Nothing Special

“Roughing it” in the ‘burbs

I was chatting with a colleague the other day when the subject of commuting came up. When he learned that we’re a family of 5 with one car, we live in the suburbs, and that we use our bicycles as our primary mode of transportation, he seemed impressed, even awestruck. He thought car-light/car-free lifestyles are only for the young, hardy, and hip who live within urban areas. The idea that a garden variety suburban family in a garden variety suburb could live a car-light lifestyle seemed simultaneously puzzling and incredible to him.

It’s not heroic and it’s not rocket science. The fact that we can do it proves that riding a bicycle for transportation is a simple thing that almost anyone can do.

Here’s the news: we’re nothing special. We truly are just a typical middle-class family living a typical middle-class life. We’re not athletes; we’re not adventurers; we’re not risk takers; we’re not anything other than an average family who, whenever possible, just happen to rides bikes, walk, and use transit instead of driving a car. It’s not heroic and it’s not rocket science. The fact that we can do it proves that riding a bicycle for transportation is a simple thing that almost anyone can do.

We frequently talk to non-riders who imagine using bicycles for transportation is difficult. Consequently, we feel a strong need to show people otherwise (that’s one of the primary motivators for running this blog). With that in mind, we’d love to hear about how you incorporate bicycles into your unexceptional lifestyle. If you’re just a boring, run-of-the-mill bike commuter/transpo rider like us, we’d love to hear about it in the comment area below. Let’s let potential utility bicyclists know that it’s not difficult to leave their cars at home. Thanks in advance for sharing!

55 Responses to “Nothing Special”

  • Dan says:

    Thanks for sharing, Alan. Personally, I find it kind of incredible that it is so hard to imagine the days where not every adult owned and operated their own car. In the scope of human history, the period of auto-individualism has been little more than a blip, yet the concept of getting places under one’s own power already seems foreign. Lets hope folks like you and your family help turn that idea around.

  • Alan says:

    Thanks, Dan. I agree that, at least here in the U.S., the idea of getting places under one’s own power seems foreign. The general assumption seems to be that bicycles are primarily sporting goods, and only those who don’t really have a choice would use something other than an automobile to get around. The cool thing is that every transpo rider out and about doing their thing is a powerful example of the possibilities.


  • Eduardo Santa says:

    I’ am a commuter since the end of November last year. Almost every workday taking my children to the school and from Carnaxide to my work in Lisboa – Campolide (10km).

  • tim says:

    I’m 54 years old. About 6 years ago I decided to start commuting more by bicycle. Gradually I have lengthened my commuting season, i.e., being prepared to ride in rain and colder weather. About 3 years ago I decided to begin doing every errand possible by bike. This is my willful decision to bike more. I get better at it, enjoy it more and I think am happier because of the lifestyle choices I have made. I too have seen amazement in people who witness my efforts. Many of them have paused to think; if not act. It’s a process. I look forward to where I’ll be in the next decade because of my choices. I hope that I can have a meaningful and positive impact on my community. Thank you.

  • carfreepvd says:

    I found that once I got rid of my car, cycling became much more unexceptional. It became an everyday occurrence because I had to do it every day. Although I was riding almost every day before getting rid of the car, commuting by bike still seemed somewhat exceptional. Now I use the bike(s) to do everything, and paradoxically, it seems much more normal. However, when I write in my blog, I tend to emphasize the more exceptional aspects of transportation cycling. There are some challenging aspects to getting around without a car (especially in the Northeast this winter), and maybe I emphasize those in order to convince myself that I’m more hardcore. Or maybe I just like to kvetch and pretend that I’m funny.

  • Aaron says:

    We just started really getting into bikes again in the last year or so and we love it. We are a young family living in an old 70s suburb of a small nearby Midwest city. I work downtown only 3 miles away.

    Your blog is one of a few that has caused me to question our dependence on two vehicles. My wife is a full-time mom, and with my work so close, it seemed kind of excessive. So we ran a little test and parked my truck for a month. Didn’t need it even once. The truck is now for sale.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • RDW says:

    As much as I love riding my bike I have to admit that I am mostly a fair-weather rider and almost never ride in the winter. Lack of bike paths in my area and narrow or non-existent shoulders on icy snow covered roads full cars have always seemed like a recipe for disaster to me. There is a rider I’ve been seeing during my drive home quite a bit lately who obviously feels differently. Yesterday I spotted him stopped in a parking lot and pulled in to tell him how impressed I was that he was out on a bike in those conditions (it had been snowing all day and was about 23 degrees). We talked for a few minutes and he answered a couple of questions I had about winter biking. The whole thing seemed very normal to him, “nothing special”. I guess the point to this long rambling comment is that lot’s of things seem extraordinary until you start doing them. On the other hand that guy looked awfully cold and I was happy to be getting back into my warm car. But it did give me something to think about.

