As the weather becomes colder and the leaves begin to change color, I am reminded of the first time when I seriously considered bike commuting. It was an early morning on a normal workday in the fall of 2011. When I went to start my Jeep, the engine was completely silent. In disbelief, I tried again, but there was nothing happening. Defeated, I called AAA and had the Jeep hauled to the local auto body shop for a repair.
After sulking around my apartment, I remember lying on the couch, upset and not knowing what I was going to do. I hated that I had to take a personal day just to deal with another car repair. I was worried and kept thinking, “Should I buy a new car?” and “How was I going to pay for all of this?” Finding a job closer to home was not an option and I had to figure out the best way to save money and prolong the life of my current car.
I then asked myself, “What is the most reliable form of transportation?”
The first thing that came to mind was a bicycle.
My train of thought was interrupted when the mechanic called me back to say that the expensive repairs (battery and crankshaft) would be completed that same day. I asked the mechanic what he thought about me getting a new car. He told me that no matter what car I would drive, it wouldn’t last 5 years the way I was using it to commute to work and drive around on the weekends. This information solidified my desire to give biking a try.
With the help of the internet, I immediately began researching what kind of bike would be best for me. I hadn’t ridden a bike since college and I would rollerblade to lab, but since everything on campus was so close, I never even considered having a bike. I then thought about the sheer distance of biking 20 miles. This put me in the category of “extreme commuter” and I didn’t know anyone else that had biked that distance for commuting. Only a few websites existed of people commuting 20 miles or more on a bike. I felt discouraged, but convinced myself that I could transport myself to work and back home. Bringing the bike on public transportation was an option, so that lessened my anxiety about doing it.
That same weekend, I went with my boyfriend (now husband) to the local bicycle shop. I think he thought I was crazy, but entertained my idea anyway. In the corner were many bikes on clearance. I test rode two of them, the smallest men’s bikes that they had. I eventually settled on a Raleigh hybrid and also had a rear rack installed. The total came out to be roughly $400, a great deal compared to what I was paying for in car repairs and for something functional and reliable.
Now nearly three years later, I still ride that original bike and I have committed myself to bicycle commuting whenever I can.
Bike commuting allowed me to free myself from being dependent on an automobile. This means biking not only to work, but also to local shops and restaurants. The amount of money I have saved and the amount of exercise I get has benefitted me tremendously. What began as a frustration of dealing with a car repair turned into something that changed my life and my way of thinking about transportation forever.