I should leave the house at 9:15 to be ready for work at 10:00–though I can make it in less than 30 minutes if I really push. So I’ve made a rule: if I leave the house at 9:20 or later I have to go the fast way. If I leave earlier, I get to go the pretty way. Last Tuesday was the first morning in weeks I went the pretty way. This certainly says something about my time keeping of late. But why dwell on that?
It was, too! Pretty, that is. Both ways are pretty, really, with bucolic vistas of open space and farmland. But the Baseline route affords even more of this. More cows, horses, hawks, and fewer cars, trucks and busses than South Boulder Rd.
For the occasion, I donned my “The Revolution Will Not Be Motorized,” T-shirt atop what has become my commuter uniform on warmish days: camo cutoff shorts, dress socks and street shoes.
On cooler days or dark evenings, I add to this my neon yellow windbreaker, thus adding a dose of irony as well: neon meets camouflage, sort of a now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t costume. It’s a funny outfit, but it carries with it most of the attitude that fuels my ride. Let’s break it down. Rather, let’s begin to break it down.
1. Bike in the clothes you’re going to wear. The shorts are the exception to this, but only because jeans are too hot. Three seasons of the year I just park my bike at the office, remove my helmet and sit down at my desk with the tell-tale red helmet line across my sweaty forehead. My shoes, for instance, are just as good for walking as they are for riding a bike. They remain on my feet for the whole darn day.
2. Biking to work is a form of eco activism. I allow myself to forget this–it’s easy to forget when the ride is so beautiful, provides me with outdoor cardio exercise without a gym fee and feels damn good. But still, it’s activism. I started my bicycle commute years ago not primarily because it was prettier or healthier, but simply because I’d decided I could no longer participate in a one person/one car 26 mile daily commute. [I don't ride 26 miles a day, by the way. Never did. I used to ride about four of each 13-mile one way, letting RTD fill the gap. Now at a different office I ride six miles each one way, no bus necessary.]
3. Bikes are faster than cars. Henry David Thoreau was on to this notion (though not specific to bicycles) arguing that it was faster to walk between towns, than to take the train–when you consider the number of hours that must be worked in order to afford the train.
Philosopher and social critic Ivan Illich argued this again in the 1970′s, stating, essentially, that if you calculate the speed of a car by considering the time it takes to operate it (direct and indirect through income generation and other factors), the average car travels about 3.7 mph.
It was proven again the week before last by my son, Simon. He and his classmates underwent an experiment to see what was the fastest way to travel across town. The race was from Lucky’s Market in North Boulder to Scott Carpenter park in central Boulder. One kid rode the bus, one drove a car, and the third, Simon, rode a bicycle. Guess who won?
Damn straight, the bike won by three minutes! The car was second, and the bus (two busses, actually, connecting at Basemar shopping center, a point south of the finish line–an unfair disadvantage) came in last. I defend the bus because I’m a proponent of public transportation. But, by no surprise, it lost.
The bike won, though. The bike kicked ass! (In truth, the kid riding the bike kicked ass: he pushed hard, he probably traversed busy Boulder streets in ways I would not want to know about; he probably zoomed down the hill on 19th between Norwood and Iris at a speed I’d rather not consider… but he kicked ass!). It’s probably fair to assume that the car drove with uncharacteristic speed and aggression too (even for a teenage boy). So there.
And, I’d like to add, referring back to point number one: Simon did this in street clothes. No spandex, no fancy these-shoes-weren’t-made-for-walkin shoes. Just regular guy clothes, and a helmet on his head.
The bicycle rocks! (Simon’s pretty rad, too.)