  • Jesse says:

    I’ve been without a car since moving abroad (then back) 18 months ago. Overseas not owning a car was commonplace, there’s an amazing transit system where I was and cars are heavily taxed on import. Once I got back to Seattle I’ve had access to a family vehicle when I truly need it, but since I commute by bus/bike and tend to go for long walks or rides on the weekends…it’s usually only for family errands that the car gets used.

    As for being standard, boring even…yep, that’s me. I work as helpdesk for a small financial management firm downtown, and live about 4 miles away in a residential area with a small store, cafe, library and bus stops nearby. I think our walkscore is in the mid-80s.

  • Randy says:

    I agree. I’m constantly amazed by how easy, convenient, and enjoyable it is to get around by bike, even for someone like me, who lives in the country, 5 miles from the nearest town. It’s so easy to go by bike, and yet so few do it, or even consider that it might be a possibility.

  • Don says:

    Sometimes this is a matter of style. Part of making utility cycling unremarkable is wearing street clothes, using racks and baskets effortlessly in full view of other shoppers, riding at a relaxed pace, and otherwise counteracting the extreme sports/triathlete stereotypes people can retain. I’ve said this before: Our culture tends to push logical progressions to extremes very quickly. In a world of hype, it can be hard to convey its opposite (un-hype?). It helps to be middle-aged in that regard.

    I really enjoy it when I have an errand after work that requires a different way home or a midday appointment that provides another opportunity to return the bike to normalcy. I also enjoy stopping to get dinner on the way home. I’m tempted to make a thermal bag like the pizza delivery people use for my front basket. (That sounds like a good start-up business.)

    One mundane aspect of my day is that I escort my son to school every morning. We walk in all kinds of weather, me pushing my bike. When we say goodbye, he walks off, I turn on my flashers and head off, and all the kids know that my son’s dad rides his bike to work. I like to think that this kind of modeling plants the seed.

  • CedarWood says:

    Need groceries? Get the touring bike ‘n panniers. Big shopping? Bring the trailer too.
    Out of birdseed, potting soil or cat litter? Hop on the cargo bike.
    Visiting a friend? Enjoy the lighter, faster ride.
    How about a potluck? Stuff panniers and basket full of food and go.
    Mailing packages? Load up the cargo bike.

    Like you say, it’s just normal, boring, regular life.

    I don’t have super-fancy bikes — two old ten speeds like anybody might have in their garage, set up with better components for touring and go-faster. And an inexpensive cargo bike.

    And our 4×4 truck? It’s reserved for hauling gravel, compost, or other super-heavy stuff. Sometimes it sits for several weeks until we need it.

  • Lexica says:

    My husband and I have been carfree for almost four years now and bike-primary for a year and a half. My commute is two miles each way and takes me 10 minutes — less time than the bus takes, and that’s not even counting the time I’d have to spend waiting at the bus stop! My husband works as a catering bartender and goes all over San Francisco and the East Bay regularly. Because buses run infrequently late at night (and early in the wee hours), being on the bike can mean getting home an hour earlier than he would otherwise.

    We do all our grocery shopping and errands on the bikes as well as riding just for fun. Being on the bikes has helped us get to know the city a lot better than we did before and lets us be a lot more aware of what’s going on around us. (Riding home the other night I spotted something in the middle of the lane and swung back to pick it up. Turned out to be an iPhone. The owner was *very* happy to get it back. No chance I’d have seen it if we’d been in a motor vehicle.)

    I love my bike and I love being out on my bike. I love dinging my bell at my neighbors and getting a wave back. I love being able to stop to pet the friendly cat at the house on the corner. I love that I can get out of work feeling kind of cruddy from being under the fluorescent lights and air conditioning all day and after ten minutes on the bike I feel better.

    My co-workers look at me in the elevator and are all impressed that I ride in, especially if it’s raining. There’s not enough time before we get to my floor for me to correct their misconceptions — no, you don’t understand, riding in the rain is FUN! Look at you, you’re all stressed out from your drive in. Look at me, in danger of getting bugs on my front teeth from grinning while I ride!

  • Alistair says:

    For me the, it’s the mile and a half to our local hardware store.

    If I need some dodad to finish a job or fix leak – a washer, a bolt, two more 1 inch wood – screws, I just jump on my bike and I’m off there and back. It means household chores actually get finished. Somehow the idea of driving to a store to get a single 16 washer is too weird, so things got put off.

