Posts tagged ‘attitude’

April 8, 2012

30 Days of Biking: Why Week 1 Doesn’t Have 7 Days of Riding in It, and why that’s OK

The ride reports for 30 Days of Biking hold me accountable, but they can’t change what life throws at you, so I’m not going to ride 30 days in April. And you know what? I’m okay with that.

When I set a goal—for the first time ever—of riding a certain number of miles and a certain number of days this year, probably the wisest reaction I got was from Kent Peterson, who writes Kent’s Bike Blog. After providing a link to a mileage tracker that gives you medals, he said, “…in the past few years I’ve gone the complete opposite in terms of mileage and instrumentation. I haven’t had a mileage computer on my bike for a couple of years. I often take pictures and write down stories, however.”

Yes he does, and I enjoy reading those stories. He has chosen mindfulness (one of my three watchwords for 2012 riding) over record-keeping.

I have reflected on that wisdom several times as I’ve had various reasons for not riding. Being really sick was an obvious one, and it took a while to come back from that. While I’m pretty hardcore as far as the weather I’m willing to ride in, preferring fresh air and people-powered movement over other options, the winter that waited until early spring to show up has presented a few days when riding really would have represented misery, not joy. That’s not why I ride.

And then there was this week. After getting off to a start with two very different days I had a “normal” day—riding to work and back.

That was followed by a trainer day on which I chose to throw my bike on the trainer in the evening and pedal far longer than I would have on the road. I’d had to drive to Pullman and back that day in pretty blizzardy conditions—a freakish snowstorm pounded the Palouse so I had three hours of nerve-straining car mileage. All I would have managed on the street would have been another token loop around the block. Since I do ride for health benefits as well as joy and transportation, I decided to burn more calories and work on building endurance for longer rides with Sweet Hubs.

Friday and Saturday I didn’t ride.

I didn’t ride because one of my favorite uncles passed away very unexpectedly and I went to the funeral.

For a brief moment I flirted with the idea of breaking my bike down and packing it into the back of my sister’s car so I could do token rides around the block in Lewiston, Idaho, where we were born and where the service was held.

Really? I really would have put keeping on track with a self-imposed series of checkmarks on a list over and ahead of these things?

  • paying attention to my family
  • celebrating my uncle’s incredible life
  • laughing at funny stories compiled by my aunt about his shenanigans–he was always one for a good laugh and a practical joke
  • mourning his passing, which came just six days after they discovered he had the same kind of silent, insidious cancer that killed Steve Jobs
  • sitting and talking with my siblings and drinking wine
  • catching up with my cousins, including my cousin who looks so much like his now-gone dad that I cried every time I hugged him
  • visiting my parents and holding my mother’s hand while she told me long stories full of gibberish because she has vascular dementia but at least she still laughs and smiles
  • staying up late into the night talking with my younger sister in our shared hotel room and sharing a piece of chocolate cream pie for breakfast (hey, we were hungry and it has dairy, right?)

In another post I mentioned getting a lift home in my husband’s truck and why I don’t think of that as something for which I need to apologize, which I imagine comes as a surprise to people who think I’m “too hardcore” for that.

I’m not. And being with my family and realizing all over again how fragile and short life is, how important it is to make every moment count, for me reflects the reason I ride my bike—the reason I pay attention—at a far deeper level than a calendar ever could.

February 11, 2012

Unmindful Biking by Yours Truly

At times I try to approach biking as a genuine mindfulness meditation. The immersion of self into the experience feels really wonderful when I get there.

At times, though, I’m immersed in something more like dumb-ass-ness. Herewith, three stories of times I was not 100% mindful on the bike (all of which took place some time ago and believe me, I learn from each one):

Dumb #1

I’m 3rd in line (taking the lane) behind a car and a pick-up truck at a red light (westbound on Spokane Falls at Bernard, for you Spokanites–in front of FedEx Kinko’s).

Light turns green. Car goes. Pick-up goes. I go.

