Posts tagged ‘health’

March 14, 2012

Why a Cyclist Needs a Pedometer

StepUp Spokane pedometer

Not nearly enough steps showing on this baby! Take the stairs, take the stairs, take the stairs....

I’m going to blow my cover here. What with being a poster girl for riding a bike in all kinds of clothes and all kinds of weather, I have people reasonably convinced that I’m “active.”

They say that very thing: “Oh, you’re so active!” Like yeast, or yogurt cultures.

The truth is that I bike because I’m lazy. A pedometer proves that in no uncertain terms, which is why I need to wear one.

I like keeping track of my healthy activities in a log—seeing all those days when I do something gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes me want to keep the string going. When I started adding steps to the bike mileage, that gave me a reality check on just how little I do some days!

Here’s why: My ride to work is a hair under 2.5 miles, which takes me around 9 minutes of pedaling (under 9 if I “race”). If I don’t run any errands or go to meetings and ride home at the end of the day, I’ve done under 5 miles—around 23 minutes total riding time or thereabouts (hey, it’s uphill on the way home—takes longer).

I don’t ride fast because I don’t particularly want to sweat, so this isn’t vigorous training time.

When I get to work I may think, “I rode my bike to work, didn’t I?” and take the elevator to my fifth-floor office.

If I plug that bit of bike time into a standard activity calculator like the StepUp Spokane one that translates time into steps, it’s around 4,600 steps—less than half of the healthy target of 10,000 steps per day.

If I have a day that doesn’t involve meetings outside the office, it’s probably also a day plugged into my two-monitor set-up so tightly I may as well be physically jacked into the system. I sit-sit-sit, staring at the screen, leaning forward a little in my chair until the backs of my legs go dead.

What I do not do is get up and walk around.

But if I’m wearing the pedometer, that moment of arrival at the building represents a chance to rack up steps climbing the stairs to my office. I get up and walk down the hall to talk to a colleague instead of shooting her an email (crazy, I know!). I may take a stretch break and walk down a couple of flights and back up. I walk down the stairs at the end of the day.

Wearing the pedometer is the first step (walking pun!). But it’s the power of writing it down and looking at patterns that really makes this work. If I wore a pedometer but didn’t log the data I wouldn’t have any sense of how one day compares to another. I wouldn’t be able to recognize that riding my bike gives me the illusion of more activity than is actually occurring.

And I wouldn’t have the sense of satisfaction I get on a “high mileage” day: one that includes lots of walking in addition to biking.

This post originally appeared on StepUp Spokane.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Are you a recordkeeper when it comes to your health and fitness?
  • How does that make a difference in your behavior and choices?
February 23, 2012

They’re Coming Back! Spring and Health

Reasonably good indicators on both fronts: returning health, and returning spring. Biking keeps me attuned to both conditions–my physical well-being and the turning of the seasons–in ways that driving could never provide.

Health: My uphill ride home is a real indicator of whether I’ve shaken off whatever crud has attacked.

Not good: I sound like someone you’d want beginning nurses and doctors to listen to with a stethoscope for the definition of the word “rales” because I’m still crackling like a bowl of Rice Krispies.

Not good: Still a most unladylike amount of nasal fluids being produced.

Good: On the last couple of climbs toward home I’m no longer in first gear–I’m in third. Woohoo! These are hills that I usually do in the middle ring of my front derailleur, not the little ring, so I still have a way to go, but this is progress.

Spring: Like fall, it’s another shoulder season when I start playing “musical layers”–take off one, take off another one, decide I need that one for a few more days after all….

I also play musical gloves: lobster-claws in the morning, five-fingered in the afternoon because my hands would sweat in the lobsters.

Right now I need to be dressed more warmly for the ride to work because I create more speed and thus more windchill factor going downhill, it’s colder in the morning, and I don’t have the warmth of working to go uphill. In full summer it’s the same morning and afternoon.

Today’s outfit:

  • Black cotton/Lycra leggings
  • Lightweight Helle Hansen long johns–not the thick Hot Chilis I was wearing a few weeks ago
  • Wool socks
  • Tall gray boots (a souvenir of my trip to New York City with Second Daughter)
  • Camisole
  • Microweight cream-colored long-sleeved wool tee from Swrve
  • Gray cable-knit hoodie sweater from REI
  • Cute scarf
  • Morning: Windbreaker, lobster-claw gloves
  • Afternoon: Stopped halfway home to take off the windbreaker; five-finger gloves
  • Long gone: The face mask I was wearing to block windchill and warm my breath; a cap under the helmet; fleece neckwarmer; another layer of wool stockings under the long johns and leggings

Biggest indicators of all that we’re turning toward spring: blue skies, fat, puffy clouds instead of gray overcast dullness, birds chirping, and the sunlight on the road as I headed home around 3:30 (can’t quite hack a whole day yet).

