Why I Love Rush Hour

bike to work day 2010 2.jpg

Happy Bike to Work Day, everyone!  It’s a glorious day in D.C., and thousands of people turned out this morning to pedal their way into the office.  It was so beautiful, in fact, that I decided to take a more scenic route, following the Potomac River for a while and then crossing over near the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin.  Turned out to be a good choice – saw a great blue heron a stone’s throw from the Memorial.

It made me wonder -- how many people do you know who’ll say that their commute is the best part of their work day?  If that number is above zero, my guess is that you know some bike commuters.  There are so many great things about it – you knock off your exercise while getting to work, you don’t have to sit in traffic, and you get to see amazing things both natural (I’ve seen deer, foxes, wading birds, an osprey, and a bald eagle on my little ride) and highly unnatural (like the guy I was once biking behind who was smoking a cigar and who, darn him, was a stronger cyclist than me, so I had to breathe in his polluted wake for a good 5 miles).

And you become part of a community that is a part – perhaps a small part, but based on my own observations it seems to be growing – of the solution to a lot of environmental problems.  When you bike to work, you’re not depending on fossil fuels for your transportation (except for the occasional chain lube, and there are even bio-based lubes for the truly green cyclist), and you only need to look at the tragedy unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico to see the consequences of our dependence on oil.  You’re not contributing to global warming or other air pollution as part of your bike trip.  Also, more biking can help ease the demand for expanded roads and highways, which are significant sources of polluted stormwater -- one of the biggest problems for water quality today.  

These and other reasons are motivating people to push for improved bike facilities and safe biking routes.  I took the picture above this morning, looking down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol building from Freedom Plaza.  At a Bike to Work Day event there, I learned that there will soon be a dedicated bike lane on Pennsylvania Ave., sometimes called “America’s Main Street.”  That is great.  The more we make biking an easy and safe option, the more people will do it.

And my last point on this before I go back to doing my day job – don’t sweat it if you can’t become an everyday bike commuter overnight.  I promise you that it is worth aiming for (even on those winter days when multiple layers of gloves can’t stop your fingers from going numb), but even cutting out a couple of car trips a week is worth doing.  Our “Simple Steps” site has a bunch of tips to get you started.  Hope to see you on the bike path!