Guest Post: Why I Started Riding, By Rachel R

06.2.2012 | 1:43 am

I started riding for money.

We became a one-car family for a time. “I’ll just bike to work,” I said, “when it’s convenient.” I got a ride whenever possible. Sometimes I biked to work, and got a ride home. Or I caught a ride to work, but took my bike with me, and biked home. Sometimes I left my bike on campus. Sometimes I left it at home.

When I did bike, I liked to calculate how much gas money I was saving on that trip. Of course, when we were a little more financially stable, we’d buy a car.

I continued riding for health.

I had major abdominal surgery and got scared about my health. Would I recover from surgery? I’d heard that some people never did. As soon as I was able, I started doing stomach crunches. Soon I could do one sit-up a night. Instead of biking when I had to, I biked every trip I could.

I was confused about how I was supposed to bike. Should I be on the sidewalk or the street? I read everything I could find about it.

I found the League of American Bicyclists. I took Traffic Skills 101. I joined the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, and the League. I became a League Certified Instructor. I got a new bike. I lost 30 pounds.

I could do 100 sit-ups.

A friend thought I rode because I’m “green” (environmentally conscious). “You’re not broke and you’re not a drunk,” she explained, “so I assumed you were green.” I guess she couldn’t think of any other reason I’d choose to bike! I like trees and I think we should be more careful of our earth. But that’s not why I bike. It’s a bonus that makes me feel smug and self-righteous.

It turned out that all along, I had been riding for safety. I thought I was riding to save money, and because it was healthy. I discovered the real reason when my 15 yr old daughter on her bike was hit by a truck, right in front of me. She recovered fully within a couple months. It took me a little longer. The funny thing was, after the wreck, we were both ok with getting on a bike, but we were nervous getting in a car.

I knew why. Several years ago, before I started riding, my little 9 yr old cousin was killed in a car wreck. I hated to put our then-7 yr old daughter in a car after that. But what choice did we have? When I started biking, I discovered a choice. What a relief to be free of the deadly car! Learning car and bike wreck statistics and the League’s recommended best practices gave me even more control over our safety.

I guess I go by contraries. Everyone else out there is afraid to bike to work because they think it is so dangerous. I bike to work because I think driving is too dangerous!


  1. Comment by Adam M | 06.2.2012 | 9:59 am

    The idea of commuting to work by car is ridiculous when you consider the cost difference of riding a bike instead. The problem is that people feel entitled to the convenience of the car and don’t realize the consequences of driving their car every place they go. Look at how many overweight people you see in cars and compare that with people who commute to work by bike. It’s pretty obvious that cars are coffins whether it’s an accident or lack of exercise that people are not getting. Riding a bike is good for everyone!

  2. Comment by Lonster | 06.2.2012 | 3:38 pm

    I commute by bike as often as I can. The ride home after work is great contemplation time for me and a great de-stresser. It definitely has kept the blood pressure down compared to my siblings.

    ?100 Miles of Nowhere to raise money for cancer is done. One of my toughest days on the bike with the hills, bad air quality, and 90 degree temps at the finish. 6 Laps of Rocky Hill, 2 bottles of Cytomax, 3 bottles of Gatorade, One Coke, and a couple of Cliff Bars to make it happen . I can check it off my bucket list now.

  3. Comment by Julie | 06.2.2012 | 5:07 pm

    I ride because I can. When I had a job that required a commute, I rode because it was the best part of my day. Thank you, Rachel, for your post.

  4. Comment by Mr Bad Example | 06.3.2012 | 1:35 pm

    I agree with Lonster – if nothing else, when I was able to commute by bike, I arrived at work in a great mood and (generally) arrived at home in a good mood.

    To say nothing of the health benefits – I had a short (<4 mi) commute, but even so, those two 20-minute bursts of activity really kicked my metabolism up a notch and slimmed me down.

  5. Comment by roan | 06.3.2012 | 7:51 pm

    Funny thing about riding a bike and driving a car, I own 2 cars and 1 bike short of 6 times as many bikes. Commute to work by…yes you guessed it, by bike. Sometimes with a bike/bus/bike combo. The short full bike commute is 27 miles one way, love that ride. The other 2 longer routes I love even more.
    Then last week I got a notice from my car insurance company about my low annual mileage I selected(5000/yr combined for 2 cars). So I checked my odometer readings at oil changes. Good thing the car insurance company was looking for the best “coverage when you need it most.” I only drove 2970 miles in the last year, about average for the last 5 years.
    Crunching some more numbers I found I pay more per day (nearly $3.00 liability only)for insurance than for gas (1.55/day, average). OH yes, they gave me until June 30th to respond (or what I wonder ?). OH and my traffic tickets are equal, one each mode, for speeding. The car 7mph over, the bike 12mph over.

  6. Comment by toxic | 06.3.2012 | 8:04 pm

    Adam M, are you taking into account the cost of the food needed to fuel these trips?

    It all depends on the distance of course, but a 10 mile round trip commute is probably the cost a Cliffs bar. Don’t want to rain on the parade, but I’m not entirely sold on the cost benefits of commuting if you view cycling as work. If you view it as fun, the cost benefit is just icing on the cake. But the economic case is not as clear cut if the car is sitting in the garage.

    Now, if you managed to get rid of the car altogether… then we’re talking some major savings. But if it’s wasting away in the garage you’re still paying for insurance, car payment, taxes, etc it isn’t that great.

