My first fall in fall
This summer I purchased my first bike in years. It quickly became an enjoyable habit. My body became stronger and I can now bike about an hour before getting really tired (backpack and all). It’s forced me to think about climate change and my impact on society; thankful too, because I’m individually reducing carbon emissions. But I’m also open to the elements like never before, and that comes with serious risks.
It was drizzling today, and the roads were riddled with puddles and rivers. If I still had a car, I wouldn’t have thought much of it. I would’ve been isolated from the elements. Cars are protective bubbles and creature comforts. My commute into work would’ve been simple and relatively safe. Instead, I took the first fall on my bike.
Every time I hop on my bike I realize all of the variables that are working against me: my brakes might not work, a car may hit me or otherwise cause me to lose control, a tire may pop, etc. Unfortunately, I wasn’t considering the most obvious possibility this morning: pedestrians.
As I made my way to campus, I took note of my increasingly moist bum. I reached back to check, and found a nice patty of road spittle. Yes, this wasn’t one of my favorite bike rides. Nonetheless, I had no other option at this point and needed to get into work on time. My legs peddled onward.
I crossed the river and was nearly there. The light was green and I began to turn right, when a group of pedestrians crossed illegally. My brakes squealed, as I squeezed to prevent hitting one of them. Then, the bike lost traction and I completely slid off and down. My entire right side was covered in dirt and rain and ominous road schmutz.
People called out, “Are you okay?” Despite the immediate feeling of road rash, I hadn’t hit my head or broken anything. Someone picked up my coffee mug, and handed it to me. I fixed my helmet, put my mug away, and biked another 300 feet into work.
My foreign, happy reaction
But despite this inconvenience, anger, and wetness, I’m curiously happy. Even I question that feeling, “How could I be happy after a group of pedestrians caused me to slip and fall? How could I be happy sitting in wet clothing?”
Well, I’ll tell you!
When I first bought my bike, I wondered how long it would be before I was craving a car. But that feeling never came. Aside from stealing a ride with friends here and there, I haven’t driven more than a handful of times since mid-summer. Each month, I’ve been able to save an extra $300 dollars per month by not having a car (loan, gas, insurance, repairs, maintenance, etc.). Selling the car and pocketing the savings led to a reversal in my net worth, too. I’m finally in the black! And from a future standpoint, each time I take a bike or bus, I am contributing to a different carbon economy.
Dealing with winter
The seasons are changing. And now that I no longer have a car, I feel it like never before. My clothes are soaked and my body is ice cold from the spill. Work feels a bit more uncomfortable with the growing bruise engulfing my right side.
The weather will worsen. Winter in the Midwest is a horrific tragedy of gray and cold. Biking consistently through that will not be possible. While there are some buses that run through the area, the timing of interchanges may lead to severe delays and time lost. It will be a major time to question transportation and work-life balance.
No matter what happens, I’ll be sure to update you on my choices and how they affect my budget. For my bikers out there, be safe and ride on! And, read this awesome article about bike safety from Grist.org!