    Unexpected Bonus:
    If my 6 years old grandaughter is with me, she comes along on the tag-along bike. She is growing up to belive fixing stuff is some kind of cool adventure sport.

    First head into the basement (bring a flash light) to switch off the water, then seach for misplaced tools, take things apart, then quick to the bikes, then chat with the hardware guy and show him your new sparkly shoes, play your 16 cents, and back home to save the day.

  • Randy H. says:

    It’s interesting to me to talk to people about bicycle commuting, something i find so simple, become this crazy, risk-taking idea that wouldn’t even be possible in their life. They often point out how dangerous it is to bike in the city and often reference the one or two bicycle accidents they’ve heard about on the news. They somehow see all these car fatalities you hear about on the news almost daily as just part of life. I’d rather take that ‘crazy risk’ of riding on the quiet neighborhood streets (the majority of my commute) and have a smile on my face the whole time.

  • Alan says:


    “If my 6 years old grandaughter is with me, she comes along on the tag-along bike. She is growing up to belive fixing stuff is some kind of cool adventure sport.

    First head into the basement (bring a flash light) to switch off the water, then seach for misplaced tools, take things apart, then quick to the bikes, then chat with the hardware guy and show him your new sparkly shoes, play your 16 cents, and back home to save the day.”

    That is sooo cool. :-)


  • Garth says:

    I’m full time commuting through this winter in Illinois for the first time. I grew up in Florida, so I’m nobody’s poster child for tolerating the cold. I had pretty well convinced myself that it was going to be no big deal, at least enough to commit by giving up my garage parking space. I have been amazed by how easy and uneventful it actually is. Obviously it requires proper clothing, and I’ve had a few unexpected issues arise, like figuring out how to cover my face adequately without having my glasses continually fog up, but the big things I was secretly concerned with don’t seem to matter at all once you start. The cold is no problem whatsoever. You may need a heater sitting stiffly in a car, but not when you get your legs and heart pumping out on the bike. Snow and traction are not really problems, either. They plow for the cars anyway, and the bike’s tall wheels actually do better than the car in the early snowfall. Of course, the slushy, compacted ice that the cars create on unplowed or partially plowed roads can get pretty slick, especially when there’s melt and refreezing, but snow tires or chains can fix that problem. As for traffic, there are often fewer cars on the road, and motorists are going slower and give you a wider berth on the road.

    I too get the incredulous and pitying looks in the elevators. I suppose I’ve developed a reputation for being hardcore and tough, which is completely undeserved. I try to tell people it’s more pleasant to bike, but they don’t believe me. Thing is, not only is it easy, it actually is better. With daylight savings time, it’s dark at the end of the day, when people finally get off work. But I start my day with a nice bike ride in the open air and sunshine (assuming there is any!) in that extra daylight in the morning. I find myself not minding the cold weather or winter as much as I used to (ok, I used to complain bitterly – just ask my wife, who oddly likes the cold, but then she grew up in the barren north). I am healthier (my family just caught a nasty cold virus that I escaped), and I am generally in a much better mood. The psychologists do say that people who adopt an outdoor activity tolerate cold winters much better. What better and more consistent outdoor activity is there than bike commuting?

    So please, if your concerns about cold weather are keeping you off your bike, please at least try it for a few days. See if you don’t find that it’s as easy as I now think it is. And honestly, if I can do it, anybody can. If you’d told me a few years ago that this thin skinned guy from Florida would be biking to work in snow and negative 5 degree weather last week (that’s actual temperature – don’t ask me what the wind chill was), I’d have thought you were crazy. Now, well, go ahead and have me committed!


  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    Hey, who you calling boring : )

    But I agree, my cycling is nothing special. I am decidedly un-athletic, risk-averse, sensitive to the heat and cold, of fragile health – anything you can think of really that may seem like cycling ought to be difficult for me. Yet here I am, with my 2nd year of cycling for transportation coming to an end. If it were difficult, I simply wouldn’t be doing it.

  • RDW says:

    @ Garth
    Thanks for that feedback. For me it’s not the cold, I grew up in Michigan and know how to dress for it. The problem for me is that around here there aren’t significantly fewer cars on the road when it’s icy (which is most of the winter) and most of the drivers seem a bit challenged under those conditions. I may very well gear up for it next fall and give it a try next winter, but being an obstacle in front of a 3 thousand pound vehicle traveling 50 miles an hour on glare ice just doesn’t sound good to me.

