One Less Car

My cozy step-thru with fire engine red pannier
Today I rode my bike to work. That's not so unusual for me. I've been thinking of myself as a four-season bike commuter since my family got through last winter driving our car significantly fewer miles than we biked. Today was a beautiful day to ride too. Despite it being December 1st, it was sunny with a high near 50. The unusual part about riding my bike today is that today was the first day of my planned month-long fast from the Mazda in my driveway.

Some months ago, I approached some of the leaders at my church where I am the pastor and asked them what they thought about my selling my family's car in favor of switching to active transportation (bikes, walking, buses) and when needed ride hailing (Lyft, Uber, traditional taxis) or renting (Enterprise will pick you up!). None of them voiced any strong objections or doubts that this would seriously inhibit my ability to do my job. However, one shared the wisdom that in that person's family when they make major decisions they like to try it for a month first. I thought that was a great idea, and now I'm finally ready to give it a shot. 

Because Elsbeth's Urban Arrow was grrrrreat! 
Despite my regular bike commuting, it took me awhile to get mentally prepared for a month-long car fast. There are times in Elgin, my small city in the western suburbs of Chicago, when I need to get across town, often to the hospital to visit congregants on the far west side. Not only can that be a mileage and elevation haul, but the route, which even coming the "back way" includes a four lane section of McLean Boulevard, can be a might harrowing by my standards. Although this regular riding has given me more strength and stamina than I've probably ever had in my life, it exhausted me to honestly consider what it would physically cost me to haul myself across town under my own power every time I needed to make a hospital trip. I am also a teensy bit intimidated by ride-hailing--more on that later. So, despite my longing to free my family from the financial burden of a car (if my student loans were a car they would be a very, very nice one... or two!), I didn't feel ready. 

What changed my mind was renting a zippy bakfiet (that would be Dutch for "box bike" where the cargo/kids ride in a box in the front) from Four Star Family Cyclery in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago (Thanks, Elsbeth!). Turning on the e-assist was like finding a super power. I was zipping up inclines and through traffic at 12 mph while hauling 80 lbs of preschooler without breaking a sweat. Suddenly, I imagined the terrain of my own city in a whole new light. This e-assist was, as I heard Mark Stosberg say on a Family Pedals podcast interview, a "no excuses" bike.

cred: Zoltan Tasi via unsplash.com
Tonight I rode home from the church under an early December moonrise. Riding through a holiday-lit downtown Elgin, IL under this month's nearly full super moon, I felt profoundly grateful for all the conditions that allow me to be a bike commuter. I've got adequate equipment (still drooling over that e-assist). I've got an adequate level of health and fitness. I've got a rabidly active transportation supporting spouse. And, I live in a city with bike-friendly old-school-grid bones and a ripening bike culture, where my unusual velocipede dreams may just come true. 

So, come along for the ride this month. I'll keep you updated by trying to blog everyday (which will also help me reflect). I'll share more of my journey to madly enthusiastic bike commuter along the way as well as more of the reasons I'm so interested in going car free. Better yet, bring your own two wheels and catch me at an Elgin Bike Hub ride. This month's Full Moon Ride and Arabica Cafe sponsored Hot Chocolate Ride are coming right up.

Happy pedaling!

-Katie

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