I can’t wait for full spring and full health. Meanwhile, the bike helps me feel more optimistic about both coming back soon!

Ride Report

  • Days ridden: 27/54 (goal is 250 days this year–travel and illness are hurting my percentages right now but I’ll get back on track)
  • Miles: 203.5 (goal for 2012 is 1,200)

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Did you ride today?
February 20, 2012

A Weak Week–Coming Back from the Flu

I had been thinking recently about writing a post on how strong biking makes me feel. Instead, this week being on the bike will force me to acknowledge physical weakness. I got back on the bike this morning after being home on the sofa for a full week, sick with an upper-respiratory flu that I haven’t really shaken yet.

This has become a bit of an unwelcome spring ritual the last few years, this nasty bug. Whether or not I get a flu shot (and I usually do but missed it this year), I seem to come down with a crud that knocks me off my feet and onto the sofa, where I lie doing abs workouts in the form of gut-wrenching coughs and concerto-style nose-blowing. I drink lots of water and herbal tea and take a few symptom-relief meds and wait it out, the way my mother would have handled it.

Every year I go through the same thing coming back. The first day I think I can put in at least a partial day at the office, I go ahead and get on the bike to ride, because that’s my habit. Downhill to work isn’t so bad. My office mates may not have appreciated the “productive” coughs I served up all day (which make me feel so unproductive), but I survived.

It’s the uphill climb coming back that really tells me I’ve been sick. I can listen to the congestion in my chest rattling as I suck wind. I gear way, way down compared to what I’d usually be in to climb. I pedal more slowly. I really, really appreciate “missing” the stoplight because then I can stop and breathe.

And since it was chilly this morning I sure wished my lobster-claw gloves had a nose-wiping patch. My nose usually runs like a faucet anyway when I ride, but it’s more fire-hydrant level at this point. (What’s that? Too much information? Sorry about that. Forgot the “style” part of this blog for a minute there….)

So why do I do it? Why not just take the easy way out and pick up the car keys?

Well, apart from all the hassle that driving represents for me, I’d honestly rather be out in the fresh air, even feeling a bit shaky, then stuck inside the car. I feel as if I’m on the road to recovery if I follow my usual habits, rather than giving in. The ride uphill on the way home becomes a barometer for my real recovery. I may be up and walking around and able to go to work, but until I can pedal home breathing normally and not have to granny-gear the last couple of hills, I’m not really well.

I’d really rather ride, even sick, than not ride.

Your Turn

  • When you’re sick do you lay off the riding as part of your recovery?
  • How do you know when you’re ready to start riding again?
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January 28, 2012

Biking Is Good for Us: An Infographic “Duh”

Even though the title on this post is a big “duh!” for those of us who ride, other may not be aware of some of the benefits. This infographic has been making the rounds and I thought it was worth sharing.

Biking And Health
Created by: Healthcare Management Degree

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January 25, 2012

Getting Healthy: The Blogspedition Looks at Biking for Weight Loss

Weight loss may or may not be your personal inspiration for getting on the bike, but plenty of women appreciate the ease of putting a little exercise into each day with bike commuting. Others gut it out on the trainer to attain personal goals in racing. Still others approach it as a chore because they want to lose weight specifically. Any way you slice it, biking burns more calories than sitting on the sofa with a bag o’ chips.

I’m not talking about trying for an unrealistic uber-skinny body, mind you. I’ve already blogged about the notion that a healthy body image isn’t tied to fitting into a specific dress size.

I’m talking about the basic level of activity that’s recommended by the American Heart Association for good health. They specifically mention dividing your moving-around efforts into two or three chunks of 10-15 minutes each, which is almost precisely how my typical bike commuting takes place.

This blogspedition rounds up a few posts and blogs that feature this topic:

For a weight-loss bonus, give blood. Some of you may remember the saying, “A pint’s a pound the world around” as a way of remembering measurements in the kitchen. Turns out it’s true at the blood bank too! Give a pint of blood and lose a pound, then burn some more calories as your body kicks up its production of replacement blood cells–all while you help save a life. What could be healthier than that?