    I know exactly what you mean about cold weather activities and staying healthy. I did a car-free year back in the 90s, biking and walking for transportation (work was close enough to walk then) and it was the healthiest winter of my life.

    For now I will wait for daytime temps to get back up in the 30s before I get back on 2 wheels. But I am curious about your gear if you don’t mind a few questions; Do you ride studded tires and does your bike have disc brakes? Those are 2 things winter bikers frequently list as necessary and the fellow I was talking to yesterday was riding on skinny road tires and using rim brakes. He didn’t seem to think anything more was needed.

  • Fergie348 says:

    I read somewhere that there are more cars registered in the U.S. then people who live here. Somehow that seems wrong..

    My wife and I moved out to the SF bay area suburbs about 10 years ago and have been living ‘car lite’ before I’d ever heard the term. Our unexeptional life in the ‘burbs includes one car and 6 bicycles for four people (three of them old enough to turn pedals) and it takes place in a spot that is known for bicycling (Fairfax, CA – birthplace of mountain biking or so Gary Fisher says..) There are a fair number of commuter and transportation cyclists here and drivers are aware and reasonably courteous.

    What strikes me most powerfully now is the sheer volume of recreational cyclists who ride around on weekends here. There are literally thousands of recreational road and mountain bikers that pass by my street on the weekends, headed for the hills of west Marin. If 10% of them rode their bikes to the store or to work (or to the bar or restaurant) a couple times a week it would make a huge difference in the number of car miles driven in our area. I don’t know why more people who clearly already love biking don’t do it more when they’re not on a pleasure ride. Maybe it’s a progression we’ll get to someday, but right now I’m just not seeing it.

    What always makes me chuckle is the sight of people driving their cars to the local gym in their riding gear and taking a spinning class, then driving home again. The spin studio at our local gym is actually on an outside patio facing the street. As I ride by on my way home from work, I occasionally call out to them ‘Come ride outside!’. No one has ever responded to my request..

    My commute is frequently multi-modal. I ride 8 miles to the Larkspur ferry terminal and take the boat to downtown San Francisco. It’s a nice ride, mostly flat with lots of opportunity to take residential streets and bike paths. Occasionally when I’m loading my bike on the ferry, someone will ask me about what it’s like to cycle commute. Over the 6 years or so that I’ve been commuting this way, I’ve managed to convince about a dozen people to try bike commuting and I now see about half of them commuting regularly by bike, on the ferry and on the streets of Marin. It’s the thing I’m most proud of in my cycling life so far..

  • Fergie348 says:

    Time for a well-known Gandhi quote:

    ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.

    True that..

  • Alan says:


    It sounds as if you’ve made the full transition from warm to cold blooded. ;-) Great story – thanks for sharing.


  • Alan says:

    @Lovely Bicycle!

    “Yet here I am, with my 2nd year of cycling for transportation coming to an end.”



  • Alan says:


    “If 10% of them rode their bikes to the store or to work (or to the bar or restaurant) a couple times a week it would make a huge difference in the number of car miles driven in our area.”

    Exactly! All it takes are a few changes undertaken by a lot of people to really make a difference.

    “Over the 6 years or so that I’ve been commuting this way, I’ve managed to convince about a dozen people to try bike commuting and I now see about half of them commuting regularly by bike, on the ferry and on the streets of Marin. It’s the thing I’m most proud of in my cycling life so far..”

    Awesome. Keep it up!


  • David Mathews says:

    One aspect of bicycle commuting that I’ve noticed over the years is the impact on my own mood and perceptions of the world. I teach high school for a living and my students can tell when I’ve ridden to work because I’m so much happier and – according to them – I teach better. So I truly believe the benefits of cycling to work affect the people who interact with cyclists almost as much as they affect the cyclists themselves.

  • don in portland says:

    I’m 60 years old. I live with my wife and (2) teenage sons in a small town outside of Portland. We have one car, my wife uses it in her job as a home health provider.I commute by bike year around, it’s not that difficult in Oregon since the weather is moderate. I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years. During the winter I ride part way on the free local bus if there’s ice, snow (rare occurence) or I don’t feel like riding the whole distance for one reason or another. Errands around town are a chance to get some fresh air and exercise instead of being a task that needs to done.

    My sons have grown up around bikes, either riding in a trailer, riding a trail-a-bike or riding their own bike. One of my sons rides to high school and uses the trailer to haul his trombone to band practice , something that he thought of after seeing me ride to work every day. They both like to ride to church on Sunday mornings in the Spring and Summer.

