Wednesday, May 9, 2012

follow the herd; it's national bike month!

trip to d.c. with friends.  i'm in the middle.

I’m an avid cyclist.  Currently, however, that's true only in heart and mind, not necessarily in body. Since I spent the winter recovering from whiplash, I’ve biked very little.  Even my weekly bike trips to the grocery store fell to the wayside. 

While I fattened up like a plump holiday bird, the tires on my bike lost their bulge entirely.  When I pulled out my mountain bike for our trip to Harper’s Ferry, I actually found cobwebs on my handlebars. 

In the last month, however, the weather has turned nice.  My neck feels good.  I've been thinking, "perhaps I should get out my bike trailer and resume my rides to the grocery store." 

Think.  Think.  Think.

The door to the shed sits expectantly ajar, but that creature on wheels has not emerged.  I think it was locked in isolation for too long.  As days blended into nights, perhaps it slowly went mad?  The little scratches on the wall where it tracked the days since our last ride drop off in a line of despair.  It no longer wants to come out. 

Usually I savor my rides to the grocery store.   This 1+ mile ride makes a symbolic gesture to climate change and bike commuting that means a lot to me.  I wrote about this a while back.  Once I’m in the groove of it, I can’t imagine driving.  In fact, when the weather forces me into my car, I’m always surprised by how cumbersome it feels to maneuver that big machine in the too-small parking lot.  Now that I’m out of the groove, however, the excuses abound:  it’s too cold, it’s too hot, it’s too late, it’s too early, I just showered, I need a lot of big stuff, my tires are flat… 

Al, the guy at the grocery checkout, asks me every week, “On your bike today?” 

The guilt.

I promised myself I would break out this past Monday. 

Except I didn’t.

I think it was too late, or too wet, or maybe just too complicated.  Oh, I know: I was too lazy. 

Then I realized that it’s National Bike Month!  Sometimes I wonder why we have these random national this-or-that days – what’s the point?  But the idea of doing something with a community is motivating; it plays on our herder instincts, I suppose.  Our propensity to conform and follow doesn’t impress when one considers a mob of people carrying pitchforks and torches through the dark of night, but something like National Bike Month can play on our herd impulses and turn them to our advantage. 

So, on Monday, I checked out National Bike Month and discovered that Wednesday (today) is National Bike to School Day. “Excellent,” I thought.  If I can’t motivate myself, then why not put it on the kids?

I asked Olivia, “why don’t we ride to school anymore?” (as if she’s responsible for that lapse!). We used to ride the 6 miles to her school a few times a week to help her manage a day spent chained to a desk.   We haven't done that all year.  I explained to her that she needed to get her momentum back; she needed to dive in, recommit, motivate! Geez, what a slacker!  

We couldn’t ride today, so yesterday, the poor child dragged herself out of bed 15 minutes early, ate some toast, strapped on her helmet and hit the trail with me in the early morning dew. 

Instead of driving in traffic, we rode for nearly 5 miles through these woods:

When we started out Olivia said, “ugh.  I just want to be in my bed.”  After 30 minutes of dappled sunlight, scampering squirrels, chattering birds and the possibility of late-grazing deer, she said, “The LAST place I want to be is in my bed!”  I sent her skipping into school refreshed, invigorated, and a little worn out.  Perfect. 

Me, I rode home feeling restored, and anxious to ride some more.  Next week I'll be ready if Al asks me about my bike at checkout (please don't let it rain!).


I know you know what's coming...

Do you have a bike?  Does it have cobwebs on the handlebars too? 

Maybe National Bike Month can motivate you too. 

I'm not asking you to give up your car.  We are lessatarians, remember?  We could use our bikes to drive less—even if it’s just a little bit less.  There is a website called the 2-mile challenge.  It claims that 40% of urban travelers make trips of 2 miles or less—in their cars.  The 2-mile challenge asks us to make those trips by bike instead.  Do you have a 2-mile errand?  To school? The post office? Your neighborhood pool? 

I know I said my trip to the grocery store is more symbolic than anything.  I've always thought of it that way because I feel like my short commute makes more of a statement than it does an impact on my gasoline consumption.  The beauty of the 2-mile challenge, however, is that I can log my trips on the website and see the impact they have when combined with everyone else’s 2-mile trips. 

It’s kinda like that herd thing again.  When I posted about biking for groceries last fall, I compared the cars in the parking lot to dumb cattle, trapped in a corral.  But cows aren’t actually supposed to be dumb, are they?  What if we got a herd of them onto their bikes? 

We could make a difference, right?

It's National Bike Month, so yes, the message is: follow the herd; ride your bike!



  1. I have a really long commute, and although I've wanted to ride my bike for ages, it just wasn't a realistic possibility, unless I moves or changed jobs. But last fall, I got myself a new commuter bike, and although I wasn't able to ride much over the winter, I've been doing pretty well this spring (and yes, bike month is a motivation!). Now I have a folding bike that I keep in my trunk. It means that I can decide how far I want to ride on any given day, and it makes cycling part of a surprisingly flexible travel plan for me. If I can do it, I hope it's something more people will consider.

    1. Hey Chris, very cool. I would love to have an insta-bike stashed in my trunk! Although I'm sure it doesn't work this way, I'm thinking of all the times i've sat in traffic and said, "I could ride there faster." I could pull over, park the car and whip out my bike! :)

  2. Unfortunately, when I thought we were moving to Seattle last year, I sold both of our bikes and our kid trailer and the bike rack for the car. We used to bike all the time, and I'd like to start again--the library is only 2 miles away, which is *just* too far for the kids to walk yet (they are good one-way, its coming back that ends up miserable)...and there is an even better library about 5 miles away, that would be perfect, if I only had a bike and kid trailer again.

    Its just not in the budget at the moment. Not even a bike from the thrift store.

    1. Hey Thalassa, that's a drag. Riding to the library would combine my two favorite things: books and bikes. I can imagine the misery walking home too, a pile of books in one hand, a toddler who's trying to lie down in the middle of the road hanging from the other. No fun!

    2. Lol, that is exactly what happened when I gave it a try. Luckily for us, Daddy Man had taken off work a bit early and was in exactly the right place to pick us up halfway home! I suppose we could leave in the afternoon and try timing it for him to pick us up on the way home...but it would be my luck he's have overtime! I guess I should just work on their endurance...

  3. I DO have a bike in the garage gathering dust. I'm too nervous to ride it in traffic, though. You're so lucky to have a beautiful trail on the way to your daughter's school! There are trails around here, though. I may have to dust off the bike this month... if not for errands or commuting, then at least for enjoyment. :)

    1. yes - always for enjoyment. no matter the other reasons! :)

  4. i sold my bike. uncomfortable and heavy. and haven't gotten a new one! eduardo loves to bike! i drive chad approximately 2 inches to school. it's nuts. though some of the few minute conversations about what's up are the best.

    1. ah hah, but think of the conversations you would have if you walked! (good luck getting a teenager to do that! - just a little dreamin').

  5. i appreciate the reminder that the kid grumbles but then is happy once going.