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Is riding a bike part of a weight-control or weight-loss effort for you?
  • How’s it going?
  • Or does a post on weight loss piss you off because it seems to buy into unrealistic body-image issues for women?
January 8, 2012

A Training Ride–to the Fabric Store

My dear Sweet Hubs trains seriously for the racing season. He measures things like watts, wishes he could test his VOmax regularly, talks eagerly about having his leg core-sampled to know his exact proportion of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers, and does intervals in our front room, watching a movie and using some software he wrote so he can make sure to ride like crazy and make it hurt.

I, on the other hand, do not.

But living with a guy who reads books like Bicycling Science and The Advanced Cyclist’s Training Manual (which he doesn’t find sufficiently advanced) for fun does have its effects.

For example, I know about the concept of training stimulus. If you ask your body to do the same thing day after day–like, say, ride the same basic route to work and home again–it gets very good at doing just that, but not much more.

If, on the other hand, you challenge it in a new way–by riding farther, or faster, or with more challenging hills in the route–the body responds to the training stimulus.

I think of it like this. Day after day, I ask my leg muscles, heart, lungs, and arms (you do use your arms in biking) to do roughly the same amount of work. The “team” I have on hand is plenty to do that job. If I ask a lot more of my team, the existing muscle cells say to each other, “Whoa–I do not want to work that hard again! We need some friends.” So they literally recruit new muscle fibers to be ready for the next time.

Saturday’s ride, therefore, was a “training ride.”

I rode up to the northside Jo Ann’s for a fun shopping expedition with Eldest Daughter that involved lots of time in the yarn aisles (to come: future soft baby pink afghan for Second Daughter’s high school graduation, a very pretty shrug for me in an ocean blue, a pair of long fingerless gloves in ivory for me I’ve been wanting forever for my computer time at home because we keep the heat turned down pretty low, and a slouchy beanie-type hat for Eldest Daughter in a gorgeous teal that matches a scarf I gave her for Christmas. What can I say? They had a sale.). It also involved lots of time looking at scrapbooking and card-making materials; one of these days she’s going to start making bike-themed cards for me to sell.

What made this a training ride? Well, for one thing it was a fair amount longer than my usual route to work and back and the miles were accumulated in big chunks instead of the piecemeal approach that makes up a typical work day with meetings out of the office. So I rode steadily for about 35 minutes just to get to the store–that’s different.

It also involved a stiff hill climb up the Post Street hill, which Spokane riders will know as a nice challenge (or as, “that hill heading to Garland where there’s no sidewalk northbound but I can walk in the tiny grass strip if I have to and push my bike because it’s so freakin’ steep!”). It definitely makes my heart pound in a different way than my sprints through rush-hour traffic.

On the way home I broke my ride into two chunks–we stopped in the Garland District for a snack at the Rocket Bakery–and I got to whiz down the same hill I had climbed with heart pounding on the way north. So it certainly felt like an easier ride, although I always like to point out that I finish my southbound route home with a hill climb because downtown Spokane sits in a bowl.

And again, it was a longer ride than my typical little 7-minute dash from campus to downtown. I’ve mentioned more than once that the reason bike commuting is easy is specifically because most of the mileage comes in these small, sweat-free doses, but that means I’m not challenging myself.

For me to get serious benefit from this particular ride’s training impulse, I would need to keep taking on different types of rides that mix up the demands I place on my body for riding. I’m not proposing to do intervals every few days or monitor my training stress score like Sweet Hubs, but I do want to challenge myself. A few more hill climbs and long rides this year, I think.

Ride Report

  • Days ridden in 2012: 6 of 7 (as of Saturday, Jan. 7; goal is 250 or more)
  • Miles: 45.3 (goal: 1,200 or more)

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you do things that actually involve training for your rides?
  • On purpose?
January 1, 2012

An Easy New Year’s Resolution: Write It Down


I no longer succumb to New Year’s-induced magical thinking: “I’ll lose weight! Exercise every day! Meditate! File my taxes early! Organize the basement and keep it organized!” In fact, I think it makes a lot more sense to start new things in the fall during back-to-school season, when the days still provide plenty of mood-enhancing sunshine.

But there’s one really easy resolution that can make a difference in your biking and it doesn’t cost a thing: Write it down.