    The health benefits alone are more than enough to sell bike commuting when you can. Heart disease is a lot bigger problem than bike crashes. That would be my pitch.

  7. Comment by MattC | 06.3.2012 | 10:00 pm

    Lots of pro’s & cons. I weighed them, then tried commuting a few years back (when my car was an 85 Monte Carlo SS). It was fun to drive but got horrid mileage…however I go in QUITE EARLY and it’s dark and foggy here typically. AND it turns out there’s LOTS of glass on the shoulder…flatted the first trip in, changing out a tube in the dark and cold is no fun. When I get in I then need a shower (it’s an 18 mile commute w/ a good grade). Can’t carry as much, so have to really plan ahead bringing in clothes n lunches w/ the car. And of course my work didn’t have shower facilities so I needed to go ELSEWHERE for that, consuming even MORE of my time.

    THEN I got a diesel VW that gets 50mpg. So much for my desire to commute. I now get to ride entirely for fun. No being late cuz of a flat, or riding home w/ insane winds, rain, etc. Yes, I am a Fair Weather Rider & loving it. Commuting by bike makes sense for a lot of people, but certainly not for everybody…that’s my point…(just took a while to get there).

  8. Comment by MattC | 06.3.2012 | 10:01 pm

    Oh, and I forgot to say GREAT Guest Post Rachel!

  9. Comment by Rachel | 06.4.2012 | 5:05 am

    I forgot to mention, we never did get the 2nd car. We’ve managed to pay off all the credit cards and except for student loans we’re debt free. We could not have done that if we’d had a car payment.

    I’ve spent a lot on my bike and it hurts to pay $70 for something called an “undershirt” even if it is wool. I keep telling myself “this is cheaper than a car payment”. As for fuel– the first 30 pounds took care of that and I still have a bit left, I could save us more if I burned that because then I wouldn’t be carting it around with me everywhere I went, saving more energy! lol

    1 in 5 of us will die of a heart attack.
    1 in 84 will die in a car wreck.
    1 in ~5000 will die in a bike wreck. Biking decreases the risk of heart attack or car wreck by keeping me out of a car. (Considered per hour of exposure, biking is about the same or a little safer than the car.) So biking is the only logical choice.

    But as you say biking isn’t for everyone. I have a friend with 4 kids under 10 yrs. I don’t see how she could bike. On the other hand I’ve read about people with every kind of obstacle you can imagine, missing limbs, blind, parents with small kids, vastly long commutes, who go to great lengths to be able to ride a bike. So I conclude that it’s really about what makes you happy.

    There’s nothing wrong with being a fair weather cyclist. Some of my best friends are fair weather cyclists. ;) My daughter claims she’s a fair weather cyclist, but she loves the rain. It’s only the cold & wind she won’t ride in.

  10. Comment by Fat Cathy | 06.4.2012 | 8:51 am

    @Rachel, just a question on those statistics you quoted:

    “1 in 84 will die in a car wreck.
    1 in ~5000 will die in a bike wreck.”

    Is that 1 in 5000 number for all people or taken just from those who ride bikes? If for all people, of course the chances of dying in a car wreck than in a bike wreck will be greater – there are far more people riding in cars (virtually everyone) than riding bikes (by comparison almost no one).

    Just being a devils advocate here – statistics numbers are tricky things.

    And thank you for writing such a nice guest post.

  11. Comment by Claire | 06.4.2012 | 8:52 am

    Fabulous advertising by at the Saratoga Springs Tour de Cure. You couldn’t have paid this guy for the advertising he did! Check out fourth bullet…

  12. Comment by Skippy | 06.4.2012 | 9:32 am

    How low was the speed sign for you to get ticketed for +12mph ?

    Dutch Cancer Fund Raiser at L’Alpe d’Huez on Thursday with E25M already raised by 5000 participants !

    Shame no team fatty , 6 trips to the top , but it will be my 100MON !

  13. Comment by Skippy | 06.4.2012 | 9:35 am

    How low was the speed sign , for you to get ticketed for +12mph ?

    Dutch Cancer Fund Raiser at L’Alpe d’Huez on Thursday with E25M already raised by 5000 participants !

    Shame no team fatty , 6 trips to the top , but it will be my 100MON !

    Duplicate comments with one digit ?

  14. Comment by Annoyed | 06.4.2012 | 9:54 am

    Where’s Fatty been for the last week? Not even a reminder post about the 100 M.O.N.? I know Fatty’s off doing a multi-stage race now but this used to be one of the best post weeks of the year – reading about everyone’s stories. Hopefully there are lots of posts on the way.

    Don’t worry! Lots of guest posts, starting tomorrow (And I wasn’t doing a stage race, I was in Zambia with World Bicycle Relief). – FC

  15. Comment by Annoyed | 06.4.2012 | 2:28 pm

    Well aren’t I the A-HOLE?! I admit it. Sorry to EVER doubt you…won’t happen again. I thought you were starting a stage race today. I guess I have my events mixed up. Great work in Zambia sir.

  16. Comment by Rachel | 06.4.2012 | 8:25 pm

    @Fat Cathy,
    Yes, part of the reason the numbers are so dramatically different is because no one bicycles. The statistics actually say that per hour, the risk is half that of driving. But it takes longer to bike (usually) so I like to say bicycling is as safe or a little safer than driving.


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