Gwen Stewart in the Bureau of Community Health and Prevention
I did not think I wanted to be a bike commuter. I did not want to dodge cars on busy streets. I did not want to be sweaty when I sat down for morning meetings. And I most certainly did not want my colleagues to see me walking around in my biking shorts.
But on Google Maps one day, I noticed the bike route option. In a fit of procrastination, I looked up how to get to work from my house. To my surprise, there was a back route that was mostly bike path and dedicated bike lanes. It’s longer, but it’s largely stress-free. I did a weekend test-run and timed myself. Suddenly, bike commuting became an option. I saw that I could actually bike to work without constant fear of calamity.
But I still didn’t want to be the sweaty weirdo you fear will sit next to you. Fortunately, because biking provides a constant cooling breeze, it’s not the sweat-builder that running is. And biking in the New England morning, the air is cool even in summer. I use my most breathable clothes for the ride and change when I get to work. To my surprise, I realized that I’m cooler biking in the summer than I am taking the T and bus.
That left the issue of biking shorts. My commute is long enough that they are essential, but being essential does not make them flattering. Wearing a short sporty skirt over them solved the problem. I can still move, but I don’t look like I have delusions of winning the Tour de France. And I can retain some of my dignity.
One thing that I always remember to do is wear a helmet. Any impact on my hair is nothing compared to the impact on my skull if I had an accident.
And now, I’ll admit, I love being a bike commuter, even if I’m only a fair-weather one. I love the free feeling of cruising down the bike path, the thrill of speeding down a hill, the fact that my trek takes me past flowering trees and fuzzy goslings. There’s also the fact that my round-trip commute burns about 700 calories that I can squander any way I please. But the main reason I bike to work is that bike riding, at its core, is just plain fun.
I read a blog posting from a couple of years ago that reminded me how lucky I am that I get to bike to work. Many communities still don’t have safe routes, though that is slowly changing. Initiatives like Mass in Motion are working with partners across Massachusetts to make every community as bikeable as my community. The bike lanes, dedicated trails, and clear signage along my commute was the work of people I’ll never meet but who made it easy for me to make the healthy—and fun—choice.