I look down to check what gear I’m in or some such.

Car stops for unknown reason. Pick-up stops. I am looking down so….

I run into back of pick-up, fall over, and scrape myself up badly enough that I’m still bleeding when I arrive at the meeting I’m going to.

Good news: The driver stopped to ask if I was okay and if I needed any help.

Dumb #2 (although I give myself lots of latitude on this one because of the cause)

I’m turning left onto the Southeast Boulevard bike lane from our street. As is our ritual whenever one of us leaves and the other is still at home, Sweetest Husband is on the front porch waving to me.

I make sure it’s safe to make the left turn but…. in my love for my sweetheart and my desire to wave back, I manage to take the turn a little too wide, clip the curb, and fall over, scraping my knee. (There is a theme here.)

Good news: Sweet Hubs didn’t see my fall so he didn’t have to be all alarmed and rush to my rescue. However, I may hear about this now that it has been confessed to the Gods of Google.

Dumb #3 (could have been life-ending)

Sometimes–for some deeply masochistic reason–I ride at least part of the way up Stevens on the South Hill. It’s a heart attack hill with four lanes that split into two two-lane roads, one climbing farther up the hill as Bernard, one swinging left and dropping down to join Grand Boulevard.

As I go more and more slowly up the hill I eventually give up and move to the sidewalk to push my bike up. Someday I’ll climb the whole thing again–I used to ride up Bernard on a heavy old big-box special I called the Iron Maiden.

For the record it’s a 6.8 percent climb for this particular stretch, from Fourth Avenue up to Ninth. If you search for a Google Maps route on this stretch with the Bike option they don’t put you on Washington at all; they quite wisely send you up the much quieter side street Bernard, where your huffing and puffing aren’t slowing people on a four-lane arterial.

As the lefthand lanes swing left they also top out. This is a relatively blind corner for drivers who are accelerating up the hill on a major arterial.

Map of a portion of South Stevens Street, Spokane, WA

You don't want to climb this unless you're in training. Besides being steep, it carries a sometimes scary volume of traffic around blind corners and drivers don't expect cyclists here.

Like an idiot–and I have done this more than once and lived to tell the tale–instead of continuing to push my bike on the sidewalk at this point I get into the lane, clip in and start riding again.

I do always check to make sure no cars are coming. Since there’s a traffic light a couple of blocks down it’s relatively easy to recognize a burst of traffic and wait for it to pass so you’re in a clear zone. But that’s no guarantee, as traffic can come from side streets out of sight around the corner.

On one particular occasion–the last time I ever did this maneuver–I had trouble getting started pedaling after I’d clipped in and almost fell over before I could get my foot free to catch myself.

My pulse raced beyond anything I’ve achieved on a hill climb as I realized how easily I could have died if a driver had come whipping uphill around that blind corner just then.

Good news: I learned the lesson without paying the ultimate price. Never again.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • I’ve confessed some of my dumb-ass-ness. What near-miss did you have that shook you out of some of your less mindful or more careless/complacent biking habits?
February 10, 2012

Mindful Driving, Mindful Biking, and “Accidents”–Part II

This post is Part II, continuing yesterday’s diatribe meditation on use of the word “accident” to describe a preventable negative interaction between a driver and a cyclist or pedestrian.

The conversations I often have after someone on a bike is hit tend to circle around the premise that riding a bike is an inherently risky choice of transportation.

1) First, a reminder of the point I made in Part I: The word “accident” often used in these incidents does NOT apply when someone is in error. 

2) If something does happen it’s not “caused” by riding your bike! 

You could be in a vehicle/vehicle collision, a vehicle/pedestrian collision, a lightning strike or an earthquake. Your choice to bike didn’t create the situation–the driver’s behavior (or yours) did.

When pedestrians get hit by a driver while in a crosswalk no one says, “You know, walking is so dangerous. People really shouldn’t do that.”

