Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Commute Continues...

Work has an event going on called "Ride In The Rain" (which I didn't sign up for). The idea is you compete for the most miles commuted by bike, the most days commuted by bike and the most day of commuting by bike in the rain. The 2009 event started on Sunday February 15 and goes for 4 weeks; the top rider is at 288 miles! If I only count the miles I've ridden starting February 15 I was at 104 miles, but now I'm down to 100 miles. The reason I say that is because the Ride In The Rain site referenced an online tool GMaps Peodometer that lets you calculate the distance of your route by bike or foot or whatever. GMaps wouldn't let me be completely accurate with my route, but it looked more accurate than my previous calculations and it brought the round trip down to just over 12.5 miles (so I lost 1/2 a mile on my round trip). The good news for me is that I still need to bike the same 80 days to get to 1000 miles of bike commuting in 2009.

Here's what my ride home looks like

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My 1000 Mile Commute in 2009

I’ve always been a bit of a fair-weather bike commuter, but with each successive job I’ve had over the past 12 years (there has been 4 of them), I’ve moved a little closer to home. With each new job, I’ve added a few more days of commuting by bike. At my current job at the University of Washington, the route I take when I commute by bicycle is just over 13 miles round trip (a little more according to Google Maps, a little more still according to my bikes odometer).

As a fair weather biker my bike usually doesn’t get pulled out until late May and gets put away in early October. During a normal year I will commute to work by bike a couple days here, a couple days there. Eventually I find a good book to read and start taking the bus so I can read my book, and my bike gets put away. However, this year will be different; I have set a goal of using my bike to commute 1000 miles in 2009. That’s roughly 80 days of round trip commuting by bike if I take my usual route. There are 261 work days in 2009. However, if I exclude most of January, and half of February (I started on February 12), exclude planned vacation days (2009 is already totally planned out) and only count work days based on my alternative work schedule (9-9s, or 9 hour days with every other Friday off), I am left 191 days to complete my task. So I will need to bike a bit less than half of my scheduled work days in 2009.

The rules are I have set for myself are as follows: Regardless of the route I take I can only count a maximum of 13 miles round trip (6.5 miles each way). If I put my bike on the bus for any part of a trip in either direction, that half of the commute does not count. I can only count miles biked in the commute to and from work (no going on a long bike ride on the weekend and counting that). I have to publicly post how I am doing here.

So to most bike commuters, this is nothing (the guy I share an office with bikes every day that there isn’t snow on the ground), but for a fair-weather cyclist like myself with a delicate posterior this is a bit of an undertaking.

To the non-bike commuter who asks “why bother?” Sadly the reason is cycling and skiing is the only real exercise I get. I really don’t have time to go to the gym on a regular basis, and wouldn’t go even if I did have time (don’t really like gyms). I need to get some kind of exercise and taking care of it during my commute seems like the easiest way.

EDIT: I fully admit that biking 6.5 miles at a time can hardly be considered "exercise", but I gotta start somewhere.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Death of Kevin Black

Yesterday it was reported in Seattle area news papers that a cyclist was hit and killed by a van in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. As more information became available we learned that the man was a 39 year old father of two and researcher at the University of Washington.

I admit that I don't know the guy, but this story really got to me. As a father of two little girls myself and employee of the University of Washington I have also often commuted to work by bike, probably taking almost the exact same route as Kevin Black; this guy could have been me.

I am definitely a fair-weather bike commuter; last fall my bike got put away in the shed waiting for longer warmer days. I imagine my normal bike commute is likely very similar to this Kevin Black’s: The majority of the ride is on the relatively safe Burke-Gilman trail, but between my house in Ballard and the start of the Burke-Gilman trail I have maybe a mile on the streets of Ballard. I am by no means a hard core cyclist, I often choose the least busy roads to slowly make my way though Ballard, the reason is that I’m the kind of person who is hyper-aware of cars around me…often just short of terrified to ride on the streets, but I wasn’t always like this.

The reason for my current attitude about biking around cars comes primarily from an incident a couple years ago. It was a summer day when I was commuting home from work, sometimes on nice days I would make my way from the Burke-Gilman trail West all the way to 34th Ave NW and bike casually up that hill to my house maybe going all the way up to sunset hill park to catch a little of the sunset. While biking West down Market Street in Ballard West of 24th street (this was before 24th had its current bike lane) I had a car pull out of its parking spot on my side of the street right in front of me. I was prepared for someone to pull out of their parking spot into traffic, but NOT prepared for what this guy did, which was to pull out of his spot to do a full U-turn in front of me. Luckily the guy saw me half way though his U-turn, but not before I had to swerve into the two lanes of oncoming traffic on the opposite side of the street. I managed to avoid the guy making the U-turn and avoid running head on into oncoming traffic, but I was pretty shaken up. Things could have gone different in so many ways.

Even thought the days are a bit longer and warmer, right now I’m a lot less enthusiastic about pulling out my bike out of the shed than I was a couple days ago.