Over the next month, we will bring you profiles, photos, and stories of offices throwing down the gauntlet and challenging each other to see who can #bikemore during the month of September.
If you or your office would like to be featured in our coverage of the Bike Commute Challenge, please let me know; we’d love to share your story.
We’re getting things rolling with a fantastic story from first-time bike commuter Janna Allgood, who shares her story of beginning her eleven mile bike commute from her home in Southwest Portland to her job with Washington County in Hillsboro.
-Aaron, Bike Commute Challenge Program Coordinator
Until recently, whenever I tried to convince someone about the benefits of commuting by bike, I’d want to run and hide. I’m the Sustainability Program Educator for Washington County and September’s Bike Commute Challenge was just one more opportunity for me to take a guilt trip.
I wasn’t a bike commuter. I had my reasons, just like all commuters who still haven’t had the chance to attempt their trip to work with a bicycle:
- I thought biking was for kids: I felt considerably older than the people I would pass on my drive to work.
- I didn’t think I was athletic: I have all the aches and pains that any baby-boomer has. Each creaky joint made me feel I’d be vulnerable on a bike.
- What do I do about hair, makeup and clothes? I’m pretty high maintenance in this category.
Despite what appeared to be justifiable challenges to me, I couldn’t tolerate communications to colleagues that were laced with enthusiasm but lacked conviction. I had to give bike commuting a try.
Talking to experienced bike commuters, I learned that I could be a bike commuter without having to bike the entire way round trip. Many bike commuters combine their trips with mass transit. Thus I hatched my plan to take my bike on MAX in the morning, and bike home after work.
A few recreational rides tested my physical readiness for my 12-mile ride from Hillsboro to Southwest Portland. But nothing prepared me better than the spinning class at my gym. A terrific workout, it strengthened my legs and left me feeling like I could fly down flat roads and charge up hills.
I learned that route planning is essential. A big part of my drive to work is Highway 26; Google Maps instead suggested a bike route down Baseline Road. And I found a few more detours which allowed me to linger on quiet, neighborhood streets avoiding traffic.
Storing toiletries and extra clothes in a locker room has never been my cup of tea. But I could commit to bringing in one set of bike clothes for my weekly ride home after work. Slowly I had worked my way up to my maiden voyage.
My husband helped me hoist my bike onto the TriMet bus bike rack the first time. After a short ride to Sunset Transit Center, I took the elevator down to the platform to wait for the next westbound MAX train. I had no reason to worry that I wouldn’t be able to raise the bike up to the hook by myself. Thirty minutes later, I wheeled my bike off the train in downtown Hillsboro.
The ride home was the real surprise. Oddly, I found myself looking forward to my bike commute all day long. Easing out onto the street in the afternoon sun, I felt a combination of excitement and self-accomplishment. I had finally joined the bike commuter ranks.
Each time I passed a landmark and checked my watch, I was amazed at how quickly I got there: Cornelius Pass Road, SW 185th, Costco, Nike. The ride took an hour and twenty minutes—four times longer than my drive to work. But I actually saved time because I didn’t need to visit the gym that night.
Nowadays, I share with others the obvious benefits of bike commuting: it doesn’t require gasoline, it doesn’t pollute the air and it’s an economical alternative to driving.
…But here’s the dirty little secret about bike commuting that no one ever tells you—it’s really fun!