What I’m suggesting is that you start a biking log in which you record your riding.

Nothing fancy required: I use a cheap composition book for my health log. I do find it makes a difference if I can look at my exercise pattern visually, so I draw a little calendar on a page for a month at a time as well as making notes in a linear fashion for each day.

You can go really minimalist and just mark a star on a calendar every day that you ride, which would be more than enough. When you start seeing the stars line up you’ll realize you’re really on a roll, so to speak (yes, I have a terrible, terrible weakness for bike puns), and you’ll want to keep rolling.

Or you can take it a little farther and write down the mileage (for which you’ll need a cyclometer on your bike—visit your local bike shop if you don’t have one). If you write down the time, too, which your cyclometer will record for you along with mileage, you’ll have additional data.

Why do this? Well, for one thing, there’s plenty of evidence that the simple act of writing something down encourages the behavioral change you seek. You create accountability and become more conscious of the behavior.

For another thing, if you’re the kind of person who needs to see visible progress to feel encouraged to continue, keeping track lets you see patterns.

Maybe you accomplish the same number of miles in a shorter time after a while (kind of like my little race with myself on my ride to work). Maybe you ride more miles. Maybe you ride more days in a week, or a month, or the year.

But you don’t have to set any goals or crunch any data. You can just write it down.

I’ve kept a health log for years in which I make notes about things I may want to talk to my primary care provider about, note my exercise, occasionally keep a food diary, and record my weight every so often.

Because I do that I can look back and see how many days I rode my bike outside in 2011 (196) and on the trainer (7 in January when it was really snowy), and how many miles I rode (1175.03 outside that got captured plus a few more on a couple of days the cyclometer didn’t register, alas; 90.1 on the trainer).

In 2012 my goal is to ride 250 days and 1200 or more miles. Why this is realistic:

  • I know what factors kept me from riding some days in 2011 (two bad bouts of flu, business travel, and a vacation that didn’t include biking).
  • I know that setting a goal matters because the commitment for 30 Days of Biking really did make a difference in my riding.
  • I’m setting realistic goals because I have a baseline.

And all because I started writing it down.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you keep track of your biking? What do you use?
  • Did you set biking goals for 2011? If so, how did that go?
  • Do you have any biking goals for 2012? (If you’re on Facebook, check out the question posted Dec. 31, 2011, on the Bike Style Spokane page and answer there too)


August 16, 2011

On a Roll with Angela Brown

Angela Brown of Spokane rode Seattle to Portland in 2009

Angela Brown at the 2009 STP (Seattle to Portland) ride.

Name: Angela Brown

Location: Spokane

Things Angela does:  Roots and Wings International Board member, WSU Alumni Board and African American Chapter President, Fundraising Volunteer for Act Six Spokane, Partner of Higher Level Consulting, Co-founder, Director of Employment Services for Spokane Public Schools

Who or what made a difference in your life that got you on a bike?

I had a child late in life, which was a catalyst to stay healthy.  I’ve always been athletic, but my weight has always gone up and down.  Along with that, I have a family history of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. With a bum knee (from athletics!), my orthopedic surgeon encouraged me to try swimming or cycling.

And with my personality, I couldn’t just “try it”–I plunged in and decided to sign up for the STP (Seattle to Portland ride).  With such a large goal in mind, and the fact that I’m too cheap to pay for registration and not use it, I started training with a good friend of mine.  That was in 2007 and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Tell me about your bike(s) and accessories. 

I love my bike!  It’s a Specialized Dolce.  Everything on it and my accessories are black and pink…including my Camelbak!  My uncle ordered my shoes for me from Specialized and they were actually made to match the bike.  He hadn’t seen my bike at the time, so it was a crazy fluke.

I actually purchased my newest bike accessory from Bike Style Spokane, which is the little square wallet by Po Campo I can carry my ID in when I cycle.  I’ve been using a Coach wallet and it’s too bulky and not waterproof.

What type(s) of riding do you do? How often, what destinations, and how far? 

I try to ride every week and the distance just depends on how much time I have.  If it’s during lunch, it’s a quick 10-mile ride on the Centennial Trail.  I’ve been training for a sprint triathlon, so I’ve been riding between 10-16 miles on the Fish Lake Trail and then doing a 2-3 mile run.  (Ugh.)  If I’m training for the STP or MS Idaho Ride, I’ll do 25-70 miles depending on how close it is to ride day.  I try to ride to work sometimes, but it’s difficult to manage for me.  That’s 5 miles roundtrip.

