There are a lot of things the average American (including us) could do to reduce their carbon footprint, but something always seems to get in the way. At our house, we’re taking a look at ways we can bust through the physical and psychological barriers that prevent us from using our bikes more, using our car less and eating less meat.
We’re Starting With Biking
Peter and I have bikes but we use them primarily for recreational riding. We think we’re ready to shift to commuter biking to work, to shopping, to appointments. In order to make this shift, we need to address some psychological barriers, like our discomfort riding on busy city streets, a feeling of ineptitude about bike maintenance, and a lack of experience combining biking with mass transit in order to do the longer commute that Peter could do for work.
We also need to address physical barriers: getting Peter’s bike adjusted properly, getting proper winter tires for me, getting or building something for carrying more cargo. We have some physical barriers related to back and knee problems, but we anticipate that increased exercise may actually help those problems. We’ll give it a try and see what happens.
Biking Resources in the Community
Last night we took a class at SPOKES on riding in traffic. We not only learned about Minnesota bike laws and where to ride in the bike lane and the main roadway lane, we did some feet-on-pedal exercises on efficient starting, safe stopping, evasive maneuvers around road debris and what to do if you accidentally hit a pothole. There are A LOT of potholes in our area and this has been a big concern of mine. As a group, we had a short practice ride through the most deadly intersection in Minneapolis. SPOKES also has monthly group ride opportunities, which will help us get even more practice riding in traffic.
SPOKES offers open workshops where Peter can go in and get his bike adjusted properly. Volunteers are there to help him do it. And we’ll be signing up to take a bike maintenance class so we can learn how to fix and maintain our bikes ourselves.
Peter cannot get to work using only mass transit. The last leg of his trip is through an industrial area with no transit and no sidewalks. Bringing his bike along for the last part of his trip may be an option, but it definitely will depend upon his feeling comfortable riding in traffic. There are MANY trucks on that road. Our next step will be to do a practice ride to Peter’s work, combining the bus and light rail with biking.
Bicycles are good! They thin the herd.
Bravo Leslie, to you and Peter for getting going w/biking as commuters! There are a number of challenges some of which you talked about, but I think you’ll find it rewarding. I’ve been biking here for over 20 yrs now and believe safety hazards tend to be minimal as long as you are paying attention to what you’re doing and what’s going on around you; and have reliable equipment. Just don’t be in a hurry, not at first anyway. If there’s a route you ride repeatedly, you’ll identify where the rough spots are (e.g. potholes, heavy traffic) and in most cases will be able to find alternative routes to avoid the worst of it. Biking has its own charm, a pace much slower than driving a car, much faster than on foot!