I Love to Ride My Bicycle: Part 1

I recently found out that Elaina, one of the employees in our Boise, Idaho office, bikes everywhere she goes.  To me, that was really amazing, I can barely walk on snowy roads let alone contemplate riding a bicycle on them,  but it left me with a million questions for her. How do you grocery shop?  How do you get your kiddos to school, how do you get to work without looking like a hot mess?  Here’s part one of Elaina’s bike riding story.

Bicycling combines exercise, lifestyle prioritization, financial benefits, environmental IMG_1359consciousness, and being awesome all into one single outdoor activity. This will be my 5th straight year of commuting via bicycle year-round, with kids in tow, and I’m having the time of my life.

If you ride a bicycle, be proud. Humans riding on bicycles are more energy-efficient than any other animal and any other form of transportation. Vance Tucker of Duke University compared bicyclists to humans and animals running, birds flying and fish swimming, as well as to people in motor-powered cars, boats, trains and planes (J. Exp. Bio, 1973; 68 (9): 689 – 709). The less energy per weight you use to travel over a distance, the more energy-efficient you are. Vance found that the most efficient creature without mechanical help is a condor. With mechanical help, the cyclist comes out on top. Here is a partial list, ranked from most to least energy-efficient:

  1. Human on a bicycle
  2. Condor
  3. Salmon
  4. Horse
  5. Human in a jet plane
  6. Human walking
  7. Human running
  8. Human in an automobile
  9. Cow
  10. Sheep
  11. Dog
  12. Hummingbird
  13. Rabbit
  14. Bee
  15. Mouse

Biking forces you to be efficient with your choices. 

When I became a single mother, I was forced to be ruthlessly efficient with my choices. Armed with no resources but supportive family and my sociology degree (with its associated altruistic yet teensy paycheck), I had to decide between being able to afford a car, which would make the choices for child care suboptimal, or to live without a car and spend the bulk of my income on better childcare.  I chose the latter and have never looked back.

I met the love of my life and his daughter a few years ago and moved here to Boise, where we have slowly built a life that caters to bike commuting and living simply. Together, my family of four have twelve bikes (our ancient dog even has a trailer) and one (equally ancient) car, which is rarely driven. We sold my partner’s house and now live in a small home that is next to the bike path and the pristine Boise River. I sought out work at this amazing company, which, refreshingly, encourages wellness endeavors and just so happens to be less than a mile away from my home and across the street from my children’s school, with only one major street to cross. It may seem a stroke of luck, but mine is a lifestyle carefully engineered over several years to focus on the priority of living without being dependent on a car.

If you want to hear more about how Elaina stays on her bicycle during winter, spring, summer, and fall, check out Part 2 of this blog.

Patrick’s Commuting Adventures – Sunny with a chance of Bugs!

We are nearly half way through Bike and Walk to Work Month! And Patrick has shared another adventure during his ride home. Though, this time, it is not the weather providing the challenge!

Weather.com says I don’t need to worry about any surprise rain this time!  75 degrees and sunny without a cloud in the sky.  It’s days like this that I hope nobody from out-iStock_000036215810Smallof-town is here, because I can’t imagine anyone from anywhere not wanting to instantly move to the Northwest if they got to experience a day like this!  For bikers, it doesn’t get any better!

As I don my helmet and prepare to leave, I see a group of flying insects lit up by the bright afternoon sun.  They seem to be almost frolicking; a giddy dance without purpose or direction.  Little did I know what an ill-portent that would be for my trip home.

A few minutes into my relaxing ride, I get a rude awakening as an enormous flying insect decides to dive-bomb my ear.  In the blink of an eye, I process the split second crescendo of humming flight, then feel the dull thud of a collision immediately followed by the loud angry buzz of a bug trying to extricate itself from my ear.  It feels fuzzy and large, and fortunately is able to fly away before my natural instinct of smashing it can take over and inadvertently drive it into my brain.  Disconcerted but not permanently scarred, I ride on!

Sometime later a bug flies in my mouth.  It happens.  I’ve had worse.  I don’t know what it is, but it’s small and goes down quickly.  I figure it was about 0.02% of my RDA of protein.  Boy the bugs are active today; apparently Bug-Spring started today!

Later, I begin to cross the Knickerbocker Bridge over the Willamette River.  I’ve learned from experience that there are a couple spots that bugs like to hang out around this bridge.  The river is literally a spawning ground for gnats and the stupid ones seem to like to hover directly over the bike path – at head level no less.  I’m on high alert from my previous interactions with Order Diptera, so I easily spot the swarm dead ahead and have plenty of time to close my mouth – careful also to breathe out so they don’t fly up my nose.  I feel a few hit my face but none manage to lodge themselves in any orifices, and I emerge unscathed.

I’ll still take 75, sunny, and buggy over 37, rainy, and bug-less any day!  Bring on Summer!

Dan’s Tips on Walking to Work

Have you ever considered a relaxing walk to work? Many years ago, our guest blogger Dan did and has been walking ever since. Here are his reasons why, and a few tips on making the trek.


Heidi taking Dan’s advice

Many of us have friends or co-workers who bike to work regularly, but for those of us who are lucky and live close enough, there is another great option. I’ve been walking to work for nearly 7 years (spanning 2 jobs) and absolutely love it. Like cycling, it saves on gas and provides a great way to add physical activity to your day. But, I also find it much more relaxing than having to deal with traffic on your commute. Waiting at intersections and those sudden Oregon downpours are typically as troublesome as commuting gets for a walker, but in my years of walking I’ve learned a few other things about hoofing it to work:

  • Your co-workers may think you walk out of necessity. I once had a teammate who, after 6 months, was shocked to learn that I actually did own a car.
  • Be aware of the shoes you buy. In the past I made the mistake of buying my work shoes based on the combination of looks, comfort and price. What I didn’t take into account was the tread. It only took a couple times of wearing completely through the sole of a pair of shoes in 3 months to cure me of that. I carefully inspected the undersides of shoes the next time I went shopping and found a pair for just a little bit more that lasted over 4 times as long.
  • Good raingear is a must for a walking commuter of course, but as we move towards spring and summer, the days will sneak up on you where it’s too cold in the morning to not wear a jacket, and entirely too warm at the end of the day to wear one. Plan ahead so you don’t end up with every jacket you own hanging in your cubicle.
  • Random cars may pull over and the driver will offer you a ride. On closer inspection, it will turn out to be one of your co-workers. It’s up to you whether to take them up on the offer or decline and leave them feeling awkward for having pulled over for no reason.
  • If the winter deigns to drop snowstorms on us; you will casually walk to work just like normal (if wearing a few extra layers). Do watch out for ice – falling on your butt isn’t fun (not that I would know, or anything…) and remember that in icy conditions cars that are intending to stop may not always succeed.

If you live within a mile or two of your workplace, I definitely recommend giving walking a try, especially with the nice weather and long daylight hours during the spring and summer. If walking both ways sounds like a bit much, you could walk one direction and find someone to carpool with for the other. Whatever method you choose, happy commuting!