Thursday, September 29, 2011

The daily bicyle commute

A few months ago I decided to discontinue my work subsidized bus pass and rely on bicycle and running as my primary means of commuting to work. My place of work is only about 6-1/2 miles from where I live so the commute is short, and the majority of the commute isn’t in traffic, but rather along the Burke-Gilman trail. Besides, it takes longer to get to work by bus or car than it does to get there by bike.

The best part of commuting to work by bicycle is the other cyclists. Seattle is definitely a city of bicycle commuters, and one of the primary routes for commuters is the Burke-Gilman trail. So the daily commute along the Burke-Gilman trail is always an adventure. There are the cyclists who slowly plod along, as well as those who see their commute as their personal daily crit. As for me, I fall somewhere in between. I do tend to see my commute as a bit of a personal time trial (anything under 25 minutes is good), but I have my own rules for my ride:
  • I do actually stop at stop lights.
  • I keep my place at stop lights and don’t jockey for a better position in front of the other cyclists who were waiting before me. This might get me stuck behind some slower cyclists, but I can pass them later.
  • I don’t draft other cyclists during the commute (I might pace them, but there’s a good distance between us).
  • I don’t pass other cyclists then immediately slow my pace (that drives me crazy).
  • I don’t pass other cyclists unless it’s safe to do so (e.g. I’m not passing a cyclist with oncoming cyclists two abreast).
My commute can be interesting when I stick to these rules and try and beat my previous PR for getting home or getting to work. However, being a strict rule follower can lead to road rage and I do tend to get annoyed when others aren’t following the same set of rules. But I try and use that just to make the ride even more interesting; I might suddenly have someone I must catch and pass who is now way ahead of me because they flew through a traffic light while I was stopped.

Today I decided I would just take it easy and enjoy the ride in (I tend to tell myself that a lot, but rarely follow it). My ride started off with all of the lights in my favor as I ride down a mile of NW 24th Ave in Ballard, a hill long hill steep enough to easily keep pace with the cars. As soon as I got on to the Burke-Gilman trail, I knew the ride was going to be a bit more interesting. Everyone seemed to be moving at a pretty good pace, no slow riders. The pace was plenty fast enough so I just stuck ten or so feet behind the first person I came up behind. As I followed I was passed and then the person in front of me got passed by a faster cyclist. The person in front of me clearly frustrated that someone dared to pass them during their commute quickly picked up the pace, and passed the person that just passed them. I kept up with the pace behind the two cyclists following behind just close enough to see how it would end. In the end their were no violent acts of bicycle road rage, one of the riders turned off of the trail and headed in a different direction. However it was enough to keep todays commute interesting and get me to work a bit faster than what I had initially planned on; the daily Burke-Gilman bicycle commute is rarely dull.

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