Ah, the dreaded morning commute. Around the world, reluctant workers trudge to their cars in the morning, hoping that today will be the day they beat the morning rush hour and start their day off right.
The dread continues after a long day in the office when tired workers return to their metal boxes on wheels to again try to beat traffic on the way home. Horns honk, drivers rage, and green lights seem to always turn red as you approach.
Commuting is the best part of my day. Possibly, it could be the best part of your day, too. Here’s why:
A Different Way
Instead of trudging to my car, I greet my bike enthusiastically, checking that there’s air in the tires and juice in the batteries of my lights. I snap on my pannier, fasten my helmet, and I’m ready to go.
I settle into a comfortable pedalling cadence and look around. I am extremely grateful to live in a place with great bike paths. My entire 7-mile commute to work takes places on Boise, Idaho’s network of bike and walking paths called the Greenbelt.
Because of this, I don’t have to worry about navigating a safe path alongside cars on the road. The only traffic I have to worry about is other bikers, walkers, and the occasional hoard of angry geese.
My morning commute time is sacred. Getting my blood moving first thing in the morning helps me show up to the office awake and alert instead of half asleep and irritable. I feel good knowing that I’m starting a busy day already having done something good for myself.
Bicycle commuting also provides the perfect opportunity to listen to a podcast or get updated on the news, although sometimes I prefer silence. I relish the sound of the river flowing next to the Greenbelt and enjoy the whirring of my bike’s gears and wheels as I pedal along through a canopy of trees.
On the way home, I use my commute time to unwind from the day so when I get home, I’m ready and able to relax with family and friends. That 35 minutes of “me” time makes me a better (albeit sweatier) person when I get home.
Gearing Up for Success
If you don’t have the right gear, commuting isn’t fun or safe. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on fancy equipment, but having a few staples with you on your ride can ensure that you are ready for any surprise that’s thrown your way.
I never leave the house without a tire pump, front and rear lights, a multi-tool, bike lock, water, and a rain jacket. Of course, if you’re heading to work like me, you’ll also want to plan for transitioning from the bike to the office. That can be as simple as packing work-appropriate clothes in your backpack or pannier.
Of course, bicycle commuting isn’t a possibility for everyone. Some distances are too long to reasonably walk or bike every day, and some cities don’t have safe bike paths or roads to travel on without a car. And of course there are physical restrictions that require some workers to stick with motorized commuting, and that is perfectly OK.
Bike commuting can be hard. It requires physical energy, extra planning, and often extra time. But if you are able to commute safely by bike, the clear and plentiful benefits outweigh the challenges.
Why Ditch Your Car for Your Bike?
Even if you have the world’s most pleasant bike commute route, all the right gear, and a good attitude, it can still be tempting to hop in the car. It might be faster, the weather might be bad, or maybe you’re really tired on a particular morning. Whenever I feel this way, I try to remind myself of the reasons I ditched the car in the first place:
Although bike commuting can be challenging at times, it’s also fun. For me, the sheer joy of riding a bike brings back childhood memories of tearing around my neighbourhood with a pack of friends close behind. It’s simply fun to use my body to get from one place to another. Riding in a stuffy car holds no appeal when I could start my morning breathing fresh air and feeling a cool breeze on my face.
It’s Good for You
When you’re a bicycle commuter, you don’t have to worry about going to the gym after a long day at work. By building exercise into your day, you have more time in the evenings to spend doing things you actually enjoy. Bicycle commuting is a great way to get yourself moving and do something you had to do anyway — get to work!
It’s an especially great option for those of us who spend the majority of our working days sitting at a desk because sitting is the new smoking — and that’s not a dramatic overstatement.
Bradley University cites several studies that link the obesity epidemic to lack of movement and exercise throughout a long day often spent hunched over in front of a computer. It’s clear that static lifestyles have real consequences.
While we can’t combat all the vast and negative effects of sitting for prolonged periods of time through exercise, we can at least make sure that movement and activity are built into our day in some way. Bike commuting is a great way to achieve this.
It’s Good for the Planet
The last thing we need is more cars on the road. So if you can be one less driver on the road at 8am and 5pm, you’re doing Planet Earth a huge favour.
“As more drivers hit the road with each passing year, the Interstate System suffers from increased traffic congestion that it was not built to handle,” according to Ohio University.
This traffic congestion means more stopping and slowing down, which burns more fuel and results in prolonged driving time and increased pollution and emissions. You might notice this especially as you bike along, smelling all the exhaust of idled cars along the road.
Hopefully, in the future, more and more cities will work to make bicycle commuting accessible by planning for bike lanes on busy streets, off-road bike paths, and creating commuter education and resources.
Just Keep Pedaling
Above all, I appreciate that being a bicycle commuter helps me appreciate the small things along my route, from the smell of the blooming wildflowers and the bumps in the pavement to the runner I pass every morning and the exact location of the hoard of angry geese. I know I couldn’t imagine my day without my sacred bike commute.
If you haven’t given it a chance, I invite you to consider bike commuting even one day a week. You likely won’t regret it.
Lettie Stratton is a writer/cyclist/urban farmer in Boise, ID.