They talk about whether the walker or the driver wasn’t paying attention or was somehow at fault, but they don’t blame walking itself. (Nor do they blame driving, you might note.)

If I am riding my bike in the street, following state law and all local ordinances, if anything happens I am not at fault solely because of my choice of vehicle.

Yet that is what you hear when something happens–not, “Drivers and people on bikes should be aware of the laws concerning how to share the road” but rather, “Bikes should stay out of the way of cars.”

And so often people say “cars” instead of “drivers” in sentences like the previous one.

We’re talking about people, people–not their vehicles. It is people who make the choice about whether to behave safely, predictably, and legally. Let’s put a face on this problem and face up to it.

So do we all give in and quit riding our bikes and walking? Heck no—we need more people to get out there.

Conflicts between people riding bikes and people driving cars aren’t a new problem. The first automobile crash in the United States occurred in New York City in 1896, when a motor vehicle collided with a bicyclist.

Maybe now—116 years later—we can start to get a handle on this if we all drive, bike and walk more mindfully. Here’s to more fully aware drivers, bikers and walkers (aka “people”) on the road and fewer collisions (not “accidents”!) in 2012.

Related Reading

  • Can you honestly say that you drive, bike and walk with full mindfulness and awareness of your surroundings close to 100% of the time?
  • When you talk about something happening that involved a vehicle with an engine other than the human kind you use on your bike, do you refer to the car or the driver?
February 9, 2012

Mindful Driving, Mindful Biking, and “Accidents”–Part I

This post has its origins in my brush with fate this week, and before that in fall 2010, when two things happened within a few days of each other: Arleigh Jenkins AKA Bike Shop Girl (a blogger whose work I read) was hit by a car, then Matthew Hardie, a young rider in Spokane, was hit. He spent several months in a coma, then passed away just before Christmas 2010.

Because of Matthew the Spokesman-Review covered the “bicycle accidents” of 2010. But–possibly because no one has died recently–no such article was written as a round-up of statistics for 2011. “If it bleeds, it leads” still holds in the news business.

I have described my close encounter earlier this week with a driver who didn’t see me and pulled out in front of me. I was lucky–I had enough room and time in which to avoid the impact.

Matthew was not lucky. He was heading northbound on a steep downhill with the right-of-way on Lincoln; given the steepness of that hill he had to have been going faster than I was on my flat stretch between intersection stops the other day.

He collided with a car whose driver pulled out from a stop sign at Fourth Avenue. It was a classic failure-to-yield on the part of the driver (Matthew had the right of way). But because the initial reports said the cyclist hit the vehicle they made it sound as if it was the rider’s fault, to which the biking community reacted quite strongly.

Arleigh was also not lucky. She put out a comment on Twitter that she was still struggling to reconcile the fact that she’d put much of her passion into promoting biking and had been injured riding her bike by a driver who turned left into her when she had the right of way. She’s back in the saddle now, but it took a while, with quite a bit of off-road riding before she re-entered traffic.

It has been over a year since these incidents happened to others. My own is fresh and vivid, and made me think back to their stories.

With each of these events I get more passionate about two things.

For the first I need to thank Cindy Green, a bike-commuting former Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board member who works at the Spokane Regional Health District. She got me to pay more attention to my language and usage—ironic since I majored in English and linguistics.

1) The word “accident” often used in these incidents does NOT apply when someone is in error. The someone could be the person on the bike, too, but that wasn’t the case in these two collisions, nor was it the case in my avoided collision.

“Accident” means “no one could have done anything to prevent this from happening.” The Spokesman-Review’s characterization of four fatalities in 2010 as “bicycle accidents” is thus way, way off base.

In two of the cases cited in the Spokesman piece the drivers were drinking. Putting down a few shots or beers and getting into your 4,000-pound vehicle-turned-lethal-weapon car is not an “accident.”

It’s a stupid, stupid choice. Those deaths were 100% preventable: no drunk driver, no dead cyclist.

