This year I’ve had to get back in the saddle–the bike saddle, that is. Back in the day, when I lived in Chicago, I was a somewhat dedicated bike commuter, and I had no problem riding my bike around the city.
Moving to Massachusetts changed some of that — true, I tended to ride less because the Boy doesn’t have a bike (it’s no fun to do long, leisurely rides on your own), but living in a place where the drivers are flat-out lousy really scared me out of riding much. But needing to live better scared me back into it.
I used to have access to our car during the weekday, and I tended to fit in most of our errands during the week so we could avoid weekend store crowds and traffic. The Boy commuted by train to his job and got a little bit of reading time.
Well, that changed this year when the Boy’s office shuttle service disappeared. The train station isn’t near the office, and to be honest, adding the price of a cab ride onto the cost of a train ticket wouldn’t be any cheaper than driving. So he took the car, and if I need to go anywhere during the workday, I have to figure out how to get there.
For a while, I walked to wherever I was going, and if it was really far, I hopped on a bus or commuter rail. This often took a lot of planning — a 30-minute physical therapy session often required a couple of hours round trip on the bus, because the bus schedule is a little more sporadic where I live. Even walking to the nearest grocery store meant budgeting a minimum of one hour–and that’s if I flew through the store. And I could only take home as much as I could carry, which meant “not much.”
“But Jill, why didn’t you just start doing your shopping at nights and on weekends, like everyone else?”
I’ve seen you people. I might slit my wrists if I had to battle everyone else on a Saturday. Even weeknight shopping can be a combination of many near-miss car accidents, long lines and irritable people who just want to get home. And I say this with a lot of experience doing grocery shopping during senior citizen hours, when a busload of seniors gets dropped off at the store for their weekly shop and then only know how to move slowly and have their carts take up entire aisles [the bonus of shopping during senior citizen hours is that it’s a reminder to go home and exercise so that I maintain some strength and mobility and hopefully age more slowly]. Plus, the Boy hates errands, so why burden his free time with them if I don’t really have to?
Anyway, this summer I got tired of how small my world had gotten due to the limitations of walking, so I pulled on my big girl pants and started riding my bike on the mean streets of Massachusetts, where if the potholes, garbage and debris in the roads aren’t going to get you, the Massholes might.
Even though it’s scary–and the Boy worries like crazy–my trusty steed and I go out on an almost daily basis. I still mainly do errands, but I’ve learned how to carry 100 empty bottles and cans to return them to a recycling redemption center. I’ve managed to tote a bunch of office supplies in my saddle bag and lug 22 pounds of groceries four miles–while a massive truck towing a bulldozer sped past me (honking furiously, like I could magically jump the curb)–all while managing to get the eggs home in quite decent shape. And I’ve learned how to rig up bungee cords to attach big boxes onto my back rack so I don’t have to awkwardly walk them to UPS.
All in all, since mid-August, I’ve put 150 miles on my bike (and that’s with me being out of town a lot), and gained about the same amount of confidence. Even though it’s getting colder and is a lot less fun to ride, the freedom the bike gives me is totally worth it. I try really hard not to be a cyclist Masshole who runs red lights and stop signs, and I still fear that some idiot is going to hit me some day. But I can’t not get out there and live the better life that the bike gives me.