When I signed up for the free women’s bike maintenance class at REI, I was surprised to see it was only half full just a few days out from the event. Once I got to class, I quickly realized I was the only woman there that biked primarily for commuting, not recreation.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how few other women I see on my commute each morning. And that I was the only woman in my office that biked to work, even though four men did (in an office of 16).
I never entertained the idea of biking to work until I moved outside of walking distance from my office in Denver. I desperately didn’t want to drive (#Millennial), and taking the bus just took so.much.time. It’s a 15-minute drive from my house, but I budget at least 40 when I’m taking the bus.
Plus, I already had a bike, helmet, and lock. And bus pass expenses were adding up.
Considering I had not ridden said bike very often, and the last time I regularly rode a bike Aaron Carter was as popular as Justin Bieber, I knew I was going to suck at this. Not only skills-wise. I also wasn’t entirely positive I was physically able to bike nearly three miles one-way to my office.
But I thought I’d give it a shot.
Pretty quickly, I realized that the days I biked to work, I was in a much better mood than if I had been waiting for and sitting on the bus for 40 minutes. I was in charge of my own commute again.
And even though I was significantly sweatier and had to give up hope of wearing my hair down, I was also significantly happier (especially after I started storing body wipes and deodorant in my desk).
Sure, there were plenty of evenings where I was wiped out from work and just didn’t feel like getting on my bike. And there were plenty of times where I cursed myself for doing this as my legs went numb and I just prayed I would make it to the top of this hill somehow.
But I never regretted biking to work. I only regretted the days I spent even more time sitting on my ass once I was stuck on the bus.
And now that I know I can bike to work, I know I can bike to the store for errands. Or to a friend’s bridal shower that’s only a mile from my house. Or to happy hour so I don’t have to find parking. It’s really empowering to be your own mode of transportation, to find your way around your city and to have your legs be what’s taking you there.
Yes, your legs are really tired sometimes. And sometimes the bike lane ends and you have to try to make it on the sidewalk without mowing anyone down. And sometimes the safest way on a bike is not the most efficient.
But it’s usually the most scenic.
Even in crappy weather (and hey, if it’s too bad you can always go back to the bus!). Even when I’m huffing and puffing up that damn hill to East High School and getting passed by tons of dudes on their fancy road bikes with their giant calf muscles and their freakish ability to not look sweaty or even mildly out of breath.
When I bike to work I feel independent. I feel strong. I feel more connected to my community and my surroundings. It doesn’t hurt that I’m not contributing to traffic or car emissions, but to be honest my reasons are the much more self-centered ones.
And it makes me sad that I don’t see many other ladies out there with me.
Maybe it’s just the route I take to work, but after going to that class at REI, it made me think that wasn’t it. I’d love to know what keeps you from biking to work if you’re close enough to do so and safe routes are an option. I hope you’ll give it a shot (B-Cycle or your local bike share is a great way to get your feet wet!) and that maybe my reasons for biking to work will help get you there too.