Ten years ago, I did not bike to work. I drove. Even though I lived 3 miles from work.
At the time, it made perfect sense to me. It took me about 10-15 minutes to get to work by car. By my usual mode of transportation, public transit, there was no direct route to work from where I was living, and it would have taken me 30-45 minutes. Driving was the most efficient way for me to get to work.
Except it wasn’t. I had to pay handsomely for a garage space at work, for which I had waited two years on a waiting list to get. I also paid for a parking permit at home to park on the street. And I paid at least bi-weekly for gas. It all added up, and these were expenses I couldn’t really afford.
It didn’t really occur to me to commute by bicycle back then. At that time, and from where I stood, only messengers rode bikes in the city. Otherwise, you were a muscly man in spandex, or a girl with a wicker basket riding on weekends. (Sound familiar?) Or, you rode to work because you didn’t have a car. Besides, biking was dangerous on city streets– those drivers are crazy!
When I changed jobs a year later, I went back to walking and taking public transit to work. Biking was something I did recreationally, on trails. I enjoyed doing it, but I was a little deterred by carrying this heavy bike up three flights of stairs to my apartment.
Then I moved to a different part of town. I lived around the corner from a small bike shop. I started seeing bike lanes painted on the roads. More of my friends at the time were riding. And slowly, I came around to thinking that I could do this, too.
It took me a long time to feel confident about it. I remember I used to walk my bike route at first, noticing the flow of traffic, how many parked cars were on the streets, whether there were other bikers on the road. Finally one day, I took a deep breath and wheeled my bike out on the road, and I rode to work. I did it. I made it in one piece. And I discovered that it was actually faster for me to bike than it was to take the subway.
Admittedly even now, when I think of getting around in the city, I think of walking first, then taking public transit next– that’s really how I’ve traveled around most places ever since I was a kid. But I’ve been happy to add biking to the list of transportation modes ever since that day I rode to work about five years ago. I continue to ride as much as I can, and hope to do so wherever my life takes me.