On May 29th Elly Blue visited my town of Lafayette, Indiana on her Dinner and Bicycles tour. She & her crew rolled into town & cooked up & served a gourmet vegan dinner. Local craft brews were on tap, and we talked about bicycle advocacy with a very eclectic group of like-minded people. Then we watched a documentary about how the Critical Mass movement got started in Portland, OR.
Blue’s recent essay in Bicycling magazine about the physical and mental health costs of a car-oriented lifestyle really resonates with me. Last night I was driving home from the Indianapolis airport at 11:30 p.m., feeling tired, stiff, and achy, and I recounted for my traveling companion how a week spent largely in the car last August left me with an aching back, warning signs of sciatica, and a bad attitude. When I got home from my trip, I swore off using the car for seven days. Granted, I probably wouldn’t have used the car very much in those seven days anyway, but I do own a car and I usually use it to haul my groceries. That week I rode my bike for food and every other errand I needed to run. Both my body and my mind needed to stay out of the box, the metal box with wheels. And guess what: it worked! A week later I was all better. Back didn’t hurt, mind felt bright.
Cost of gas aside, I see commuting to work as a soul-sucking activity. When the weather turns cold I often walk to work instead of cycle. I LOVE my 40-minute walk! Clears the head! Gets the blood pumping! I get to see neat things like snowmen and other snow creatures built by college students all over campus! But I cannot wrap my head around what toll a 40-minute drive each way would take on me. The day I saw all the snow creatures, I had left my office feeling pretty tired & stressed out, but when I saw the first snowman & realized I see more as I continued my walk, I was immediately rejuvenated! I got out my phone-camera and started hunting for them! And I wouldn’t have seen anything like that had I driven home.
I know a lot of people simply aren’t afforded the luxury of living close to their jobs, and I’m sorry for that! I wish you all could experience the joy I feel when I walk or cycle to work. If you ever have the opportunity to engineer things so you can walk or bike to work, I feel strongly that you would never regret doing so.