Biking in Olympia
By Joanne McCaughan
Each day as I get on my bike and head off to work, I realize how easily I made the change, and what little effort it took. This has become a habit that I don't expect to break, come fall and winter. The change was made with some trepidation, imagining the extra time involved, wondering about getting up the (small) hill, or getting to work in a disheveled condition. Instead I find myself invigorated at the beginning of the day, more ready to go once I get to the job. I haven't found the career wardrobe issues to be a problem, and anyone who knows me knows it is not a priority for me. Now I found I have expanded my boundaries and will take the bike to visit friends and family, to run errands, to the Farmer's Market, and so on. Admittedly, it took me too many years too long to get to this point, but I'm keeping my eyes on the road ahead.
So, other than the obvious reasons, why bike? I could write a long treatise about the advantages of biking as a viable alternative to the fuel-burning, polluting, and noise producing monsters we call cars. But I won't because we all know that stuff already, and if you want to know more about it there are many good internet sites, blogs, and discussion groups available ( http://capitalbicycleclub.org/links ). The fact is that the amount of driving that we do in this country is beyond irrational, and I suspect the vast majority of our fellow citizens would object to placing limits on those miles. It is in fact considered standard to put 10,000 miles a year on a car for purposes of commuting, shopping, vacationing, and routine business in and out of town. It has become an expectation and a norm that next generations view as a rite of passage to adulthood, getting their drivers license and their first car. How sad.
However, many folks are choosing alternative modes when available, and some communities, like Olympia, are blessed with reasonably good transportation services. At least, they are considered good enough to get some national recognition awards in the field of public transit. But with funding cuts and sometimes very low ridership, it is likely we will continue to lose some routes. So, ride the bus, combine it with your biking destination where possible or helpful, and be creative. Depending on the length of a trip and the accessibility of the route, walking and/or running are also good options to add to make trips more interesting. My point is really a simple one: we can avoid most, if not all, local travel by car if we give it an honest try.
Personally, my renewed interest in biking was sparked this spring by the advent of the annual Bicycle Commuter Contest in early May. If you were here you know it was a cold, wet spring with chilly mornings and windy afternoons most days. I kept biking to work despite the conditions; in fact I found the experience of riding in the rain exhilarating. On the bike the seasonal changes of the arrival of spring were clearer to me, I could see and feel them without the insulation of a motorized vehicle. I learned to look forward to each ride through the neighborhood, to experience what was going on around me, not just in my own back yard. It wasn't just the sights I was hungry for, but also the sounds and the smells and the overall sense of being an integral part of the environment. And now I'm hungry for it every day. Since mine is a short commute and I was not out to win any prizes, or claim any achievement other than the self-satisfaction of having done it, I was surprised at the end of the month that I kept right on riding to work most days without even thinking about it.
Recently I attended a half-day bike safety and maintenance workshop to get more familiar with the workings of my bike and the rules of the road, sponsored by the Capital Bicycling Club of Olympia. The class was affordable, a small group taught by two very knowledgeable women, materials and tools were user-friendly, and it was a non-intimidating atmosphere. We learned about rules of the road and traffic safety, emergency and basic bike maintenance, and took a ride in downtown Oly. My confidence grew and now I venture further on weekend and evening rides with friends. As the weather changed and summer arrived I found more reasons to ride, including the best one of all, it's great fun! Another bonus was discovered at a recent medical visit, with the good news directly attributable to my recent commitment to biking.
So, hey, if you've got a bike that's been just sitting gathering dust, don't wait any longer! Get it out, dust if off and take a spin! I'll see you out there!
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