When a driver doesn’t see a cyclist, that potential collision is also preventable if the driver:

  • looks again,
  • is one who is aware that bikes are on the road so the “look” isn’t really just a token head turn without eyes focusing and looking for moving objects that aren’t vehicles (admit it—you’ve done that, and the driver I encountered earlier this week certainly did that),
  • drives mindfully,
  • doesn’t text,
  • isn’t reaching for a Big Gulp or fiddling with the radio station or….

Ditto for the person on the bike who is:

  • looking down to adjust the fitting on a shoe,
  • sneaking up (illegally) on the right side of a car into the driver’s blind spot to duck past a long line of stopped cars,
  • riding on the sidewalk and then popping out into the street unexpectedly and unpredictably,
  • assuming that driver sees him/her (since I’m more vulnerable on my bike than you are in your car I tend to figure it’s in my best interests to own more than 50 percent of the prevention planning),
  • blowing a stop sign because he’s too cool to unclip and put his foot down….

Let’s all ban the word “accident” from our vocabulary except when it truly applies. It’s a collision or a crash or an impact when a driver hits you or you hit a driver or someone hits a pedestrian or a pedestrian steps out in front of someone using wheels–but it’s no accident.

2) The second item speaks to the fear I hear from people who thinking riding a bike is inherently unsafe. I’ll post that as Part II.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you think about the language used to describe [euphemism alert!] “negative interactions” between people on bikes and people using other forms of transportation?
February 8, 2012

It Pays to Pay Attention

Back in the saddle again after almost a week in New York City, where people on bikes share streets with New York cabbies and millions of people, and what happens? Tuesday morning I have possibly my closest call ever with a moving vehicle, reinforcing yet again the importance of mindfulness for safe riding.

The scenario: I am riding northbound on Sherman between Fifth and Third, in a stretch that has two vehicle travel lanes and no bike lane.

I need to move into the lefthand lane because I want to be in the turn-only lane to head west on Second, which is a newly paved street (and a bike route). I always make this lane change in this block because the block between Third and Second is really short. There isn’t much time or room in that stretch so I am making a safer move by executing my lane change here–usually.

I do what I always do for a lane change. I look back to make sure the lane is clear, signal the lane change with an outflung left arm, and move into the left lane.

At the same time I am keeping an eye on a big white SUV a few yards ahead that is waiting to pull out of the Primesource Credit Union parking lot on the left side of the street and into the street on which I am riding.

This is the mindfulness part: Always be scanning your environment. Always.

My Sweet Hubs, who spent years in the Marine Corps (active duty and reserves), calls this “situational awareness.” You need mindfulness/awareness when you ride the way you need tires and brakes: essential equipment for arriving at your destination.

I see the gray-haired driver turn her head in my direction. I can tell from the way she does it that this is one of those fake scans. She turns her head but I will bet you anything her eyeballs don’t fully register what is coming downhill toward her. She doesn’t keep her face pointed uphill long enough to see for real.

I know for darn sure she doesn’t see me because she pulls out directly into my path.

I see this coming and am hitting the brakes, turning in the same direction she is heading because that’s how you avoid a collision.

But she isn’t turning into the closest lane to her—the legal turn—the lane I was occupying when she initiated this game of chicken.

Instead she is turning into the second, farther lane, the haven I’m seeking as I maneuver to avoid hitting her. (Oh, the irony—if we collide it will be me hitting her because she pulled out into my path. Who is at fault here?)

She ends up in the righthand lane. I am behind her, my heart going 60,000 miles per hour. I ride up behind and knock a couple of times on her rear quarter-panel, wanting her to see the cyclist who is now behind her. At least I’m not under her.

She makes the right turn onto Third, driving slowly and looking back to see if I’m following, now that I finally have her attention.

I debate rapidly in this moment. Should I turn behind her and wave her into a parking lot, talk with her, tell her how close she came to injuring or killing me through her sloppy and inattentive driving?

