Tuesday, May 19, 2009

800 Miles & Counting: Creeping Green(er) Every Day, One Errand at a Time

It is interesting that last week, on Bike to Work Day, May 14, I logged an even 800 miles on my bike over the preceding 11 months. (I will probably hit 900 by the end of the school year, and may make an effort to hit the symbolic 1000 mile point.)

As miles go, that's not a lot: Its not a lot of car riding saved, and from a hardcore cyclist's perspective its not much when such a person will do a 100 mile "Century" recreational ride in a day.

But I suggest that it is an important milestone for three reasons: (1) it is a lot more mileage than I have put on in the last two years or so; (2) it represents a sea change to my own mindset regarding car riding and (3) it is an example of what can be accomplished if you start simple and slow.

Last year, I did about 500 miles on the year. The year before only about 300 -- a mere six or seven miles, average, of a weekend running errands.

And that is the point of my third point: Having mentally red tagged the car years ago, I started slow. Driving a bike for local weekend errands, quick mid-week runs to the store, or to breakfast out or to the to park with the kids on weekends. ( See Red Tag Your Car, Part I, Part II and Part III)
As the weekend trips improved my skills, comfort level and physical stamina, I began to ride more to work during the week. Now, I ride most every day that I do not have to deliver my son to school near his mother's house 25 miles away. And in the summer the car I use for those errands is parked so much we sometimes start it to keep the battery up.

At this time (see item #2) I tend to view the need to ride in a car as a failure; of errand route planning, of ability to find a truly local option, of trying to squeeze too much to fast into a life on the road.

As for the mileage, if you don't bike much now it seems like a lot. I promise that the longest stretch I ever rode to get that mileage was across town in Pasadena, California -- five miles at best. I work 1.80 miles from where I live; my daughter's preschool is 1 mile away; we shop 1.98 miles in the other direction, next to my other daughter's school and my employer's main office. One reason I am able to accumulate these miles two and three miles at a time is we have largely resolved one of the major "would-buts" of non-automobility: Live where you want to work and play.

You can do this too. It's easy. It's green. It's even healthy for you!