What’s the most common question you get asked when you bike somewhere? 

“How can you ride with your feet clipped in?  Don’t you fall?”  I’ve fallen twice.  The first time was the very first day that I tried them out and I clipped in with my weak leg and immediately crashed to the ground.  It was 5 am and no one was around…and yes I did check. The second time was during the Loreen Miller Classic and the directional sign had fallen down in the rain.  As I slowed to figure out which way to go, I didn’t pay attention and rode into gravel and kaboom!  Quite funny actually.

What do you usually wear when you ride? 

Bike shorts, jersey, sunglasses, helmet and gloves are my mainstays.

What things do you wish were different about your bike and gear or women’s clothing or both that would make it easier to bike and look good, if this is something you give any thought to?

I think your new company is helping with that!  I need to get one of the dresses!  A prettier helmet would be nice though.  No one looks cute in a helmet!

What does Spokane need to make it an even better place for women to ride their bikes?

Drivers who want to share the road.  Better bike lanes throughout the entire city.  I don’t feel very safe riding on our roads.  I’ve almost been hit twice.  At one point, I had even dismounted to walk my bike across a crosswalk and a driver still came through and almost hit me.  It was a matter of seconds and me paying attention.

What’s your proudest biking accomplishment? 

Finishing my first STP! 202.2 miles in 2 days!

What one word describes the way you feel most often when you ride?  Free.

What question didn’t I ask that you really want to answer? 

“What goal do you have for the cycling community?”  To get more people of color out on bikes.  I get excited when I see other cyclists of color because there aren’t many of us here in Spokane.  I ran into a group of about 6 African American cyclists at the STP in 2009 and asked them to stand in their group for a minute so I could see what it feels like!

Related Reading

Your Turn

On a Roll with… features interviews with women who engage in all kinds of riding on all kinds of bikes for all kinds of reasons. Check out the list of women we hope to interview and add your suggestions, or email info at with names (including your own, if you’d like to answer these questions!).

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July 31, 2011

Feeling Good: Biking and Self-Image

A magical moment occurred at the July 24 Spokane Summer Parkways event. A woman stopped by our booth, whisked her way through the rack of Nuu-Muus and Ruu-Muus, and announced, “I own two already; I’m getting another one because I’ve gained weight.”

Why magical? Because, as my 17-year-old daughter who was helping in the booth noted, one of the most frequently mentioned barriers to buying one of these wonderful exercise dresses was, “Oh, these are so cute. I’ll have to get one—as soon as I lose 10 (20/30/40) pounds.”

Yet here was a woman treating herself to a short blue flowered dress in size XXL because she had gained weight. She’s comfortable with herself and confident about how she looks in a Nuu-Muu. (She should be—they’re awesome and she looked great. More on that in another post.)

This reaction to a cute little dress reflects far deeper issues. We have been sold an airbrushed bill of goods on what women (and men, for that matter) “should” look like.

Facebook comment in response to the question, "How does riding your bike make you feel?": I'm 6 foot 1, and I weigh 255 pounds, with a 42-inch waistline. But when I ride my bike, I feel slim and athletic.

Women “should” have no apparent fat storage other than in a strategically located shelf just below the clavicle and some toned and lifted booty. When you turn sideways to look at yourself in a mirror, I’ll bet you instinctively suck in your stomach and straighten your posture (and you did just now as you read this, didn’t you?). We’re not even supposed to wear sleeveless tops after a certain age because the flesh might keep waving after we stop moving the arm.

Facebook comment in response to the question, "How does riding your bike make you feel?": Most of the time, much much better. There is a certain confidence that comes with using nothing but your self-power to get around. There are also times that I get passed (and passed, and passed) where I feel like I'm a giant blob pedaling around -- but even in those situations, better to be pedaling then driving :)

Another woman looking at the Nuu-Muus at the South Perry Street Fair said to my friend Betsy, who wears a size 00, “Of course it looks adorable on you; you’re a size nothing. But what if you have some junk in the trunk?” Betsy said, “Hey, Barb, turn around!” Yep, that’s me—comfortably cushioned and quite happy in my Nuu-Muu.