    Most of my non-riding aquaintances introduce me as someone who rides his bike to work as if it’s something extrarordinary and dangerous. I try to explain that it’s something I enjoy and that one doesn’t have to ride on the same dangerous roads as one would driving a car. It’s hard to explain to them the freedom I feel with the sun and the wind in my face, how every day I get to do something I enjoy, to be a child again.

    It is nothing special, but to me it is very special in a lot small ways every day!

  • Alan says:

    @Don in Portland

    You summed it up perfectly, Don. Thank you…


  • Graham says:

    I am one of the clydliest of clydesdales who rides nearly every day to teach at a high school. The students hold me in awe when they find out the trip home is 10 miles and includes a high rise bridge.

    “You really ride over the bridge? Is that even possible?”

    No one really seems to know what the gears are for!

    I agree that once you start doing it, it seems perfectly normal. I did have to get stronger wheels than came stock on my Jamis Coda Sport, but when compared to anything I’ve ever had to replace on my automobile it was simplicity (and cheapness!) itself.

  • Garth says:

    Alan, don’t say it! I still dream of warmer days, and spring and summer, if only for the gardening. I make do with seed starting and a few winter crops during these months, but I am much happier in the hot and productive days of summer, when I have lots of dirt and green things to play in, oppressive heat to soak up, and massive quantities of organic produce from the vegetable garden. I envy you the comparatively sun drenched landscapes you’ve been publishing on this site.

    RDW, I must confess that I am just riding a 10 year old Schwinn mountain bike with v-brakes right now, with some additions for commuting. I may be treating myself to a new bike this year, but I wanted to see first how I did with the commitment to year round commuting. I also figured the big knobby mountain bike tires would give me a good base for winter riding, and if the thing fell apart in the spring, well, it didn’t cost me much! So far the tires have worked well, though I have to beware the occasional refrozen residential road that is literally a sheet of ice. I could use studded tires for those patches, but they’re mostly avoidable, and even so, probably over 95% of the roads I’ve seen so far this winter have been fine with my current set up.

    My brakes’ effectiveness has definitely been impacted in these conditions. I am getting ready to give the rims a good cleaning, which should help. They still stop the bike fine, but I am careful on downhills when approaching stop signs and such. They just don’t have the same power or feel with all the gunk on the roads, and thus on the rims. I try to keep my speed on hills below 17 or 18 mph, and slow down more gradually into the stops – a good policy with potentially icy surfaces anyway. Since I am going slower, I have added a couple of minutes to my average commute time, but that’s only partially due to the brakes.

    Overall, the bike has done better than I feared it would. I would still like to upgrade, and some disc brakes and a belt drive are on my list to consider, but I agree that you can ride in winter without them just fine. I would be riding cautiously and a little more slowly in the snow and ice regardless of the bike, because, as others have said, I’m not an athlete or extreme sports enthusiast. I may ride at a decent clip at times, but I’m just trying to get home to my family, not trying to win any races. I share your concern about a car losing control on the ice occasionally, but in practice have not had any incidents yet. Knock on wood. I stay vigilant, and minimize my exposure as much as I can, and as I said, the cars seem to be going slower and generally giving me more room anyway. There is zero segregated bike infrastructure here, but I stick to low traffic roads. Honestly, I’ve had fewer problems in the winters, even though I tend to take some slightly more traveled roads at times to avoid snow/ice pack. I feel like the motorists are more aggressive, more incautious, and more prone to intentional acts during the warmer months.

    As for the cold, I’ve got family in the UP, and if you’re from Michigan, I believe you when you say it’s not an issue! Though with global warming, and the recent uptrend in coastal winter storms, those of us in the middle of a continental climate may well have the last laugh on that score.


  • arevee says:

    Alan – I don’t think you can consider yourself ‘average’ in the realm of commuter cycling. You ‘cycling quotient’ is well above the norm.

    I am a somewhat average person in an average suburb and well into middle age. I try to make as many work trips as possible by bicycle, but in the Pacific Northwest winter, it’s not always easy. These days, I am happy to get 2 days (26 miles, round trip) in by bike. It is progress, not perfection here.

    Years ago, I was a very strong cyclist and have been hoping to get some of it back, but it’s been slow in coming. Lesson for younger folks – don’t take 10 years off.

  • Nick says:

    I’m a 56 year old government engineer and a married father of 3 grown children. You can’t get much more boring or ordinary than that. I ride to work every day except for maybe 10 days a year. I’ve been doing this for 4 + years now. I’m overweight and out of shape and riding 14 miles round trip is not a darn bit harder than driving was. Plus its a lot more enjoyable. The people in my office STILL ask me “did you ride today?” if its rainy or cold and STILL warn me to “ride safe” on the way home. I feel a lot safer on the side streets than they do on the freeway, I’m sure. When they ask why i ride I tell them that on a lot of days its the most fun I have.

