A Better Commute

by Jay Dunnuck

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Two months ago, I began riding my bicycle to work after thinking through creative ways to reduce expenses. I had no idea something that seemed like a sacrifice would end up improving my quality of life. Although I am still a newbie, here are a few of the lessons I've learned.

Bicycle commuting is enjoyable, not a burden

I'll admit I was huffing and puffing the first week. Like most people, I live within 5 to 7 miles of my employment. It did not take long to find the route with the least traffic, and fewest hills. Within two weeks, I was pedaling faster and knocking off as much as 5 to 7 minutes off my ride time. Each day I look forward to my 40-minute "built in" workout, and my ride only takes an additional 5 minutes than the drive by car.

The ultimate way to save money

I traded my full-size pickup for an average mountain bike. I have eliminated truck payments, $40 in gas to fill the tank, oil changes, brake repair, tires, car washes, excise tax, license plate fees, and the list goes on. Recently, I have begun to notice more subtle cash savings. I now carry my lunch to work everyday; I use my employer's resources and shower facilities to clean up when I arrive, saving personal utilities and time cleaning my shower at home. I am more efficient in running errands. I do what I can with what is near my bicycle route. For other items, I designate time on the weekends to accomplish what I need. Extra time just "shopping" is reduced.

Improve family relationships

With only one vehicle, my wife and I are forced to work together. No longer do we just drive off in separate directions in our separate vehicles to pursue separate interests. We do more things together, and combine our trips while taking into consideration what each other would like to accomplish. We also now have more cash to work on projects at home together and travel together.

Save time

My daily workout is now built into two 20-minute rides each day. My ride home works off any stress built up during the workday. I arrive home relaxed with my workout already completed. In addition, the upkeep is greatly reduced with one vehicle. We now have only one oil change, one car to wash, wax and vacuum. This has also solved any garage storage issues we previously had. A bicycle takes up so much less space than a pickup truck!

Bicycle commuting is practical

An answer to every objection to bicycle commuting can be found by doing an Internet search on the topic. Carry a small personal hygiene bag for clean up after riding in the mornings. Install a basket to carry items; I use a set of panniers to carry items such as my laptop, any office files, lunch, and rain gear. If you live far away from work, try bicycling once or twice per week. Another option is to cycle to the nearest bus or train station if you live in a large city. Weather is also a factor. Simply dress appropriately as with any outdoor activity. When I started bicycle commuting, morning temperatures were in the twenties. You'll be surprised how much body heat you'll work up. As for rain, all types of gear are available at very reasonable prices to keep you dry. A poncho works best in heavy downpours as it allows much more ventilation. Be creative and experiment. My inspiration was reading about a group in Canada that commutes by bicycle year round. I figure if Canadians can do it, northern Indiana weather should not deter me!

Most importantly, bicycling is just as much fun as an adult as it was when you were a kid. There is something special about separating yourself from the daily stress of commuting by car and enjoying the fresh air and simplicity of cycling! Give it a try!

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