Editor’s note: Read Eric’s follow up post on his first days of bike commuting.
I have a confession to make: I don’t own a bike.
(Don’t tell any of my bike-loving co-workers).
Truth is, I hadn’t ridden a bike in over a decade—until last weekend.
Six months ago I sold my broken-down, paperweight of a car and have been mooching rides for trips too far outside my neighborhood ever since. With the promise of better weather around the corner, I decided it was finally time to give two-wheelers a try.
I borrowed a bike and hit the Burke-Gilman trail (Seattle’s pedestrian- and bike-only trail sporting 27 miles of the city’s 283 miles of bike paths). It was an altogether enjoyable experience. While on my ride a couple insights struck me:
- Biking in the city is easier than I thought it would be: Getting on a bike for the first time in years was surprisingly easy (just like riding a bike! Oh, wait.) Borrowing a bike in cycling-friendly Seattle was a cinch and a quick search provided me with the basics of city-cycling. I was pedaling away—with confidence—in no time.
- This is a no-brainer for the cyclist set, but a bike expands your mobility—big time: A bike gets you profoundly farther than your feet in a lot less time. Within minutes I was beyond my walking radius and realized how close some cool destinations actually were—some were even reached quicker by bike than car, figuring in traffic and parking. Not to disparage my good friend Metro (Seattle’s bus system), but the bike also gives a person more flexibility than bus schedules and routes can offer.
- Good bike infrastructure equates to a certain population of healthy, active people: I’ve lived in health-conscious Seattle for four years now, and I was always a little baffled by what seemed like a distinct lack of people getting outside in the city. But setting out on my bike on a chilly Saturday morning, I realized where all the active people have been doing their thing all along: the cross-city Burke-Gilman trail was brimming with bikers, joggers, and walkers. In fact, 1,000-1,500 people use the Burke every day, and if you don’t use it yourself you’d hardly know it was there since it’s largely away from major roads.
So do cyclists and pedestrians have a new recruit in the (phony) War on Cars? Yes and no. I’ve been on a few shorter rides since my weekend excursion, and I plan to bike more often—at least for recreation. Someday, I’d like to try commuting to the office by bike, but it remains to be seen if rainy Northwest weather keeps me out of the saddle.
But don’t expect me in spandex any time soon.