  • Beebe says:

    After receiving a suspended license for a DUI (a stupid childish mistake), I had loathed to think about having to get around town without my car. Once I actually got out on a bike, I realized that I had forgotten something that I knew before I got my license at sixteen: I love riding.

    It was not the chore that I had thought it would be, and the DUI that most people say costs tons of money, actually payed itself off during the period that I wasn’t paying for gas, insurance, repairs, and registration.

    Since then, my insurance has lapsed, and my father uses my car out on his farm. I am happier, have more money in my pocket, and I feel better. I think that the biggest thing that I’ve gained from cycling is how much better I feel physically. It trickles down into everything I do and makes every aspect of my life a little bit better.

  • RDW says:

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Roberta says:

    I remember reading about cycling year round and thinking… yikes! But yes, its cliched but just do it and… yeah, you’ll see. In this family we actually prefer to bike somewhere and in slightly warmer weather don’t think twice about cycling in. Because you can combine road and trail, its nearly as fast as travelling in your own vehicle and is hands down faster than bus. Considering our van is really old, its also more reliable!

    Reading these posts caused me to remember a moment recently. We were cycling to school, and the snow was falling, our tires slipping to the side and we were just coming up to the insanely busy road we have to cross each morning. I remember looking and thinking, “Wow how nuts to be in that line up. They’re really going to be pissed when the kids and I push the button to change the lights so we can cross the road!” When my 11 year old son pipes up, “Mom, today I feel like I’m cycling on the moon. Its so soft and white! Cycling on days like today make me feel so calm and wonderful inside. Its the perfect way to start school.”

    Other than the cycling thing ;) we’re just your normal everyday family… lol!

  • Alan says:


    “Your blog is one of a few that has caused me to question our dependence on two vehicles. My wife is a full-time mom, and with my work so close, it seemed kind of excessive. So we ran a little test and parked my truck for a month. Didn’t need it even once. The truck is now for sale.

    Thanks for the inspiration.”

    That means to world to us, Aaron. This is exactly why we do what we do. Thank YOU!

    Best regards,
    Alan & Michael

  • Alan says:


    That’s a great story of making lemonade from lemons. Congrats!


  • Alan says:


    “Mom, today I feel like I’m cycling on the moon. Its so soft and white! Cycling on days like today make me feel so calm and wonderful inside. Its the perfect way to start school.”


    Thanks for sharing…

  • David Bolles says:

    I have a long commute,(by bike) It is a challenge. To do it ever day, each month, year round would actually be…crazy. In extreme heat you face certain health risks…
    I know in a good season 4 days in reasonable. I did it consistently in the summer. 150 miles. Just in commuting.
    It had such a drastic effect on me. I can’t stand that I can’t ride to work now. Roads are snow covered. The path I rely on is untouched. I have the clothes but, my bike is not prepared for this weather. No studded tires, etc.(can’t afford it now)
    Major bummer!
    I love the ride because it shows the majority that their is another way. Because it is exercise. Because it is a remedy.
    This winter off has been good because I’ve been able to read, research, and learn. I’m looking forward to being a better rider in traffic. To be a part of traffic.
    Love this site, love the comments. Thanks for the continued inspiration.

  • Jeff says:

    I speak with neighbors, friends and coworkers quite frequently on this topic. Yes, some are amazed that our suburban family of four can actually function on a 1 car/bicycles lifestyle. A few years back I probably would have asked similar questions. Now that we have incorporated bicycles into our lifestyles, made adjustments (or sacrifices here and there), we wouldn’t have it any other way. For years we spent thousands of $$$’s on car payments, insurance, gas, maintenance, registration, etc. not to mention the stress of the freeways and traffic. Just last week I rolled down my driveway, boarded the light rail and connected to the Sacramento Amtrak. From there my bike and I made our way to Santa Barbara for a few sun filled days along the coast. The experience would not have been the same for me driving behind the wheel. In short, anyone can make it in life on a bike. I’m living proof.

  • Karl Schurr says:

    Great reading these stories. We live in Sydney and have been car free for the last 3 years. I commute to work and my partner either rides or walks to work. Consequently we are fitter, have read more books (while on public transport) and enjoying the choices this gives us. Riding in cars these days is not only a rare experience it is much more terrifying (as a passenger) than riding the bike. We have costed owning our previous car (a cheap, small Japanese car) and it was around $8,000 dollars a year. That’s a lot of taxi rides if you really need to travel in a car!