Perhaps wrongly, I decide against this. I proceed on my way, and so does the driver of a late-model white SUV, Idaho plates 7B 533. She’s from Bonner County—that’s what the 7B on her plate signifies. That’s an incredibly low license plate number so she’s had it for many years. (I used to live in Idaho; low numbers are a point of pride because they signify you’re not a newcomer.)

At this moment I am strongly reminded of the near-miss I had as a pedestrian a few years ago in the middle of the campus where I work. That driver, too, was gray-haired and not looking.

I am reminded of my father, whose driver’s license was the subject of years of effort before we could get him off the road and end the danger to others that he represented when he kept driving long after his hearing went and after any belief he’d had in the need to follow instructions on traffic signs (like, say, “stop”) had evaporated.

I am reminded of the bicycle/vehicle collisions in our area–some of which have resulted in fatalities and ghost bikes planted as memorials–and collisions around the country that I read about on biking blogs.

I am reminded—yet again—that mindfulness is the most important cycling skill I have.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you have a near-miss story?
  • Who wasn’t paying attention?
January 19, 2012

On Getting From Here to There–A Betsy Post

A guest post by Betsy Lawrence, AKA “yogaprof,” the founder of Belles and Baskets

I have written previously about how I began bike commuting; now here are a few lessons I have discovered along the way.

Lesson one: Be flexible

Once I committed to biking to work, I started the work of fine-tuning my commute. I soon realized one of my favorite things about commuting by bike—it challenges the brain. I am constantly watching, assessing, and switching my plans.

For example, the first time I biked to work, I crossed the Greene Street Bridge by riding in the car lane. I know the rules—ride a bike as though it is a car. That day I learned to sometimes break that rule. This bridge is a very narrow four lanes and packed with trucks and cars.

I was terrified and realized the sidewalk is a much better choice. It is rarely used, and whenever I see pedestrians on the sidewalk, I get off my bike and wait for them to pass.

I often have to tweak my route or wait for an unexpected delay. Flexibility is part of bike commuting and is good for the brain.

Lesson two: Create a route that feels comfortable to you

I have had to rework my route several times due to road construction. While trying to come up with a new route, I learned that following the advice of a male friend who is a hard-core commuter was not the best plan. I ended up cycling along busy streets in industrial areas, surrounded by stinky vehicles and passing endless buildings and parking lots. The only wildlife I saw was an occasional pit bull or dead rat. That is not what I want out of my ride.

Now when I need to change my route because of construction, I choose to go the more picturesque way; an additional five minutes of biking that is pleasant is preferable to saving time but losing my lungs.

Lesson three: Break the commute into several short trips

To keep my ride from feeling daunting, I mentally break it into four segments: a ride to Barb’s house, a ride downtown, a ride to the river, and a ride to work.

Each segment consists of different terrain, neighborhoods and sometimes even temperature. I can mentally high-five myself after each portion and prepare for the next. It’s not an eight-mile ride; it’s four, two-mile rides, each with its own delights.

And most importantly, lesson four: Enjoy the view and say “hello”

I am privileged to have the option to bike commute. I have a nice, economical car, a pre-paid bus pass, and plenty of time. I am allowed the choice to cycle, and I choose to make it pleasurable.

I have the delight of riding along the Spokane River for a few miles when I bike commute. I see geese, ducks, and dog walkers. While that segment is easy to enjoy, even the most urban parts of my ride have their pleasures: the people I see.

I make it a point to say hello to everyone I pass (yes, EVERYONE) from spandexed runners, to street people with their shopping carts, to kids on skateboards, to folks exiting their Hummers. I figure these moments allow my community to see that cyclists are nice people and they give me the lift as well. I keep my eyes up and enjoy the view of nature and my neighbors. I feel immense gratitude when I can bike to work, and I hope to share that joy with everyone I pass.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What bike commuting lessons have you learned along the way that you share with beginners?
January 17, 2012

My Favorite Posts of 2011: A Blogspedition in Bike Style

I launched this blog May 1, 2011, at the beginning of Spokane Bike Month and National Bicycling Month, after nearly three years of blogging about biking and a lot of miscellany over at Bike to Work Barb.