Facebook comment in response to the question, "How does riding your bike make you feel?": It makes me feel good to know I'm doing something active that I actually enjoy, rather than slogging to the gym to spend time working out on equipment covered in other people's sweat. The scenery changes all the time when you ride a bike; not so much in the gym. Besides, there's nothing like creating the wind you feel through your hair (okay, through your helmet) ~ to quote the founder of Terry Bicycles "Our wheels are our wings."

However, despite having worked mindfully to get past the body obsession fostered by too many issues of Seventeen, Glamour, and Mademoiselle consumed in my formative years, I still have “aha” moments, like the epiphany I had in one of Betsy’s yoga classes recently.

The two women on adjacent mats were larger than I am and fairly round—not the hot yoga body you will see on the cover of Yoga Journal. And here they were doing yoga in form-fitting clothes.

What I realized was that if I look at Betsy and see the flat stomach I don’t have, they look at me and see the waistline they don’t have, and somewhere there is a woman who can’t even leave her home because she can’t walk to the door who would look at them and see the mobility and grace that she doesn’t have. Except for that woman trapped in her home, though, any one of us riding a bike down a hill is light as a feather.

Facebook comment in response to the question, "How does riding your bike make you feel?": It makes me feel great! I love the speed of riding and knowing that I am the one and only thing creating that speed. I know that I am doing something wonderful for my body and, for the first time in my life, I love that feeling of being totally wiped out, like I couldn't push my pedals around one more time, but I find the energy to go just a little bit further. Plus there is the added benefit of learning some bike maintenance - of knowing that I could fix things if I had to and not have to depend on anyone else.

As my friend Kris pointed out in a blog post, we fear the adjectives we carry around in our heads to describe ourselves, but they’re probably not the ones our friends think of.

The comments illustrating this post are responses to my question on Facebook about how biking makes people feel. The people who responded are all shapes and sizes, and I couldn’t tell you their waistline measurement. I can tell you that they’re funny, interesting, and active. And I can tell you that they look happy when they’re on the bike.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • How do you feel when you ride your bike?
  • Are there body parts you obsess over?
  • Have you created self-imposed boundaries about things you “can’t” wear because of your size or shape?
  • Do you think you could stop should-ing on yourself? (Say that fast and you’ll hear what you’re really doing to yourself)
July 19, 2011

How Bikes Can Save the World

In September 2010 I participated in the first-ever Ignite Spokane (“Enlighten us–but make it quick”), which had the theme “Ideas that Will Save the World.” For those not familiar with the format, you have 5 minutes and can show 20 slides that must advance automatically. No losing your place!

And yes, I biked to the event in the dress and heels I’m wearing in the video.

So you’re expecting the talk with the data and the graphs and the guilt and you want that? See me afterwards.

I’m going to take a different direction on this inspired by Portland blogger Dana Putnam.

Why I Bike: I Am Cheap

First of all, show of hands—how many of you know what gas costs?

I have no idea. I bike because I am cheap. I don’t pay for parking, I don’t worry about insurance. My daughter who’s here tonight had a blow-out on her tire the other day at a stoplight. One hundred and ten bucks. Except those things have four of them and you have to replace them all. I don’t like that part.

How many people would like a raise of over $7,000 a year? Okay, don’t talk to your boss, that’s how much it costs you to run your car. That’s according to AAA and that’s when gas cost about $2.30 a gallon.

I understand it’s more now? I’m not sure, of course.  [Added info: Found a different AAA source with more current data and the cost of operating a vehicle is actually over $9,500 a year.]

Why I Bike:  I Am Lazy

I also bike because I am lazy. How many of you had to walk to the parking lot to get your car and then drive here, find a parking spot, walk to the building…. Do you hear all that walking?

Barb wearing a red suit and black patent leather high heels with her bike in the offices of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.

Indoor bike parking: The ultimate in bike-enabled laziness.

I pretty much bike point to point. I am so lazy that sometimes I actually take my bike inside. This redefines indoor parking, I believe. My ride to work is also mostly downhill so I coast.

It’s a little counterintuitive but you can bike if you’re lazy.

Why I Bike:  I Am Impatient

There are many reasons—my mom might call these character flaws, I think—to bike.

I bike because I’m impatient. I always hated waiting at stoplights. There really isn’t time to finish reading the article before the light changes for one thing; you can’t do your nails. But when I’m on my bike and I get to the stoplight it’s really just a chance to catch my breath.

So I’ve got a new attitude about stoplights: They’re a good thing. I bet you don’t share that.

