Bike commuting: a joy, not a sacrifice

On the pleasures and benefits of two-wheeled transportation

The author is a water policy analyst for AquAlliance.

I learned the magic skill of balancing on two spinning wheels when I was 5 years old. That first day of pedaling around an empty school parking lot is one of my clearest early memories. Now, at 66, when I mount one of my bikes for a trip downtown, I still get a solid hit of euphoria. Ah! The open sky, the sounds of the planet, the neighborly greetings and the aerobic rush as my breath deepens and heart pumps strong.

Unfortunately, colleges and high schools build massive automobile parking facilities for their students. Easy parking has normalized the habitual daily use of motor vehicles—generators of pollution and expense—and reduced the amount of exercise in our daily lives.

Chico, a level town with a 7-mile radius, is the perfect environment for a lifestyle that uses pedal power for personal transportation.

I organize my schedule to accomplish my business in one loop from home to appointments and back again in a single trip. I rarely get in an auto unless I have business outside of town.

Spring and autumn, morning and evening, riding is heavenly. It’s even doable to ride in the more intense weather. During the summer, a wet long-sleeve cotton shirt acts as a wearable air conditioner that evaporates during my 5-mile ride downtown. For winter, rainsuits come in many styles; a bright color is advisable.

A bike that can carry what’s needed for the day makes daily bike commuting practical. A backpack turns any bike into a cargo bike, but there are other accessories to make it even easier. A box mounted on the rear rack of a bike, for example, or a trailer to carry the groceries, toddler or guitar/drum/saxophone. Longtail retrofits and front-loading box bikes are not just practical—they are also fun to ride, like longboard surfing!

We are fortunate to live in a city that allows citizens to create routines that reduce the temptation of an addiction to a daily motor vehicle habit. A healthy body and a healthy planet is realistic via bike commuting!