This month, for the first time, I spent $0 on gas. The proof is at right. Though I’ve seen my fuel bill go down since I started riding my bike, especially during the summer when prices were so high, this is the first time I’ve spent nothing on it all month. According to my budgeting buddy Mint.com, my average fuel spending over the past four months is $86, but some months I’ll spend as little as $24 — it just depends how much I ride my bike and whether I visit my parents in Alabama.
Of course, I did use fuel this month, but I’ve still got an eighth of the tank I bought on January 20 in the Mustang. This just goes to prove that even if you have a short commute like mine, you can still see some significant savings by riding your bike.
Just don’t ask me how much I’ve spent on bikes this year, and we can still be friends.
I say that I cycle everywhere, which is basically true. However, there are some places too close or too far to access via bicycle. This weekend presented a mix of destinations and led to a mix of transportation modes.
Bike. Friday night we rode our bikes for dinner at Atwood Cafe and an amazing O’Neill play, Desire Under the Elms, at Goodman Theatre. Pretty sure we were the only ones there carrying around bike helmets, but I care not.
Yesterday I rode in the monthly Chicago Critical Mass ride. There’s a lot of strong opinions on whether Critical Mass is a positive event. I think so! My first exposure to Critical Mass was before I started riding, in June 2007, soon after moving to Chicago from Nashville. Coincidentally, Trisha was visiting at the time. We were in a cab on our way to Second City and were stopped for 15 minutes while hundreds of cyclists streamed by. It was an amazing sight. I asked the driver was was going on and he explained that it was a bike ride that happened once a month. Once a month!? Wow. The driver was irritated, but I thought the whole thing was way cool, especially since we got to the show on time.
Yesterday I rode my bike from the office to lunch for the first time (I don’t go out for lunch a lot, and when I do, it’s often within walking distance). A 1.7-mile ride isn’t far, and though temps were only in the high 30s it was nice to get out in the middle of the day.
The restaurant* had such a great mural on the side that I had to take a picture. Unfortunately, they had no bike parking.
I woke up all prepared to finish my commute diary and talk about riding in the dark, but now I think it’s my turn to write about why biking is better.
Let me begin by saying I am an extremely lazy person. I would much rather be doing just about anything other than physical exertion for its own sake. Running makes me want to die, treadmills are the devil’s tool (all that walking and you’re not even going anywhere!) and don’t even talk to me about spinning or boot camps. Other than the occasional hike when the weather is right, and my weekly Iyengar yoga, exercise felt like a chore to me.
So the idea that I could exercise while also accomplishing something necessary to my life, getting to work or running errands, really appealed to me. That was what made me dust off the old Schwinn and bring it up to Nashville. The surprise came when I got on and realized that riding my bike was actually fun.
Since the forecast called for up to eight inches of snow and my cold is getting worse, I did not cycle today. The el ride was not too bad, but I missed my bike. It takes a lot to keep me off my bike, but I never force myself to ride if I feel it would be unsafe or really unpleasant. That’s one of my secrets to not burning out.
My other secret to riding my bike consistently is equally simple: cycling is almost always more desirable than the alternatives. Not only more desirable in all of the “biking will save the world” ways – no pollution, no dependence on foreign oil, no dangerous hazard to others, no isolation from my neighbors and surroundings, no obesity – but also more desirable in ways that most Americans would be interested in – Faster, Cheaper, More Comfortable.