Not knowing what kind of blogging pace I could keep up, I started out cautiously, then picked up steam. Celebrating 30 Days of Biking with my own 30 Days of Biking Blogging showed me that I could find plenty of fodder as long as I made the time to write.

I’ve slowed down the writing a bit–it’s winter and hibernation season, after all–but am happy to report that the fodder keeps coming and the blog is gaining readers and views. For that, much thanks!

As I look forward to 2012 I thought I’d look back at 2011 and pick out my favorite posts, as well as tell you which ones were tops for views.

It’s tough since they’re all my children and we don’t have any favorite children, right? Some of these are ones I think deserve more readers than they’ve had so far; others capture something near and dear to my heart.

First, my personal favorites:

Now for the ones the stats say are the winners:

Related Reading

  • All the other posts

Your Turn

  • What was your favorite post and why?
January 14, 2012

Seeing with New Eyes

Sometimes I Would Like New Eyes, by Andrew Coulter Enright. Used under Creative Commons license.

Taking up biking for transportation has given me the same experience that becoming a mother did. No, not endless anxiety, sleepless nights, and sh**—well, at least not too much of the latter—but rather the experience of learning just how much the world was designed not for you, but against you, by people who do not share your particular circumstances.

You chose these circumstances. You love these circumstances and they bring you joy no matter what. But better design would make it a bit easier to enjoy these circumstances.

Disclaimer: I do not present these thoughts under the assumption that the entire world should be redesigned for new moms and women on bikes (although heavens, what a civilized world that would make).

I ask you only to consider what it might be like for someone whose circumstances differ from yours—to try to look through their eyes a bit and consider whether you can make some adjustments that accommodate more ways of viewing the world. We all wear blinders; can you take yours off?

I have never taken part in one of those days where you take on a particular disability to learn what the world can feel like from that vantage point, the way City Councilman Jon Snyder did when he spent the day in a wheelchair. But wrestling a baby stroller into and out of buildings that lacked automatic doors certainly made me wonder how people in wheelchairs could possibly manage (and probably made me a better Idaho state legislator and later a better grantwriter for a disability rights organization).

When I had my first baby (who’s all grown up now!) I began a voyage of discovery, as Marcel Proust would have it: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” 

Dealing with the needs of a baby or child when surrounded by people who don’t have one, as any parent can tell you, often gives you a new lens through which to view the world.

Riding a bike for transportation has taken me on another voyage and given me new eyes as well. Most parts of this voyage give me great joy. What I get to do on my bike:

  • See my city from a fresh vantage point, without the isolating barrier of over 3,000 pounds of steel, glass, and assorted petroleum products wrapped around me.
  • Make actual eye contact with people out walking, biking, or driving. smile, and connect.
  • Give directions to lost drivers who can’t ask another driver, because how would you?
  • Notice details I never saw in all the years I drove: architectural features on buildings, interesting signage, side streets that offer a different route to my destination.
  • Spot businesses I had no idea even existed that I make a mental note about so I can come back and check them out—or I stop on the spot because I don’t have to search for a parking place so I feel free to make these spontaneous decisions.

If you have never ridden a bike on streets you usually drive, you have no idea what you don’t see.

Then there’s the flip side—the one created by design that leaves you out.

I remember pushing my stroller into a crowded conference room and realizing there was nowhere to stash it—because women with babies were not expected in those particular marble hallways.

Similarly, taking your bike to a destination that has nowhere to lock your bike or store it securely presents you with something you have to figure out. People who don’t have strollers or bikes to deal with don’t see the lack of facilities.

While the vast majority of the time it’s easier to stow my bike than it was to stow my baby stroller (which I could never have left locked to a signpost on the street), I still encounter obstructions, lack of a good fixture to lock to, bike racks installed too close to the wall of the building to be usable, and other design barriers.

