It’s a crazy world out there for beginning bike commuters. I remember how confusing and stressful my first couple of rides were and all I had to do was go over and down on a bike path. After I gave Melissa custody of Smurfette last month, she planned to start bike commuting when she moved to a new apartment closer to work in the Chicago suburb of Aurora. And she did!
Unfortunately, the first try did not go smoothly at all. In fact, it sounded pretty awful and enough to turn off most people from bike commuting forever.
My ride was interesting. I didn’t really like it too much, actually. The way I have to go is rough. It’s only 25% on the trail and then the other 75% is along this busy road. I don’t want to ride on the road because the cars careen around the corner anywhere from 45-55 mph. But the sidewalk isn’t so good either. There are whole squares that are missing and the road crew uses the sidewalk to post road signs. Plus, there’s a lot of rocks and glass on the sidewalk. Also, there are no trees or buildings to block the wind. Today was a bit brisk so my face was cold and windblown. Later in the ride, I ride in front of huge buildings. During rush hour, there are a lot of cars turning in. One woman didn’t see me and cut me off. I thought she’d see me, as cars do runners, but I guess she didn’t. On the bright side, I saw a lot of birds and flowers…. and I feel healthier. I saw another bike commuter and pulled up next to him but he just ignored me.
Hmph. I was very sorry to hear about her first ride and generally pissed at the world that a girl can’t ride five miles to work without risking life and limb. I looked on googlemaps to see if I could figure out a safer, less direct route, but there are literally no secondary roads between her apartment and work – only two major roads and a gazillion cul-de-sacs. Darn suburbs. Then on Saturday, while walking into a bike shop to buy a helmet, she saw a cyclists get hit by a car (he was okay). Despite all of this, Melissa was back on the bike this week for another try!
The key was finding a safer route, which she did through the website Map My Ride. (So much better than googlemaps, which does not list bike trails!). The new route is 3 miles longer, but her report was considerably more optimistic, even though it was raining.
So I took my 2nd bike ride to work today. It was a lot better scene-wise. I managed to be on the path the majority of the time. It still took me an hour to get to work. I did stop 3 times for pics but otherwise, I think I was more hesitant than I will be later once I get more comfortable with the path.
It sounds like I may have converted my first bike commuter. Perhaps. But it’s hard – once a person gets over the huge mental hump of realizing that bikes can be used safely for transportation, she or he still has to get over all these practical humps thanks to our country’s abysmal alternative transportation infrastructure. Good thing cycling is so addictively fun, otherwise no one would do it!
She has one more issue to address, though. The heels of her palm (paw pads, I like to call them) sometimes hurt and get numb. She can’t raise the handlebars any higher. Maybe she could tilt the bars or buy riding gloves? I dunno.
Let’s all send lots of supporting vibes to Melissa!! Be cool :)