I Have a Secret

I seem to get an inordinate number of questions about bike commuting from my coworkers and people that I meet on the train and bus. I suspect the fact that I ride a folder contributes to this, though it may just be that I attract questions because I’m enthusiastic and eager to chat with people about one of my favorite subjects (bikes) and it shows on my face.

People are typically curious about how far I ride, how long I’ve been bike commuting, what I do in the winter, how much my bike cost (that always shocks them a little, but I remind them how cheap it is in comparison to a car), how much money I’m saving, etc. And they’re often congratulatory, saying what a great sacrifice I’m making for the environment, what a big commitment it must be, how nice it must be to ride past the gas station, and how they “could never do that” (though they most certainly could, and I tell them so).

But here’s the big secret: bike commuting is no sacrifice at all. As a matter of fact, I often feel a pang of guilt for doing it.

But here’s the big secret: bike commuting is no sacrifice at all. As a matter of fact, I often feel a pang of guilt for doing it. It’s so much fun, and I derive so many benefits from it (health, wealth, serenity) that my subconscious mind assumes I must be cheating, that I must be doing something bordering on the unethical or illegal, because nothing in this world is free (right?). But bike commuting, so it seems, defies this capitalistic logic of getting what you pay for, and actually gives you what you deserve; not in the negative sense of retribution, but in the most positive sense of reaping the rewards of trying to do the right thing.

So I’ve started telling people about this. When they ask why I bike commute, instead of launching into the ecological and economic benefits, I first talk to them about how much fun it is, how good it makes me feel, and how little effort it takes. I tell them about the things I see along the road (birds, kids, dogs, turkeys, hawks, squirrels), the way it clears out the cobwebs in the morning and flushes out the stress in the evening, what a relief it is to be free of driving related stress and anxiety, and that you couldn’t pay me to go back to driving a car everyday.

I hope that by sharing my big secret—the fact that bike commuting is not a sacrifice at all, but instead is a richly rewarding endeavor—people will be more likely to consider it for themselves.

9 Responses to “I Have a Secret”

  • Elaine says:

    “I first talk to them about how much fun it is, how good it makes me feel, and how little effort it takes.” Exactly! With my co-workers, I always start with “I love it!” and talk about how beautiful the trail is, how nice it is to get exercise built into my schedule, and how it doesn’t take much more time than driving. I do work with a number of people who really, honestly, seriously can’t bike to work (30+ miles each way, rural shoulder-less 45MPH roads, no public transit), but with those who can, I like to think that I can encourage them with how happy it makes me. I think I may have persuaded one of the baristas at my local Starbucks, once I helped her figure out that she can ride the same trail I do, rather than the somewhat treacherous streets on either side.

  • Val says:

    A similar discussion at commutebybike.com, in which a woman mentioned that she felt she “had to make the sacrifice” and ride a bike since she considered herself an environmentalist prompted me to post this (lazy, I know):
    I’m still having a tremendously hard time imagining the state of mind that would regard riding a bike as a sacrifice. Sacrifice of what? Does this person actually wish that she was in a car? I drove 25 miles each way, five days a week, for ten years, and I considered that a sacrifice. I was sacrificing my peace of mind and my health. I was sacrificing time that could have been spent riding, spending it instead sitting behind another exhaust belcher wondering when we were going to start moving again. I was sacrificing non renewable resources and the air quality around me for speed that should have been unnecessary. I was sacrificing my principles because I had allowed my life to be arranged in such a way that I could not afford the time to ride. I hated it. Now I drive once or twice a year, and it serves to remind me what an inferior mode fo transportation it is. Biking is fun, and good for your body and mind. It gets you where you need to be at a reasonable speed, and the only real drawback is a loss of some degree of comfort in some weather. We have come to expect too much comfort out of life, and the price is too high.

  • Roger says:

    One of the ways I explain bicycle commuting to people is tell them aobut the time investment. I live pretty close to work so in a car it takes about 13 minutes and on a bike it takes about 20 minutes (each way), so for the “extra” 14 mintues I spend each day, I “get” 40 mintues of exercise. On days I want to ride more, I”ll ride to work, then after work ride to the group ride, do the ride, then ride home, while most other people drive to the ride.

  • Croupier says:

    FUN. Now that’s the ticket.

    You know what my favorite thing about riding home is, though. It isn’t so much what I see as what I smell. You totally miss that in a car. I’ve smelled some of the weirdest, and some of the most mouth watering, and intriguing things riding home on my bike. Sometimes I’ll take a ride just to see what I can smell that day. As nerdy I a may sound, I really do find it remarkable!

  • Scott says:

    Yes, yo, yes! I was thinking about this very thing today while I did a grocery run–on my beloved HPVelo Street Machine. :) All the other “rational” reasons for practical cycling are, in many ways, icing on the velo-cake. It’s just too much fun. Once, when I was unlocking my bike after getting off a regional transit bus, which I usually take to work, a fellow saw me getting ready and said, “Bummer. Now you’ve got to ride home!” I was somewhat shocked. “Hell, no,” I replied. “This little ride is often the best part of my day.” I’m not sure he believed me.

    People are so out of shape, so disconnected from their bodies and what they’re capable of that a little 2.5 mi. bike ride to and from home to the bus is some kind of ordeal. I contend with hills in both directions and think nothing of it. On one occasion when I was at the bottom of the last hill to my house ( a bit of 10% near the top), I was getting some mail from the rural “gang boxes” used in these parts, and a women getting her own mail–using a car–said, “You’re brave!” Huh? I said that it was no big deal and that I rode it almost every day. I’m no superstar. I use low gears and tootle on up.

    Lots more people are capable of what we cyclists take for granted. It’s good to lead by example, even if we are the lone pedaler crying in the wilderness.

    Cheers,

    Scott

  • Dale says:

    They just don’t know what they’re MISSING. My heart goes out to the poor mindless fools.

    I’ve been in sales, in one form or other, my entire Life. The TWO hardest sales there are is:
    1. Trying to sell a person on themselves. and
    2. Trying to sell a person on gettin’ up offa’ their lazy butt and PLAYING hard, being happy, and living Life to the FULLEST.

    If we could just find the formula to successfully SELL these two items – what a service to us ALL it would be.

    Step #1 is they MUST kill their TVs. :- ) Because the ad companies are VERY successfully at selling them on the opposites – just drumming it into them that they NEED pills and cars and unhealthy food.

  • JOFEGABER says:

    Sorry for talk in spanish

    Pero queria expresar mi total acuerdo contigo, en mi idioma, para poder expresar la fuerza de pensamientos como el tuyo. Ademas es sorprendente comprobar como la gente te sigue cuando una idea es buena. Por ejemplo yo desde mi casa al trabajo y al reves, hago unos 43 km, con tramos de cierta tecnica y habilidad. Sin embargo, no desisti y propuse a mis compañeros que a la vez son convecinos compartir coche. Y parece mentira, aceptaron. Es mas, la noticia se expandio y hemos formado otros grupos y hasta un grupo para pedalear los fines de semana…. La energia positiva es contagiosa!!!!

    Thanks.

  • Alan says:

    @JOFEGABER

    Here’s a Google translation to English:

    “But I wanted to express my total agreement with you, in my language, to express the
    force thoughts like yours. Besides, it is striking to see people like you
    continues when an idea is good. For example me from my home to work and backwards, I
    about 43 km, with stretches of certain technical and skill. However, I proposed to and not desisti my colleagues who are at once convecinos car share. And it seems lie, agreed.
    Furthermore, the news was expanded and other groups have formed a group and up to
    pedaling weekend …. The positive energy is contagious!!!!”

    Thanks for posting! -Alan

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