Friday, May 20, 2011

Bike to Work Day!

I got up early today because I had stuff I needed to finish at work by 9:00am.  I still managed to stop by one of the numerous DC-area Bike to Work Day pit stops and get a free water bottle and T-shirt though!

It was somewhat celebratory for me since this was the first bike commute in almost a week and a half - I sprained my wrist last week and was in a pretty restrictive splint for a while.  I'm still in a splint now, but I've been given the green light on anything I can do (while wearing the splint) that doesn't hurt.  Biking isn't super easy - it's awkward to hold the handlebars - but it doesn't hurt if I'm careful.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Breaking the Law...

The Washington Post ran an editorial today entitled, "Bicyclists are welcome in DC, but they, too, should obey the law." 

For a full-on critique of why this seemingly even-handed article misses the mark (and the facts), check out Washcycle's response post, "Drivers are welcome in DC, but they, too, should obey the law."  But let me offer my quick reaction:

Yesterday, I was honked at, cursed at, and almost hit (intentionally) by a driver who thought I shouldn't be in "his" lane - this despite an EMPTY lane to my left.  This occurred approximately 100 feet behind a county police cruiser that had just passed me (disappointingly, no action on the part of the cop).  I was then passed too closely by the next vehicle as well (VA law states there must be 2 feet of passing distance), and about 1/4 mile down the road discovered I was being "tailgated" at a distance of 2-3 feet - right where I needed to slow down and turn. 

This wasn't a typical day (thank God!), but nonetheless I'm angered by the Washington Post article, which seems to view the actions of drivers such as I encountered yesterday as merely "churlish," rather than recklessly life-endangering.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gas Prices

As we've all noticed, gas prices have been going up lately (again). 

An article at the personal finance site Wise Bread mentions some ways that gas prices could be brought back down again (essentially, reverse the direction of speculation, since prices are speculation-driven), as if the best thing for us all would be if gas prices were to drop.

I actually think higher oil/gas prices are a good thing. 

Why would I say that??  It's because our country's energy and transportation policies and expectations are largely based on the assumption of cheap energy for the foreseeable future.  That assumption in turn drives our foreign policy - leading us to questionable "allies" and increased military expenditures that often don't demonstrate direct benefits for the U.S. - not just wars, but protecting certain shipping lanes, for example.

Higher gas prices lead to conversations about energy policy that we as a nation need to have.  It may hurt in the short term, but hopefully it helps us figure out some longer-term solutions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

376 Calories

That's how many calories WebMD says I burn on my daily bike commute. 

I'd never realized it could be that much.  I don't actually time myself, so it may actually be a few more (up to 411) if I'm going faster.  I'll assume the lower number though.

There are 3500 calories in a pound, so at this rate if I bike 10 days (9.3 days to be precise, but it's pretty hard to bike 0.3 round trips to work) and otherwise have a neutral food intake, I'll lose a pound. 

Seems like another good reason to bike to me!  I'm trying to lose 12 pounds from where I was at the beginning of this year.  I'm halfway there now... only 55 round-trips to work to go - which would happen in late August if I keep up current patterns.  I'm hoping it doesn't take quite that long - and now that I know how many calories I'm burning, perhaps it won't!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Please Don't Hit Me?

I was riding to work this morning and stopped at a traffic light.  A young woman pulled up behind me, and after a minute or so rolled down her window and started talking to me.  Here's the conversation we had:

Her: Are you, like, actually biking in the road?
Me: Yes. (mentally noting the absence of anywhere else to bike in this particular location)
Her: Well, I'm really late for work, and I don't want to run you over!
Me: I don't want you to run me over either.

(10 second pause)

Me: How about I just move over a bit going through the intersection and you can go by me?
(Light turns green, I do as I suggested and she zooms by me)

I hope she didn't hit anyone else.

The funny thing about this is that we were on a 4-lane road (2 in each direction) - there were a few cars at the light, but she would have easily been able to switch lanes to get around me within 15-20 seconds of the light turning green anyway.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Biking in the Rain (and liking it!)

I promised this a while ago... and here it finally is! 

A lot of people give up on biking (or doing much outdoors at all) when it rains, which is unfortunate since in the Washington D.C. area, it rains an average of 87 days per year (or roughly 7 days per month).  If you have the right equipment, dealing with rain isn't that tough at all.

In terms of bike commuting, the first thing to remember is this: it doesn't matter nearly as much if it rains on your way home.  There are clean, dry clothes at home (or at least, there should be... if there aren't, stop reading this and go do some laundry!).  It's rain on the way to work that gets tricky.

Here's my shortlist of the essentials for biking to work in the rain (and enjoying it):

1. A change of clothes.  A towel might be good too.  You can keep as much of this at work as you want... I generally have a towel and few extra clothes at work, but mostly take my day's attire with me each day.

2. A waterproof bag for your clothes.  This can be a messenger bag, pannier, or - in my case - trunk bag with a waterproof shell to go over it.  I keep the shell (which is basically a raincoat for the bag) in one pocket of the bag, so it's always there when needed (you can see this in action in my "Snow Bike" post).

3. Rain jacket/pants.  These don't have to be bike specific.  I use a Marmot Precip jacket that I got for backpacking, and a basic pair of wind pants - not technically waterproof, but definitely highly water resistant.

4. Wool socks.  My shoes aren't waterproof, but it doesn't matter as long as my feet stay warm - which they will with wool socks.  There are also some tricks or equipment you can use to dry your shoes after they get wet.

5. Fenders.  I have Portland Design Works Soda Pop fenders - a great deal at $25 for both, and also nice because they're easily removable for when I know it's not going to rain.  Fenders not only help keep me dry, but also help keep a lot of road gunk off my bike and off me.

That's really it.  If you have those things, you can add whatever other clothes are seasonally appropriate under them, wear gloves if it's cold, etc.  Even if you don't have all these things, it's not a deal-breaker - I didn't have fenders or wind pants until recently.  However, these things do make it so I'm much more likely to bike in the rain.

Disclaimer: I have not been paid, bribed, threatened, or otherwise encouraged to promote specific products or brands in this post.  The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my experience - nothing else!
Child on tricycle image courtesy, used under the Creative Commons license.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why Commute by Bike?

I introduced my commuter bike the other day, but I realized I haven't mentioned why I commute by bike.

  • Financial Freedom.  Biking to work allows our family to save money.  We've only had one car since early 2009.  We "upgraded" to a slightly larger/newer car (ie minivan) in 2010 - and paid cash.  My bike cost money, yes - but a bike is cheap compared to a car payment!

  •  Health. I get paid to sit at a desk all day (except when I go to meetings - then I'm paid to sit at a table).  Without some form of exercise, I would turn into a baked good.  Biking is easy because it doesn't take that much time out of my day - my commute biking is about 20 minutes whereas my commute driving is about 10 minutes, so I get 40 minutes for the price of 20. 

  • Productivity/Creativity.  Days that I bike are often more productive and/or creative days at work.  Endorphins win over coffee.  I still have coffee... but I don't need it quite as badly!

  • Biking simply feels good.  My 20-minute commute is a good wake-up in the morning and helps me de-compress in the afternoon.  My family notices a difference in my mood when I bike - I'm much happier coming through the door than when I drive.  I get time to think about things, but also some time to just be outside and enjoy it.
When was the last time your commute did these things for you?

(Note to my wife: Yes, you can remind me of this post when I'm feeling lazy in the morning.  I won't appreciate it then, but I'll appreciate it later!)