That’s just one example.

Then there are the other barriers: The ones not presented by design of things but rather design of events.

If you’re a new mom, is the event held at a location that permits you to step aside and breastfeed discreetly? (Somewhere other than in the bathroom, please—would you want to eat your lunch in the can?) Will the bathroom have a space for diaper changes?

If you’re riding your bike to a destination, did the organizers send out any transportation information other than where to park your (assumed) car? Say, telling you about the availability of bike racks or the transit route and stop that serve the destination? Is the location even served by transit? If there are no bike facilities will you be allowed to bring your bike inside for safe storage?

Is the event meant to go late into the night so you end up with a fussy child or an expensive babysitting tab?

Is the event meant to go late into the night so you’re biking home in the dark? I enjoy riding in the dark but it can present more hazards than daytime riding and not everyone is comfortable with it.

The next time you’re designing something, whether it’s a building or a meeting, take a look at it with new eyes. If you weren’t you­—if you were someone with very different circumstances—how would it work for you?

And if you haven’t gone out to take a look at your world from the saddle of a bicycle, I highly recommend it. That’s a set of lenses you may just never want to take off.

(As for parenthood, that’s a call you’d better make on your own.)

Afterthought: Perhaps this metaphor has particular power for me because I’ve worn glasses since I was five years old. I’m terribly nearsighted–and now have the joy of adding farsightedness to the mix as I get just an eensy-teensy bit older. Being able to see clearly is not something I can afford to take for granted.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What design issues have you encountered–of places, events, or other things?
  • What parallels between biking and some other activity do you see?
January 12, 2012

What I Saw Taking the Road Less Traveled (by Me, That Is)

I made variety one of my watchwords for my 2012 biking, along with consistency and mindfulness. On my Wednesday ride I put all three to work, and thought I’d share a little ride report to show them in action.

Consistency: I went home from work Tuesday with a migraine (luckily pretty rare for me now—once much more common) and was still under the weather Wednesday. I swear migraines give me a hangover! It’s a sick headache feeling at the back of the skull, plus the headache kept trying to creep back.

Luckily I had almost no meetings Wednesday (also pretty rare) except for one at the end of the day. To stay consistent, and because I know cold fresh air does wonders for me, I rode from home to the meeting in downtown.

Variety: I varied my route both directions. Going downtown I took Rockwood Boulevard to Washington (woot for the rapid downhill!).

When I take that route to downtown usually I’d use Riverside to get to Post, my destination street. Instead I took Second Avenue. This was around 4 p.m. and, per my usual experience on Second, with its three wide-open westbound lanes, stoplights, and typical traffic load I had absolutely no problem keeping up with the flow of traffic—a point I make because of repeated assertions that Second wouldn’t work as a bike route.

Instead of turning north on Howard, with its bike lane, I went to Post. This did a couple of things: It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to take Sweet Hubs the carnivore out to dinner at Churchill’s Steakhouse (where I, the vegetarian, will eat a baked potato or their Cougar Gold mac ‘n cheese).

It also gave me a longer perspective on River Park Square, reminding me of what it felt like around 13 or so years ago to go to the grand opening and see that big glass façade at the end of Post. Usually I’m much closer to it, for example riding to or past it on Main, so this isn’t a view I see unless I look up or look from a different angle, which brings me to….

Mindfulness: I was right—I’m in a rut! I had to think about choosing a different route that would let me check out different traffic interactions and intersections and let me see with new eyes.

I remember years ago when I moved back to Spokane from Coeur d’Alene and was able to give up my long drive to/from work. One of the first days after moving I started to get on the freeway headed east toward Coeur d’Alene without even realizing it—just automatically got in that lane for that on-ramp instead of this direction for this destination. It happens on the bike too!

On the way home Wednesday night I (ahem) passed on the “opportunity” to change my usual route by climbing either Bernard or Cowley (heart attack hills, both of ’em).

