Bike Commuting 101: Making It Easy

Excuse #6: It's just too hard

The Truth: Here it is, straight from GRANT PETERSEN, of Rivendell Bicycle Works. Because who better than the godfather of modern utility cycling to help you stop making excuses and get off the gas?

Chain-smoking salarymen in Tokyo, ladies in Amsterdam, and oldsters in Oxford grab a bike when they want to go somewhere. But they don't necessarily ride for health or to be good stewards of the planet. In Japan, the car is the slow, high-hassle, expensive way to move. Europe's urban centers predate the car and tend to have short, bike-friendly commutes. Bicycling is the path of least resistance in these cases, so it's easy to be virtuous. But in America, it's so easy to be bad. You almost need superpowers to be good. Rah-rah rants about the joys of pedaling, the health benefits, and the wide selection of commute-worthy bikes are all but powerless within a pro-car infrastructure. If they worked, we'd be right up there with the best bike-commuting countries, where 40 to 70 percent ride daily. Our score: 0.48 percent. Our problem is partly a lack of government-imposed disincentives—like the much higher fees and operating costs associated with owning a car in many other countries—but there's also our genetic proclivity to conserve energy whenever possible, like a little Lucifer on your shoulder constantly jingling the car keys. Since it's unnatural, even masochistic, to impose your own disincentives, find another way to break the car habit and get the bike habit. Breaking habits is hard but not impossible, and you have to give a new routine time to take root. The first step is making it easy, and one way is to get a suitable bike. Start when the weather is best, because it's not easy for bike commuting to take root in the hot, muggy summer or dark, cold, wet winter, when it's so hard to resist the comfort of a temperature-controlled sedan, listening to your favorite tunes and sipping coffee. But in time you may come to love riding through all four seasons. Nasty streets and sleet? Bring it on! Whatever you do, just make it so you're driving less and pedaling more. The more you do it, the easier it gets. And if all those far-flung folks can do it, so can you. You may have a harder system to fight, but it's a good fight.

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