Archives for posts with tag: cycling

Today was an ideal day for biking to work: partly sunny, partly cloudy, teen temperatures, and only a slight breeze. So, perhaps this is a good day to post something I wrote 13 years ago about the worst day of biking to work I’ve ever had.

Yesterday was the absolute worst cycling commute to work I have had in seven years of living in BC! I have biked in various extreme conditions: torrential downpours, high winds, falling snow and icy streets but remind me never to set out when it is plus two with a mixture of snow and rain coming down on a layer of snow and rain already there. In the morning, as I looked outside into the wet and dreary darkness of the pre-dawn and began to whine about the conditions, my wife actually had the audacity to laugh at me for my cowardice. And so I consoled myself as I often do, “I guess it’s not that bad once I get out there; people in Winnipeg bike in a lot worse conditions.” So I set out with determination.

After about a kilometer of tenacious pedaling a colleague waved cheerfully as he passed me in his car. I gritted my teeth wishing I had asked for a ride. And then a few kilometers further as I turned a corner I wiped out because of the greasy ice that was forming underneath the slush. I picked myself up off the slimy pavement with luckily only my arm and my pride in pain. From then on I was on busier streets and each car that passed me mercilessly spewed forth a rich concoction of sand, salt, and slush in my direction. My Gortex suit is like armor but eventually even it surrendered to the barrage of slush that began oozing up and down my left side. My gears began to be clogged by the freezing slush so that my chain constantly slipped, turning my usual rhythmic pedaling into a vicious staccato. I was not happy. And to top it all off, the man at the bus stop who usually ignores me when I greet him upon passing, sneered visibly at my misery as I limped by.

In the past I have cycled in great self-righteousness. I am reducing green-house gasses and saving the planet and halting the ominous onslaught of global warming. In fact if all of us were biking we wouldn’t be having all this strange weather in the first place! I am stopping the war in Iraq because I am reducing our dependence on foreign oil imports. I am keeping my body in good health by getting an hour of cardiovascular exercise every day. I am saving ten dollars a day on fuel and the cost of another car and can instead spend that money on more worthy things like going on a family vacation or feeding the hungry. I am slowing down my life by becoming more in tune with my surroundings and my body and spirit. And on and on I could pontificate about the benefits of cycling to work (I did that in a previous post written five years after this particular day). All this did not matter yesterday morning as I cursed my own stupidity and stubbornness, my wife for laughing, my colleague for waving, each passing slush-spewing motorist, my bike for freezing up, the meteorologist who forecasted this mess and God who is ultimately to blame for everything.

The rain and snow turned to rain only by day’s end so I decided I would brave the commute home rather than bedding down in my office as I had initially surmised. After hearing about my ordeal, another colleague did feel great sympathy and offered me a ride home, but I refused just to prove to myself that it was an isolated experience. I could not let the elements defeat my high principles. If it was not for the world, I had to do it for myself at least!

The cycle home was wet but routine. My heart felt light after the heaviness of the morning. As I approached the intersection where I had wiped out in the morning I decided to symbolically spit on the very spot in victorious defiance of the elements. Just as I was about to launch a mighty “arch de triumph” toward the cursed street, a car rolled through the intersection oblivious to my presence in the midst of my sacred moment. Were it not for my blood-curdling yell and the straight arm tactic honed in the cow pasture football games of western Manitoba, that car would have made me the latest item on the menu of some Road-kill Café. When the poor woman driving the car came to from the shock of seeing my hand and open mouth so close to her windshield, she finally slammed on the brakes to avoid me by mere inches.

Oh the joys of cycling to work! This morning—with the previous day now a muddled memory—as I peered through the cracks of the Venetian louvers I was soothed by the predictable drizzle of a more typical west coast winter morning. Ahhh! The delectable beauty of this damp grayness unmatched by any clear prairie sunrise! I set out with new hope for a routine ride to work and I was not disappointed. Although climate change and the war in Iraq continue, at least my life of cycling to work was as it should be. The man at the bus stop did not even acknowledge my existence.

This year I am celebrating 20 years of cycling to work. I do not have an odometer but a bit of rough math—20-22 km per day (depending on the route), approximately 200 days a year for 20 years, minus years like this last one—would reveal that I have cycled at least 75,000 km! I could have traveled from coast to coast a few times so I guess I can stroke that off my bucket list. To celebrate this milestone I will write about a few cycling adventures this month.

