One day this spring or early summer, thousands of people across the country will hang up their car keys and do what every other developed nation does every workday: we’ll ride our bikes to work.
The first Bike to Work Day, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, was held in 1956, and it’s grown exponentially in the half-century since. In most big cities today, you’ll find coffee-and-bagel stations along popular bike routes on your commute to the office, plus more potent happy hour offerings on the ride home. It’s basically a holiday.
Like every other shmuck, I’ve gotten to work plenty of days behind the wheel of my car, but I’ve also commuted in some more creative ways, thanks in part to a colorful work history. My commutes have included:
- Mountain biking on technical singletrack*
- Cross-country skiing through moose-infested municipal parks**
- Riding snowmobile to remote lodge in Talkeetna Mountains
- Carrying 45-pound pack to backcountry campsite, accompanied by teenagers
- Class III rapids***
- Cramponing my way through downtown Anchorage, where sidewalks apparently do not require salt in the icy winter months****
- On horseback
**was often late due to moose encounters
***did not always manage to stay in the boat
****yes they do
These days, I mostly take the lightrail from my house in the foothills into the city, then walk or bike the mile and a half to my office. Sometimes I drive because I’m not perfect.
Bike to Work Day is a good start. It gives city (and suburb) dwellers a reason to connect with their communities and their green spaces and their bicycles for a day. It’s better for your health, both physically and mentally, which you know if you’ve ever sat in rush-hour traffic.
But it’s not enough. Riding your bike to work one day a year is not enough to wean us off fossil fuels or, you know, save the earth.
My friend Hannah once rode her bike to work every day for an entire year, which is really cool on its own, but is even more impressive when you know she lived in Alaska, where in winter the sun doesn’t warm the trails until 10 AM or so. Badass.
We could all stand to think a little more long-term than “I don’t want to get out of bed in time to ride my bike in” or “It would really be more convenient to have my car at work today.” I think both of these things on a regular basis, and sometimes they win out because see above re: not perfect.
So today, Denver, I challenge you to ride your bike to work. And then maybe ride your bike (or take public transit!) once a week. Maybe eventually you’ll do it more than that. Maybe you’ll start riding your bike to the grocery store, or to happy hour with your friends, and maybe pretty soon you’ll commute under human power more often than not.
It’s a start, anyway.