When I got to Chapel Hill, here’s what I knew about commuting: if you wanted to get somewhere, you went outside, got in your own car by yourself, and drove to where you needed to be. At one job, we could walk to lunch places in the Strip District in Pittsburgh but it was pretty impossible to walk 10 miles to work, uphill both ways, in a town that only sees the sun 3 months of the year. I had not taken a public bus since middle school when we would take the 55M from school to the mall. Thankfully, my friend Dave taught me how to ride the bus during our first week of work last summer. Although I learned how to ride a bike when I was younger, I could count the number of times on one hand that I had been on one in the past 10 years and had most certainly never used a bike for transportation instead of recreation.
My friends found me a bike last summer on craigslist and fixed it up a bit for me because I was determined to become a biker. When I was helping with the Cyclicious event last fall, I learned about so many great health and environmental benefits of biking. I bought the helmet, lights and bike rack, and I had another friend who is an avid cyclist help me plan the best route to school. First, we tried the shorter distance route which requires biking up a 90 degree hill. We decided, instead, to go the opposite way, which is slightly longer, but much flatter, and allows me to spend half of the journey on a designated bike path. The first day that I decided to do this on my own it was over 80 degrees and sunny, I was too rushed to eat breakfast, got lost on my way through town to the bike path, and almost passed out when I made it to school. It is not as glamorous as it looks.
This experience scared me and it was really hard so I only rode to school a handful of times in the fall. As nice weather approached again this year, I decided I wanted to try again. In a twist of fate, my bus route is under construction for the rest of 2011, making the bike ride to school less time consuming and more convenient to my schedule. I got new hybrid tires and some chain grease and prepared myself for the ride to school two weeks ago. It’s definitely not easy for me yet, but I’m giving it a positive spin: I can count it as my exercise for the day if I do not have time to do anything else.
If you want to start biking too, try to start slowly. Go biking for fun a few times a week and work up to biking to school or work. Have a friend help you plan a route like I did. Take your bike to school on the front of the bus and bike home until you feel up to biking both ways. And when all else fails, take some great advice from my good friend Dory.