    This morning we had a great ride along the Parramatta River to get to our yoga class and then returned home with panniers full of Asian goodies from shops on the way home. What a great way to start the day.

    For the money we save each year we could each buy a fantastic new bike and still have change – not to mention the other benefits and just plain enjoying the journey. Thanks for the website.

  • Bob Baxter says:

    A little preaching to the choir—in addition to all it’s other virtues cycling is also therapeutic, of course you all knew that. It was brought home to me this winter after a siege of bronchitis kept me house bound for a couple weeks. After the coughing stopped I got back on the bike for my morning ride, still feeling kinda punk. At the end of the 15 miles I was feeling much better and after two or three more rides I was back to normal. I’m anything but athletic and what’s worse is I’ve ridden this planet around the sun 83 times.

  • Alan says:

    @Bob Baxter

    “I’m anything but athletic and what’s worse is I’ve ridden this planet around the sun 83 times.”

    That’s awesome, Bob. Keep riding!


  • Ryan says:

    Amazing how a simple conversation can change things. About 10 years ago I started to \sport cycle\ charity rides, driving to meet friends and go for rides etc. One day a few years ago, I am talking to my neighbor who is an avid cyclist and told him about this ride I was going to drive to and he said \Your going to drive someplace to ride your bike…?\ And that started me thinking…and soon my lust for a carbon fiber Specialized Tarmac Pro turned into Lust for Lugged steel bikes, I stopped driving to ride and discovered all sorts of great local routes, started to commute to work, found this great blog called EcoVelo…realized that a quick shopping trip to the \main street\ area about a mile from my house was quicker, and more fun, by bike because I didn’t have to mess with parking! This year I am going to try the Clif bar 2 mile challenge ( for all my local errands.

    Great stories -thanks for priming the pump Alan

  • lukeofny says:

    I started commuting about 7 months now, and I think anybody can do it.
    I also like to add as a side note at that point I weighed 375 pounds , it’s kind of embarrassing to share but I really do feel like if I can do it, so could somebody else.
    I love riding my bikes around I didn’t start riding again to lose weight (but it is slowly coming off) I started because I wanted to be more active and found myself settling in a slump.

  • Karl says:

    I guess I realized there was something unusual about our regular life when neighbors asked us in an astonished tone of voice if it was true that we only had one car. I’ve ridden every day for the past 20 years and never regretted it. My colleagues ask me what do I do when it rains or is snowing…well, you get wet or maybe are a bit chilly. It’s really not a big deal. Somewhere along the way we thought we needed a second car…and we succumbed. Huge mistake. My biggest crises came a few years ago when I realized that my son was too big for me to take to school on the tag-a-long trailer. I was expending more energy keeping the rig balanced than in pedaling. The solution was so simple – we sold the second car and I bought a tandem. I have never been happier riding black beauty to work everyday. I drop my son off at his school and then ride another couple of miles by myself. Sometimes people ask me if it is hard to ride the tandem solo. My response is that it is different…in the same way that driving a pickup truck is different from a car. A bit bigger, wider turns…but really its not that hard. A bad day riding is still better than a good day driving!

  • Jed Reynolds says:

    I grew up in a family that had four (old but well maintained) cars, and frequently had two or more trucks from work parked in the yard also. Everything we did was far away from where we lived.

    As a father of three and working 6 miles away from where I live, I’m very happy to have sold one of my two cars and have driven to work only twice in the last two years (because I had to move furniture). I have to admit that I can work from home, so I can escape high-wind weather.

    I am keeping my children and their friends enrolled in doing winter outdoor activities even in the winter. Today we took a bike picnic to a beach park over four miles away. On the way there it was 42F and raining, and on the way back it was 35F and 15mph winds at times. This was with five kids and two adults, one was riding behind me on my bike.

    Growing up in the heat of the desert, I had to get used to the weather, now moved so far north, I don’t let the weather stop me. But biking around in less than ideal weather will give valuable perspective to my children about independence and a well earned appreciation for warm weather. Imagine where we’ll go when we don’t have to battle the elements :-)

  • pandik says:

    Nothing is undoable or impossible, but if you think that at least in the U.S., the idea of getting places under one’s own power seems foreign, then think again for other places in the world where everything is organized around and about automotive.

    Anyway, I started commuting to my work with my modified bike. It’s only 6.4mi. both ways but quite dangerous because of the monster traffic and the careless drivers. It’s really a huge issue of safety and I hope I will get through in one piece.. but I carry on.

    I remember very clearly my days in the states some 20 years ago when I rented a bike for a week, staying in a hotel, and the receptionist told me that I could take the bike with me up to the room using the lift… Today in my city I get the strange look of people when I use the lift to get my bike up to my office.

