"I Lost 15 Pounds Commuting to Work, Ask Me How"
The new book Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities has been warmly received by the cycling community. Musician/artist/cyclist David Byrne called it, "...great ammunition for those of us who would like to see American cities become more bike-friendly" in his New York Times book review.
Author Jeff Mapes, senior political reporter at The Oregonian, told the crowd at a recent book reading in San Francisco that his identification as a cyclist came late in life, during the time when Portland, Oregon was becoming the Amsterdam of the United States. After riding to work through America's bike Mecca, Mapes would joke to his co-workers "I Lost 15 pounds Commuting to Work, Ask Me How." But it's no joke, as recent research suggests, not surprisingly, that walking or biking to work is linked with better fitness.
The book got me thinking, how do the regular cyclists here at Earthjustice view their daily commute? Did they have initial fears to overcome? Why do they enjoy cycling? Does Earthjustice as a workplace make it easy? And what advice do they give people considering the bike for daily transportation?
Here are some early results...
Katie Knight, Development Officer for Major Gifts:
"My biggest fear about bike commuting was that busses and drivers were not watching for bicyclists. I also worried I wouldn't ever conquer the last hard hill on my way home. Still haven't, but I don't care anymore. Now I bike commute two to four days a week. I do it for the exercise, the endorphins and cost savings. I enjoy the nice transition from home to work and vice versa. Decreasing my carbon footprint is nice, too. I'm glad we have a safe place to park our bikes and glad to have so many very experienced riders to give advice on tires, neck pain, etc. New bike commuters should to study a map before you go, and pick out a route that might be prettier and less crowded with cars than the most direct route."
Sam Edmondson, Web Associate:
"Sure, I had fears about bike commuting. People in cars sometimes see cyclists as 200-point targets in a video game. I enjoy the exercise and the self-reliance that commuting on a bike provides. We're blessed with good weather in Oakland, so most commute days are a pleasure. It's nice to have a place to keep the bike, but I wouldn't necessarily call our building bike friendly. No valet service? My advice to new riders is always wear your helmet and get a side-view mirror for your handlebars if that blind spot behind you makes you nervous."
Dan Hill, Controller:
"I thought I would have to wear silly-looking spandex to be a cyclist, but you can ride in regular clothes just fine. I bike for the exercise, and I enjoy not worrying about parking or fitting my schedule to our spotty bus service. Earthjustice helps its bike commuters because no matter how sloppy I look when dressed for riding and work, several others invariably look worse. New cyclists should learn to take the lane. Cars are more likely to see you when your out in front, not nervously hugging the sidewalk. And remember to always be super-polite to pedestrians."
Emily Luke, Development Assistant, Major Gifts:
"I never had any fears. I love biking. I used to have a boys Trek mountain bike in grade school and I would do tricks like standing on the top tube and 'surfing' on my bike. Although I don't do that anymore, I am a fairly fearless biker. I bike to work because it's great physical activity, it wakes me up, and there is nothing like riding in the morning with the breeze blowing and the sun shining. I'm perfectly content to bring my bike to the basement each morning—and it's nice to have a secure place to keep it for the day. New cyclists should make sure their bikes are comfortable—a few simple adjustments could mean a much better commute. I recently raised my seat and replaced my handlebars and it's been smooth sailing ever since."
Jesse Antin, Officer, Major Gifts:
"It takes me about half an hour to get to or from work whatever mode of transport I take. I can either spend that hour each day getting exercise and feeling the sun and breeze, or I can spend it trapped in a train or car burning carbon. By taking the 'long way' to work, I arrive at work invigorated and satisfied, with my day's exercise already behind me. I'm lucky to have a workplace with a large and safe place to store my bike and a shower to clean up if I need to, which is much easier on the co-workers! My advice to new cyclists is don't fear cars. But, at intersections and in traffic, assume that cars don't see you—in truth they're not looking for vehicles as small as you. Take pride! Cars and bikes have equal legal access to the roads. Even a Prius is a gas-guzzler compared to you."