THE DAILY COMMUTE
Most you know how the everyday commute is a stress reliever as much as it can be a stress inducer. It took me quite awhile to find the route with the least amount of traffic as well as the all-around safest route i.e. dodging sketchy neighborhoods and avoiding pothole strewn streets as well. The one really interesting aspect of the daily commute that I never thought about until I started riding my bike is the idea of extra time.
I arrive at work with a about 10-15 minutes to spare. I do that for 2 reasons: 1. So that I can cool off a bit and put on a dry shirt. 2. Just to give myself a few extra minutes in case I have a mechanical problem; most likely a flat. I never thought twice about something like that when I was driving. Perhaps that might because that if there were to be any mechanical failure, I would not be able to fix it on the spot. Whereas on the bike, I can fix a flat in about 5 minutes.
I learned along the way with the help of a few youtube tutorials. I also learned the hard way a few times but I did learn how to cyclocross carry my bike when I had a flat and I left my pump. It also poured down rain that day so it really felt like I was a legitimate cyclocross racer in Belgium. Early on, I would get discouraged and page through the local craigslist for another car. But I kept fighting through the issues and eventually I figured out the right tools and other items to carry. One issue that came up was rain. I packed dry clothes and that seemed to be okay but I thought about other ways to prevent having to carry unnecessary items.
USING PUBLIC TRANSIT
It started slow but I began to supplement my commuting with partial use of public transit. In St. Louis, we had the Metrolink. It is a light rail system that had a station about 3 miles from my apartment and would drop me off about 2 miles from work. It was essentially perfect for a rainy day. I utilized it on days when I was just dogging hard as well: Got up late, long day at work, etc.
After some conversations with other commuters and cyclists in general, there seems to be a sort of animosity toward public transit. I feel as though we should embrace it. Most public transit now has a means of carrying bikes. Maybe these commuters feel they have something to prove and show how tough they are. I say that is great because I can assure you that some of the people that commute by bike are some of the most badass people I have come across.
Using public transit wouldn’t make you any less of a badass. With the new streetcar here in Tucson, there are a lot of angry cyclists out there. It is here and it is open. There is not a whole we can do about it. We as alternative transportation aficionados, should welcome anything that has the possibility of removing cars from the road. I am actually looking to move from current residence so that I can use it. This is the start to making the American culture less reliant on automobiles.
PITFALL OF THE AUTOMOBILE
Don’t get me wrong, I do love cars. Mainly because they are a marvel of technology and it is amazing that a mere century ago, most people got around in a horse and buggy. The days of the modern oil and gasoline combustion automobile are numbered. Bikes, public transit, and some other powered personal propulsion vehicles are the wave of the future. I know some don’t see the end of the automobile but 50 years from now, they are going to be drastically different.
Over the next few years, hybrid and fully electric cars are going to are going to be a more common sight. The automobile as a means to transport multiple people to and from destination is great. Carpooling is a great way to get the most out of your vehicle. It is the primarily solo driving that is really killing the purpose of the car. Your average car has 4 seats and typically 3 are left empty. Those short trips are what kill the combustion engine on the fuel consumption as well as just the overall performance. Using a bike for those short trips could save on gas, maintenance, and help the environment.
There is another reason the common automobile is failing: the environmental impact. Not only the pollution but the impact of production of the vehicles themselves as well as the refineries and shipping. There are a ton of reasons to ditch the car. Maybe not entirely because of the way the American cities are built but maybe for 3 or 4 days week could do wonders not only for the environment but on your mind.
I say we ditch the stigmas and the bad rap that public transit has gotten for one reason or another. We should embrace a car-less life or at least become less dependent on our 4 wheeled fossil fuel drinkers. When I was in Europe, there was as vastly different culture when it came to automobiles. Yes, people owned them (not for daily use, however) but it was so few and far between because of trains, a safer bike culture, and the fact cities were built to be walked in. We obviously cannot rebuild all the American cities and redesign the infrastructure but we can take the layouts that we already have and make them more accessible by bike, by public transit, and on foot.