Blogging has opened up my world to some amazing people and helped me to feel I wasn’t alone in my quest to live a simpler life. Today, Bethany, a true minimalist, whom I also call a good friend, is here to share her experiences in bike travel. Making the move from a small town to one of the larger cities in the U.S. calls for a few extra safety measures, which I’m happy to say Bethany is aware of and plans for.
I gave up my car just over a year ago, and while that’s not possible for everyone, Bethany has found that the family car doesn’t have to be used every day, even to get to work. I hope you enjoy this look into Bethany’s commute and will visit her blog at My Journey to Ithaca. While you are there you can read my guest post today on the Empty Nest Syndrome.
52 days ago, I moved from a small, rural town in Michigan, to Houston.
City life brought with it a number of adjustments. Rather than leaving my house unlocked, I carry around numerous keys to places within my apartment complex. I no longer have to do yard work, but I do visit the pool almost every night.
The biggest adjustment, however, has been my daily commute.
Houston is a very drivable city, but there is still a great deal of traffic, especially during rush hour. My commute is 12 miles, but it takes me up to an hour to get to work. I know that I can easily maintain 12 miles per hour on my bicycle, and my time would be spent riding and enjoying the scenery, rather than sitting in traffic.
And so it began. It’s been a challenge–Houston is notoriously bad for cyclists, but that has only made me more determined to conquer it. Through trial and error, I have found roads with large shoulders, safe sidewalks, and beautiful subdivisions to pass through as a part of my morning commute.
As I’ve made this change, in my lifestyle, I’ve noticed a number of benefits. They include:
- Less stress. I do not start my mornings by waiting in traffic. I’ve found that my mood has been significantly better, as I arrive at work.
- More energy. Being active has given me more energy and mental focus throughout the day.
- Better sleep. I have found that I need slightly more sleep at night, than I did before, but I am sleeping much better.
- Better problem-solving ability. I feel like my brain is getting enough blood and oxygen! Not only has my ability to focus been better, but I am also more able to solve problems during the day.
- Improved mood. Exercise does a lot to combat the blues!
- Less mental clutter. I am a pathelogical overthinker, and I often get lost in my thoughts when I am driving my car. Bicycle riding, however, requires my full attention. I notice little things along the way, and really improve my ability to take note of the world around me.
Safety is a big concern, when bicycle commuting, but with a little planning and preparation, it need not be a dangerous undertaking. When riding a bike, you are aware of the risks, and know to watch out for them, while driving a car creates a false sense of security. Car accidents are a major cause of death and injury, and people tend to treat their driver’s seat like their living room recliner.
Here are some suggestions, for commuting to work by bicycle:
- Get the safety gear. Don’t mess around. I have lights, a mirror, a helmet with blinking lights on the back, and I wear light colored clothing.
- Dress for the weather. It’s 80 degrees in the morning here, and in the 90’s in the afternoon. So I definitely do not wear my work clothes when I am riding! I bring my work clothes, shoes, and a brush along with me, and change when I get there.
- Bring water. If you’re in a hot place, bring three times as much water as you think you’re going to need. I keep a lidded cup in a holder that attaches to my handle bars, and take a drink at every red traffic light. If I hit a bunch of green ones, I stop and take a drink after I’m through the intersection. On my ride home, when it is hotter, I stop halfway through and drink a lot of water.
- Eat carbs. Don’t try to run on empty. I cover bananas in yogurt, then flaxseeds, then almond butter, then walnuts, and freeze them. I eat one the night before, and one for breakfast in the morning. I carry a Larabar with me, to eat when I get there, and I eat something with carbohydrates before I leave (usually my lunch, since I have no longer been hungry at lunch time).
- Be mindful of the sidewalks. Yes, in a perfect world, there would be bike lanes and large shoulders everywhere. But, for many of us, riding on sidewalks is going to be a part of the commute. So investigate the sidewalks ahead of time! I encountered some that were simply unsafe, due to their condition. Watch out for unevenness, curbs instead of ramps, and sidewalks that just stop. I cut through a subdivision for part of my ride, because the sidewalks on the main road are impassible.
- Stay in relatively busy areas. Avoid dark alleys. Stay where lots of people see you.
- Watch out for turning traffic. Whether you’re on the road or the sidewalk, don’t expect turning cars to see or look for you.