Lessons from a Year of Everyday Biking
2014 was the year that I discovered everyday biking.
Biking is by far the best way to get around a city like Washington. It’s faster than the Metro and you don’t have to worry about getting a parking ticket.
Despite this, I primarily biked on the weekends. It was a leisure activity. I enjoyed taking the Capital Crescent Trail to Bethesda or biking around the National Mall on Sunday afternoons.
Monday through Friday, I’d walk to the Metro and see people biking, even during the worst weather.
I thought everyday biking was too much of a hassle. I’d have to deal with DC’s careless drivers. And I didn’t like the idea of leaving my bike locked up outside where it would be exposed to the weather and local thieves. I wanted to keep my bike in port, where it would be safe.
The Errandonnee Challenge changed me. The experience of conducting even the simplest and shortest of errands by bike turned me into an everyday cyclist. Before the challenge, I tended to walk to places; now I bike to them. Biking turned even a mundane trip to CVS into a fun adventure.
And I have the perfect utility bike for these kinds of everyday activities: a Breezer Zig7. Easy it get on and off, and it folds up so you can take it on the Metro. And I bought it seven years ago off Craigslist for $300. I wouldn’t be too upset if it disappeared.
Since the Errandonnee Challenge, I’ve become the everyday cyclist. I’ve biked in the snow, the rain, the heat and just about everything else.
During the week, my rides are back and forth from the Metro (one mile each way), with side excursions to the grocery store, restaurants, events or just to take a little spin around the monuments.
The People of BikeDC
Why do I do it? It’s fun racing down the 15th Cycletrack at all hours of the day and night. It’s quicker than walking and warmer too. More bikers also means safer streets, by habituating drivers to cyclists.
Also, biking around the city, you run into other awesome members of the #bikedc community.
This city will make you paranoid about crime. Every evening, when I get off the Metro, I’m always surprised that my bike is still there. I expect it to get stolen, despite my Kryptonite lock. But the only problem I’ve had is that someone swiped the New Belgium light off the front of my bike.
And, luckily, I haven’t had any encounters with the reckless drivers that are typical for this city.
This was also the year that the Washington Post thought it would be a good idea to troll cyclists (great way to attract readers to a dying paper, huh?). We’re terrorists, according to columnist Courtland Milloy. This act of journalistic malpractice brought BikeDC together as never before.
But, one of my most memorable rides was coming back from H Street after an evening happy hour. Speeding down side streets and then emerging in front of the Capitol — it’s really a unique “only in Washington” experience.
I’m not a Strava person. I don’t use this cycling software to track personal records. I use Moves, which is not entirely accurate and a battery-hog but it’s always on and is simple.
My best guestimate for # of miles biked this year: 1000+. I’m doing at least twenty miles a week by bike.
I have another bike, too. A real bike: a Specialized Sirrus. My one 2014 regret is that I didn’t ride it more. The cheapo Breezer was just more fun.
The best ride I did on the Specialized was a ramble through Rock Creek Park on Veteran’s Day, at the peak of the leaf season in DC. I also used the Specialized for coffeeneuring, where you bike to seven different coffee shops over seven weeks.
I didn’t just ride in DC, though. I also did some rides outside of the city, including the Jackson Scenic River Trail, a lung-busting bikeshare ride in Aspen and a lovely beach ride in Florida.
What’s interesting is how normal everyday biking now seems. Despite its routine nature, it’s still a joyful experience. I’ve never had a bad ride, even when it’s 26 degrees. Movement equals happiness — that’s the only explanation.