Friday, August 22, 2008
What's In It For Me?
After a full week of school, and five days in a row of bike commuting (not to mention the prior week in which I biked everywhere (except my guitar lesson)), I got to thinking about why I have chosen to do this. It all might just come down to something my grandmother used to say all the time: "As you are now, I once was. As I am now, you someday will be." I know this is a cliche that she probably heard a million times (and probably from her mother), but, it certainly made an impact on me. And the older and weaker she got, the more of an impression that trite turn of phrase made on me.
I haven't decided to ride my bike to save money, although the timing would indicate (and I may have even claimed) that I am doing it just for that purpose. When gas was $2.50, I drove to work. When gas was $4.00, all of a sudden , I was Mister Two-wheel Commuter. But, how much money am I really saving? Well, a ten-mile round trip every day adds up to 50 miles a week. If my Honda Civic gets 25 MPG (which it about does in the city), that is a grand total of two gallons of gasoline. Grand savings total between seven and nine dollars, depending on prices. Even if you run that out over a year, it's somewhere less than $500. Not a huge savings, but, it's something.
I haven't decided to ride my bike to save the planet. I am certain that someone has a host of statistics to show that my 50 miles of biking prevents the release of x cubic feet of carbon emissions, or what have you. Which is great. I am glad that I may be impacting the planet a little bit less than I have before. I am all about that. I recycle plastics, glass, paper, tin. I reuse my Ziploc sandwich bag, the cottage cheese tubs, the milk jugs. I make garden stakes out of old broom handles and sticks that fall from the maple out back. I compost. I don't water my lawn. I pack out my trash on hikes. I try to keep the climate control in the house at barely comfortable levels. Jimmy Carter would be proud of me. But, I am not pedaling into work every morning, beating my chest and yelling, "I am saving the planet! What are you doing?"
I haven't decided to ride my bike to be cool or unique. There are several people who bike into work everyday. Many have been doing it for a long time. It doesn't make me different. What makes me different is the 25-year old yellow and aqua Giant Iguana that I ride into work. You can see me coming a mile away, and you have to look twice to see if I have on one glove (a la the King of Pop circa "Billie Jean") or leg warmers (a la Jennifer Beals a la Flashdance). But I digress. Besides, I am already as cool as I can be and as unique as I care to be. How could I improve on that?
No, as I firmly entrench myself in the middle years of my time here on Earth(my plan for immortality notwithstanding), I figured it was time to stop thinking about riding and just do it. Enough with the excuses: "I have too much to carry in to work." "I don't know what to do about clothes." "My bike is too old." "It's going to get cold." Well, there are means to carrying things in to work on a bike, and the clothing situation does require some planning and forethought, but not too much to pretty easily pull it off. An old bike can still be a useful bike, with some tuning up. Now, the cold? Well, that's a different story. Yes, it will get cold. That one, we'll have to evaluate as Winter approaches.
But, why am I doing it? Well, one reason, which I didn't really discover until I started doing it, was that I get to see the sun come up, say hello to people, and watch a heron stalk the shores of a small pond everyday. Going a littler slower can put you in touch with your surroundings just a little bit more. But, most of all, I think I do it because, when I think of my grandmother, only in her late sixties, struggling for breath and wheeling a canister of oxygen behind her as she takes a set of steps one riser at a time (a state I don't expect and hope never to find myself in), I think that that is how I "someday will be;" I won't be able to ride. I do it because I can!