Unfortunately, this past year was my worst year for cycling. It began when I pulled my hamstring in a very bad way during the first week of classes. The funny thing is that I did not pull the muscle while biking. I had successfully biked to work and then, while setting up tables and chairs in my classroom, I extended myself while lifting in just the wrong way and I felt a huge pop in my hamstring that almost caused me to faint. It was so bad I had bruising all the way down the back of my leg. Needless to say, I took the bus for the next five weeks before I felt secure enough to resume cycling. Now eight months later I can still feel that the hamstring is not yet back to normal!

Winter is rainy season in the lower mainland of BC so I was enjoying a beautiful winter morning with no rain and about +3 degrees during my first week back in January. I was energized as I made my way to work along Discovery Trail, a smooth paved trail that meanders across Abbotsford from east to west. It has made my commute a bit longer every day but the serenity of the trail with grasses, trees, cattails, birds, dog walkers, and even a beaver, muskrat, coyote, or deer on occasion as my companions—instead of speeding cars and lumbering trucks—are worth the extra five or ten minutes. There was no sign of frost anywhere that morning so I was moving along at a good pace on the paved trail with a transition to boardwalk up ahead. Unfortunately, I was not considering that at about +3 in a humid climate a seasoned boardwalk turns into a greasy slick! I went down hard as I hit the transition from pavement to boardwalk. Of course, it happened so fast I had no time to react and I must have landed on my head (I was wearing a helmet) because my only memory is the sound of dropping a large rock on concrete.

As I came to, I literally saw stars swirling around like they show in the cartoons. I eventually pushed the bike off of me and sat up. It seemed the bike was okay so my first impulse was to get back on to continue the journey. I decided to walk for a while to clear my head but the unsteadiness on my feet made me think that perhaps this was a good time to use that cell phone I had for no good reason. I had to pull out my glasses along with the phone so I could see the numbers and somehow in the midst of the malaise I lost my glasses into a reedy swamp off the boardwalk. I did manage to get them back and called the office, asking that someone come pick me up. I had about 1 km till the nearest pick-up point and a passerby asked if I was okay. She told me that I had a gash on my cheek with some unsightly coagulation of blood. When I arrived at work they promptly took me to a walk-in clinic where I was diagnosed with a concussion and sent for X-rays. I had instructions to avoid physical exertion, so no biking. Instead, I had a head-ache every day for the next six weeks, lived in a bit of a fog, walked into the wrong classroom, and forgot administrative details, but managed to show up for all my classes other than the day of the accident.

Then just as I was getting back on the bike they tell us all to stay home because of COVID-19! I have been going for a bike ride every day to try and simulate traveling to work but this year has been an unexpected sabbatical from biking to work every day. What a way to celebrate 20 years!

The forecast is for rain all week and its time to bike back to work after the Christmas break so I have to remind myself why I do this. I wrote this a few years ago, but it still applies.

WHY I RIDE MY BIKE TO WORK

Besides the house, the car [and the gas used to propel it] is the biggest consumer item in a typical North American household.  It is also the biggest polluter in an average North American household.  It is my privilege and responsibility as a Christian to be a good steward of my wealth as well as of the earth entrusted to my care.  Since shelter is a basic human necessity, maybe the car should be the first thing to chop off the consumerist block.  But a car is a necessity in our society!  We can’t live without it!  Or can we?

Someday I’d like to try to live without a car in our society, but we are a typical family with four busy kids age 7-18 so we aren’t quite there yet.  It is always good to start small so my wife and I decided when we got married that we would only own one car between the two of us even though we have always both worked outside of the home.  It was difficult when I was doing youth ministry, we were carting our four kids off to various events and had evening church meetings and such.  It didn’t become easier when our oldest son got his driver’s license and now we have three drivers instead of two in the household, but so far we’ve lived quite well.  How do we do it?  We carpool.  We plan carefully.  We take the bus.  We limit our activities.  And I bike to work.

For me personally, biking to work every day [20 km round trip] has become an important part of my daily routine.  Here are my top ten reasons why I bike to work.

1. It gets me going in the morning better than a cup of coffee.

2. It slows down my life and gives space for praying, thinking, reflecting and debriefing (much better for the soul than sitting in a tin can getting road rage).

3. It saves a whole pile of money we use for better things than supporting oil and auto companies.

4. Food is my fuel which I consume anyway and besides, food tastes and smells better than car fuel.

5. There is no speed limit; I can go as fast as my energy source will allow.

6. It gets me in touch with the surrounding environment and breathing God’s fresh air (other than automobile exhaust, but if more of us bike there will be less…).

7. It is good stewardship of the body.  It keeps me in good physical health.

8. I see and recognize people on the way instead of everyone hiding in their metal shell.

9. It is good stewardship of the earth.  It causes no pollution.

10. It’s fun.