February started off pleasant enough. The riding was great, and the groundhog assured us that Spring was just around the corner. But then winter returned in a big way, piling up snow to depths we hadn’t seen all winter, and left me questioning our faith in leaving weather predictions to rodents. And to top it off, I caught a nasty bug that kept me in bed for several days with a fever. I’ve barely been on a bike the last couple weeks, and my mountain bike has been nothing more than a high-priced laundry rack.
I recently moved to the downtown area, closer to work, putting me dead center of most of the places I need to go. During this foul weather, walking has become the preferred method of transportation for round trips less than a mile. It hasn’t been worth the hassle of the extra cold weather gear for these quick trips. The ice bike has still come in handy though when I need get somewhere further in a reasonable amount of time, and getting the utility bike out for neighborhood spins on the sunny days has helped me keep my sanity.
I recently read a 1993 statistic that says that over 40% of American’s car trips are for shopping, social or recreational purposes, and that the commute to work itself only constitutes a quarter of all trips by car. These numbers are most likely worse now, 18 years later, as we’ve continued to build the places we need to go further away from town, increasing our dependency on motor vehicles. With these numbers in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot lately of how I can decrease my reliance on my car. Simply commuting by bike no longer seems enough, so I’d like to incorporate the bicycle as much as I can into the other areas of my life. Gas is once again getting expensive, and it seems that every time I use my aging vehicle, something breaks or falls apart. I’d rather spend my money elsewhere, lose the frustration of driving, and have some fun and adventure.
One of the roadblocks to a car-free life is simply the fear of the unknown. We get comfortable in our habits, and don’t always like to face the challenge of relearning how to do things. I’ve been getting more familiar with the downtown area. Learning where useful services are. Locating bike racks. Finding bus stops and figuring out where the buses go. I learned that I can replace my once a week driving trip to the shopping center south of town with a bus trip for only $2. With the gas prices the way they are, this almost seems free. Additionally, the downtown bus stops have bike racks, and the buses also have bicycle carriers. Using multi-modal transportation can really help you extend your car-free distances.
March looks like it will warm up some, and I’m looking forward to getting out for recreational riding again. My spirits have suffered greatly from being off the mountain bike trails for so long. I’m also excited to explore new ways of doing things, using the bike more in my life, and sharing my experiences with others.
What has your February been like? Has anyone got some decent riding in?