  • dominic says:

    Great to see post and wonderful comments from this variety of riders. We are a very small part of American life. Our presence in the spaces we ride adds to that American life more than we could possibly know. We step up to the plate when we step onto our pedals. JFK said “It’s not what America can do for us but what we can do for America” that message framed as the simple act of riding a bike is powerful stuff. I can feel it. Do you? Bicycling is “how we roll”

  • Josep says:

    I love bikes. I use them everyday … for fun, for commute, for working …

    Last saturday I took a cargobike to transport some boxes to help some friends in a moving. I pass next by a van driver full of boxes doing a delivery job … I told him … “be careful that I we’ll take your job :-)” … he stared me astonished … he could have never imagined that a bike could do that job … :-) …

  • Don says:

    @lukeofny: That’s awesome, man. Feed your soul and the rest will fall into place.

  • Micheal Blue says:

    I started commuting to work by bike last June, when I bought a Dahon folder. I like it so much, I’m not very happy when I have to drive the car. My commute is 19.5 km each way. It was tough in the beginning, as my legs were not used to so much biking, especially against the almost-ever-present winds in Toronto. That was the main reason for buying a folder – in a case of a strong headwind (or other extreme weather) I could leave the bike in my office and take the public transit back home. A couple of times it paid off. The last time was a week ago: the morning ride was beautiful, but in the afternoon the temp got to -8 degrees C with 52 km/h westerly wind. That would have been a straight headwind. I have logged about 4000 km on the Dahon. I bike in rain, fog, light snowfall, down to -10 degrees C, and as long as the wind is not too strong.
    I also bike to the grocery store, and to my chiropractor’s (also 20 km away).

  • Jamin says:

    About three months ago I moved from San Diego to Los Angeles for work. Before the move, I committed myself to not driving–San Diego rush hour is bad, and it’s nothing compared to LA. As part of this commitment, I chose an apartment as near to the train station as I could get.

    Turns out, “as near as I could get” was still about two miles away.

    At first I took the bus to the train, but the walk to the bus stop was ten minutes. Then, with stops, traffic, and traffic lights, the bus ride was another ten minutes. Twenty minutes to go two miles just seemed silly, so I decided to try riding my bike. And I haven’t been on the bus since.

    Now I commute a modest 4 miles a day, and when I’m not riding, I often find myself thinking about riding. I’m already starting to fantasize about living in a more bicycle friendly city like Boulder or Davis or Portland. My wife thinks I’m crazy.

  • Jon Grant says:

    We are a family of four living in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. I suspect my neighborhood averages at least one car per driver, so we’re the odd ones. My wife rides her bike to work occasionally, but drives our only car most days — 28 miles RT. I use a borrowed Bakfiets for grocery shopping and other errands. The biggest challenge has been riding with twins; the configuration continues to change. When they were little, they’d ride happily in a trailer together. As they grew, one rode in the box up front and the other stayed in the trailer by choice. Now they’re almost five years old and over 50 pounds each, and I don’t have much room for them and the groceries. They also ride their own bikes, but that limits our range. My kids do think it odd when we don’t ride bikes to their pre-school, though their bikes are always alone in the rack. Most of our neighbors never saw a cargo box bike before this one. The question I field most often is: “Did you make that thing yourself?” I wait in joyous hope for the day when riding a bike to get somewhere is not remarkable.

    Previous posters have already covered any general points I might make about ecology, health, money, the societal fabric, and setting an example, but I will reiterate the important one: I’d never be able to do this regularly if it weren’t so dang much FUN.

  • Ted says:

    Yes, great blog, however, I can’t believe Alan can get away with a title such as “NOTHING SPECIAL” followed by a picture of his wife! How rude!! :)

  • Garth says:

    RDW, I don’t know if you’re still reading this post, but here’s an update: I cleaned my rims thoroughly, and it got them back up to snuff. They worked pretty normally on my commute this morning. It was a cold and unpleasant process, but repeating it with enough frequency should keep vbrakes performing adequately in the slush.

    Of course, I’m going pretty slow today, anyway, because we’re two inches into a forecast 12-18 inches of snow. I’ve been called “insane” more than once in the office this morning, though I don’t feel it at all. At least, no more than usual!


  • Garth says:

    As luck would have it, a reporter was in the lobby of my building trying to get video of the blizzard as I was leaving for home this afternoon, and shot this video of me commuting in the blizzard today:

    I feel I could have been somewhat more persuasive with more prepared comments, but there you have it.


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