road and have a look. You won’t slow anyone down and you don’t need to find a parking place.

You’re more aware of, attuned to, the weather. And because you’re regularly out in it, extremes don’t bother you as much. I have come particularly to enjoy summer downpours. “Wet” doesn’t matter if you’re not cold, and it’s a wonderful luxury to be able to enjoy the feel of warm rain on my back and arms while all around me pedestrians are holding newspapers over their heads and scrambling for cover.

And of course, you get exercise – real, every day, aerobic exercise. It clears your mind and dissipates stress; you’ll sleep better, and you know it’s good for you in the long run.

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