Another thing for you—even if you’re never going to get out of your car, if all of us on our bikes and all the people on the bus do get back in our cars, look what we do to the street. We’re in front of you now at the stoplight. So if you’re impatient you want us to keep riding (or riding the bus).

Car, Bus, or Bicycle? Poster from a German campaign comparing how much street space each form of transportation requires to move the same number of people.

How much space would it require if everyone riding a bike got back into their cars? Believe me, you don't want us to do that.

I also hate one-ways because there’s no point to going like this and like this and like this [gesturing to draw three sides of the block].

I get off my bike and I walk a block, get back in the lane and keep going. I am continuing to move towards my destination while you’re stuck at the light. So if you’re impatient biking is great for you.

Why I Bike:  I Am a Control Freak

I’m also a little bit of a control freak although I thought of titling this “mechanically inept.” And for the men in the room you don’t have to fess up. But when I take my car to the shop and they tell me a lot of things I don’t understand and I have to pay them a lot of money—remember, I’m cheap and I’m impatient—I don’t like that part.

But I can actually fix my own flat on the bike. The technology has not changed that much since the Wright Brothers. I get to feel like I’m in control at this point. It’s a great feeling.

These are other reasons to ride. I’m not saying this is about you, it’s about me—

Additional Reasons to Ride a Bike: Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem—or, flip side, big ego—

When I’m pedaling and I feel the wind and I’m making the wind myself because I’m going so fast? Awesome. I’m not going that fast—it’s like 17 miles an hour and you’re going to pass me—but I feel great about it.

Additional Reasons to Ride a Bike:  Desperate (but Successful!) Attempt to Appear Cool/Hip/Trend-Setting

If you think about what’s cool right now it is not you in your SUV on the way to Costco to pick up a gallon of ranch dressing and five pounds of Tater Tots. You’re not going to be on the tourism brochure cover or the magazine cover.

You know what picture is going to be on the tourism brochure cover, don’t you? This is a total set-up. You know what it takes to be cool.

Cute woman riding a bike with a basket.The only thing missing from this shot is the farmers’ market vegetables. So, you can be hip and cool and urban just by getting on a bike. Who knew it was so simple? I thought it cost a lot more, actually, and shopping at better stores as well.

Additional Reasons to Ride a Bike: Excuse to Shop

There are other sorts of character issues. This is an excuse to shop for men as well as women. If you like buying something and then bragging to your friends about how yours is better than theirs biking is totally for you. There’s more than one rider here tonight so I know you know what I’m talking about. Technical fabrics, special food—it’s basically sugar in a pouch but it’s still special food.

Additional Reasons to Ride a Bike: Huge Rush that Comes from Saving the World

You knew I was going to do a little bit of this piece. If you like knowing what’s good for other people and telling them about it, biking is totally your thing.

When people are talking about the problems of the world—it’s air pollution, it’s peak oil, it’s urban sprawl, it’s diabetes and obesity—if you ride a bike you’re not responsible for any of that! How cool is that?

Morbidly obese man trying to fasten seatbelt.

You can have this.*

Cool young guy wearing jeans, sunglasses, denim jacket on a bicycle.

Or you can have this. He totally brings us back to the cool urban trend-setting piece.

We do have a lot of problems in the world. I do think that biking is the only thing that solves a lot of these problems all at once. You do get to be healthier and save money and all of that. But also, it’s so simple a child can do it and it’s fun.

Little girl on a bicycle wearing a helmet.Remember when you learned to ride a bike and you had that sense of freedom and “I don’t have to wait for Mom or Dad to get in the car”–which was the limitation in your life at that point—you could ride your bike.

If you have any of these character flaws you don’t have to admit it out loud. Or maybe it’s psychological issues and therapy costs a lot. You could take a little bit of that money and you could ride a bike.

This post originally appeared on my personal blog, BiketoWork Barb.

*With lots of apologies to people who really struggle with their weight, that image still vividly demonstrates the challenges we face as a society with the growing epidemic of obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes, fostered and enabled by a society designed to move people using car power, not people power. If that person got out of that car and walked or biked just a few blocks every day, it would make a difference.

(On the video when I mention skipping it’s a reference to the talk earlier that evening by Patty Sanders about the virtues of skipping to make the world a better place. I wanted this to read as a stand-alone essay.)

Your Turn

  • What are your reasons for riding a bike?
  • What’s your favorite on my list of reasons?
  • Can bikes really save the world?
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