How a Free Car Made Me Love My Bike
Photo: RichardMasoner, Flickr, CC.
This post is part of series written by TreeHugger contributors about trading in your car for a bike for trips that are two miles or less in distance. The series is sponsored by the Clif 2-Mile Challenge.
Since a car-crushing accident in 2006, our family went car-free first in Gothenburg, Sweden and now Portland, Ore., and I thought I'd never look back. But a gift horse -- free use of a car all summer long -- has turned into a definite bike-life challenge. It's summer, the sun is shining, riding is a pleasure -- and yet my family over the last few weeks of summer vacation has jumped into the car quite a bit more than I could imagine. Yikes! The Clif 2-Mile Challenge was exactly what we needed to put priority and a little motivation into our transportation choices.
According to Clif - 40% of car trips are two miles or less, and 90% of those trips are by car.
The Signifigance of Logging Miles
It's not that I don't like biking. Far from it. On a recent vacation, I had a lot of time to think about my relationship to my bike -- while I was driving in cars. The car driving I did was pretty boring -- straight road, mostly 55 mph, lots of kid drop offs and pick ups -- and made me long for my bike. The riding in and driving cars was so mundane, daily stuff, it sort of made me go numb.
Left: The author on her Eneloop bike. Photo courtesy of April Streeter.
That contrasts vividly with my experience of being on my bike. It can be wet, it can be cold, it can even be a little scary to cycle in a city. But mostly it feels more real. When I am in a car, I become a little deadened to the experience of that moment, that day. It seems to just kind of blur past. News radio helps keep me focused and alert, in some ways. That fog doesn't ever happen for me in that way when I am on the bike. On the bike my senses need to be tuned for what's coming ahead, and yet at the same time, the activity of riding, and reacting, seems to be just perfect for another part of the my brain to be productive, analysing my concerns, spinning new ideas, solving little issues.
So if I like riding so much, why have I been so willing to hope in the loaner car? I think I've realized that the car has a subtle, but almost irresistible pull because I think that I'm going to get a lot more done, more quickly, more efficiently with that torque under my right foot. So on Saturdays, when the errands have piled up and the desire for down time is high, the car beckons. It doesn't help that both my children continuously suggest using the available car for their desires.
But the car's convenience factor comes at a big price. Of course the price is environmental and even to my health and my family's health. But the biggest (unmeasurable cost) is to my good mood. Negotiating car traffic, car parking, and car maintenance just stress me out, sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly. If IBM's recent Computer Pain Index is any indication, lots of car users feel similarly.
So the Clif 2 Mile challenge (which asks participants to pick a team and log miles, and in so doing earn dollars for charity) is currently one way to just gently steer myself back a little to the transport mode I prefer. No guilt, just nice points for taking 2-mile and under trips by bike. Check it out. Logging my bike miles feels like the best positive reinforcement -- not alone reason enough to bike commute, perhaps, but a nice little perk for doing what makes me feel good anyway.
Learn more about the Clif 2 Mile Challenge.
P.S. Since my kids don't perceive cycling as fun, I definitely chose the Red Team, which will support Trips for Kids, a non-profit that helps at-risk youth get onto mountain bike rides, learn about nature, and have fun. I hope they can help more youngsters experience biking as cool.
[Editors' note: This post is sponsored and informed by the Clif 2 Mile Challenge, but TreeHugger retains editorial control over the content. We did, however, have to agree to pay our summer interns in Clif Bars. ;) ]
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Ride Your Bike! More on getting out of the car and onto the bike
Take the Clif 2 Mile Challenge, and Get There by Bike
Lester Brown: The Welcome Return of the Bicycle