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Bicycle envy

June 26, 2008

I have a confession to make. I’m insanely jealous of people who live close enough to their workplace to bike to work. I’m just so that kind of person. It’s easiest for me to get exercise as a matter of practicality–biking to the coffee shop, walking to the corner pub–rather than exercise for exercises’ sake. Unfortunately when it comes to my daily commute, I’m not liking my options.

I live right on the East edge of downtown Waukesha, and I work at Marquette University–a journey of almost 17 miles each way. I mean, I could possibly take Greenfield all the way to, say, 35th street and then cut over to Wisconsin. That at least might be a decent route. But it’s still so gosh darned far! A ride like that could take as long as 90 minutes, depending on traffic and other conditions. Besides, I’d have to train for weeks and weeks before I could possibly bike 34 miles in a day.

But then it occurred to me that I wouldn’t necessarily have to bike the whole way. I could drive just part of the distance, leave the car in a park and ride, and complete the journey by bike. On the return trip, I’d bike to the car, and drive the rest of the way home.

That reduces the 36 mile bike ride by half, leaving a much less insane 17 miles. Plus, it still reduces my gas consumption by 50% as well as reducing the number that appears on my bathroom scale each morning.

But some problems remain.

First of all, that’s still a long way. It would be time consuming: biking even 15 miles can take an hour. Do I really want to start looking at increasing my commute time from forty minutes to an hour and twenty minutes? Even if I did, there’s still the problem of route quality. It’s true that almost half the route has a bike trail to follow, but it’s the wrong half. The New Berlin trail starts at Springdale Road and runs east, parallel to Greenfield ave., all the way to 124th street. This leaves the second half–the half I would be biking–to city streets full of traffic and other hazards.

There just seem to be too many challenges to this whole thing. I’m not at all considering finding employment nearer to my home, and I’m certainly not considering moving closer to work–at least not in the near future. So I guess for now I’m stuck driving to work.

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  1. Hey, don’t give up! Here are some thoughts from someone who went from NO biking to doing the AIDS Ride (that’s 500 miles in one week) in under 6 months.

    ~ how about riding to a place where you could take public transportation? Can you ride your bike to a bus stop? Even if that makes your commute longer, you can use the time on the bus to read or relax, listen to music, etc.

    ~ Does your sweetie have a car? Maybe you could afford to just leave your car at the Park ‘n Ride and bike there and back, at least for the summer months. It means less access to a car when you’re not at work, but you may find you need it less than you think.

    ~ Could you ride to the home of a co-worker who lives closer and carpool?

    ~ Finally, 34 miles actually isn’t that much. I averaged between 10-15 mph on the AIDS ride, but that’s when I was biking all day and I was always among the very slowest riders (makes my butt hurt just to think about it). You could very quickly get to where a 17 mile ride was not so onerous. And even if you only did it once or twice a week, that would still be a significant increase in calories burned and decrease in gas used.

    How about trying a 17 mile bike ride this weekend – just 8.5 out and then turn around? That would give you a feel for where you’re at in terms of biking fitness and what the next steps might be.

    Good luck!


  2. Sweat can be a another issue to consider. Some of us ripen a fair amount in twenty miles of pedel pushing. If you’re lucky enough to have a place to shower and freshen up at your workplace, you still have to add the extra time (and maybe a change of clothes) to the mix.



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