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Commute by Bike

bike commute.jpg

I’m a desk jockey, but you’d never know it judging by the outfit I wear to work every day. It involves a funny hat and spandex pants.

But each day upon arriving at my office, I close the door behind me and out of my bag come slacks and a fancy shirt. I put those on and choose a pair of dress shoes from the closet while checking my hair in the mirror. Then I grab a bottle of coffee from my bag, open the door, give a little sigh, and sit at my computer to begin checking e-mail.

Bike commuter girl to professional editor in 4.5 minutes.

My morning metamorphosis wasn’t always this seamless. Actually, okay, I didn’t always have a metamorphosis. After I got my first job out of college, I drove to work just like nearly 100 million other workaday Americans.

But I couldn’t kick the statistics rattling around in my brain. According to the Sierra Club, Americans used 140 billion gallons of gasoline last year, and every gallon of gasoline burned produces 28 pounds of carbon dioxide, the leading global warming pollutant. Yet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than 1 percent of U.S. workers commute by bike (less than 3 percent walk and about 5 percent use public transportation).

It bothered me that I could quit contributing to global warming if I really wanted, but I hadn’t because it was inconvenient. Add the facts that work was only a few miles away, starting and ending my day on a bike would be fun, and maybe even a chance to tone up, and I really got myself feeling like a lame-o for hiding behind a steering wheel.

At about the six-month mark of the new job, I convinced myself that even though I’d need to dump some money into it at first, I’d start riding. I could use my old Schwinn mountain bike from college, and lots of the other things I needed – such as a helmet and a rain jacket – I already had. I dropped about $200 on things like a rack and panniers, which I quickly recouped in gas and oil changes.

Once I started riding, unintended benefits popped up. Life moves a little slower on two wheels, and I started showing up to work feeling a little calmer than if I had driven with a diesel pickup tailgating me the whole way.

I also found that the secret to bike commuting is forethought — mainly, thinking about how you can make the most important elements of your current routine fit with the new one.

Former Athens, Ohio, resident Elizabeth Boyle lives in Newark, Delaware, where her commute to work includes several miles of singletrack!