Variety meant turning south one block before the intersection of Fifth and Sherman, a four-way stop on my usual route home.

Instead I climbed a block on Grant to Hartson, then took it to Sherman. The advantage of this route is that if the traffic backs up at the four-way stop I can skip all that and get straight into the bike lane that starts just south of that intersection.

I do like gaming the system at the stop, though—seeing if I can s-l-o-w-l-y keep pedaling up the hill as cars take their turns and never actually stop and put a foot to the ground before it’s my turn to take the right turn up the hill.

At any rate, I’m glad I consciously adopted some goals for my riding, both in terms of days/miles and in terms of how I approach my riding. I’ve never done this before—it will be interesting to see how it goes over the course of the year.

Ride Report

  • Days ridden in 2012 (as of Wednesday, Jan. 11): 9 of 11 days (goal is 250 days)
  • Miles: 57.17 miles. My goal is 1,200, which is only 100 miles a month. It already feels as if I set the target a bit low, but that’s okay–management of expectations, right?

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What routes and turns do you find yourself making without thinking about it? (just like a driver)
January 11, 2012

3 Words for 2012 Biking

Several of the people whose writing and social media work I admire—such as Chris BroganChristopher PennJustin Levy, and C.C. Chapman, who pointed me to all the others I list—wrote New Year’s posts on the theme of choosing three words as your guiding stars for the year.

They meant for life in general or for your professional efforts. I thought I’d extend the idea into biking after I looked back at my riding in 2011 (which I was able to do because I logged it).

Consistency—I’ve set goals based on my 2011 riding. The number of days I intend to ride, 250, is a stretch goal—it would mean increasing my riding days by over a month’s worth of riding. This will require me to be consistent in my riding habits. I mostly am, but by setting a specific target, similar to what happened when I successfully completed 30 Days of Biking in September, I expect to be more conscious of the days I don’t ride, and to examine the reasons why.

Variety is the spice of life (words over background of spices)Variety—The flip side of consistency is variety. As I looked back at 2011 I realized I did no really long rides with my sweetheart—something we did a lot more of in previous years. Those days where we set off to ride to Valleyford for coffee and back, which gives us over 30 miles (no biggie for him but a high-mileage day for me), go explore northward, or take a whole Saturday to ride to Coeur d’Alene and back are wonderful time together.

They require me to build up my tolerance for higher mileage, which gets me back to consistency (and possibly even–gulp–training). They’re quite different from the commuting mileage since we ride steadily for long periods of time. Heck, I even wear padded shorts for these rides!

Besides taking more rides of a different type than my daily rounds—home, campus, downtown, grocery store, home—I want to mix up my commuting and errand routes a bit and explore more side streets. I consider that one of the bonuses of biking, since it’s so easy to choose to peel off one block sooner or later than you usually do and you get to see—really see—what that new street holds.

Bikespeditions offer a great excuse for some exploring, of course, as does coffeeneuring. Belles and Baskets rides give me some variety too, and thinking like a bicyclist rather than like a driver puts me on different routes.

Be here now.Mindfulness—This one is on the list as a need and as a want. I need to focus on this because I’ve been noticing that I occasionally do one of those “non-looks” to check for oncoming traffic, pedestrians, and other people on bikes. I’m setting myself up for a preventable collision if I get sloppy and stop paying real attention to the conditions around me. This is probably a side effect of experience, and not a good one.

I want to focus on this because this is one of the joys and bonuses of cycling. Away from all technology, not reachable by phone (unlike you in the car. Hey! Put down that phone and drive!), unable to tweet or post a status update, I can live fully in the moment. But that doesn’t happen if I’m not aware of that moment as it happens.

To be consistent will require mindfulness so I don’t let good riding days slip away accidentally. Riding new routes will eliminate the complacency that has set in and wake up my mind so I pay more attention–also known as mindfulness. Hey, this just might work.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • If you were to choose three words to represent your focus or goals for your riding in 2012, what would they be and why?
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