So, all in all, since the beginning of May, I’d say I have driven less than 100 miles – and 80 of those miles were acquired by helping my dad move here from another town. So in a “normal” summer, I would’ve driven less than 20 miles in two months. Wahoo!
However, there were still a few “glitches” in my system. A few weeks ago, I decided to go to the grocery store once more to see if I could get what I needed and get home safely now that I had my basket. Unfortunately, my load was way too big and heavy for the basket! I put what I could into it, and the rest in my messenger bag and almost fell off my bike trying to ride through the parking lot – SO HEAVY! Then I unloaded, hung everything on the bicycle and walked a mile, before realizing that at that pace, and with two more miles to go, it would take me over an hour to walk back. So…I repacked my messenger bag, prayed I wouldn’t have to make any stops (stopping and starting was really difficult with that much weight), and rolled on home. I barely made it up the steep hill near my house, but success! And when I got home, I weighed everything – 28 pounds of groceries!
At that point, I realized that if I want to get serious about this, I’m going to need a trailer for the bicycle. I started looking for one on Craigslist, and then was offered a great deal on one from an awesome friend in Portland (thanks, A!). However, a few days later, my machinist friend and my brother presented me with a surprise – a trailer they had built just for me! They made the whole thing – and I don’t mean assembled. I mean welded, screwed, sanded, shaped, painted…MADE it. From scratch. They even painted it to match my bike! I’m so tickled about this thing, I can’t even tell you.
I bought a flag for it (I’m concerned about visibility issues and want to make sure people see that my bike doesn’t end where they think it does), and have experimented with some different options with boxes and bungees to find something that seems to work really well. I started out with a small basket on the side, so I could fit longer items on the other side, but ended up buying a huge plastic (ick, I know) crate with a top that mostly covers the entire trailer, allowing me a TON of storage capacity, as well as better balance for the items, once they are loaded. As the trailer fills, it obviously gets heavier and heavier to pull, and up hills it can be a bear. However…I’ll be in really good shape after a few rides with this baby! Parking is also a bit of an issue as this trailer is as long as my bicycle – so I have to find creative places to park it!
So all in all, I’m making some good progress. I noticed at some point that I am less afraid of driving in traffic than I was in the past. However, I almost never make left turns on my bike (something I had attempted a few times last year). I just get too stressed and find that it’s not worth it. I either take an alternate route or just walk the crosswalks. I haven’t had many issues this year, thankfully (no near-accidents, and no high school boys harassing me which happened often last year), except for one young man in a giant pick-up truck who pulled up behind me while I was at a stop sign one day and honked at me continually for me to get out of the way so he could go ahead of me. I knew the law was on my side so I ignored him. Other than that…it’s been smooth sailing.
I don’t even obsess about my bicycle getting stolen anymore. I just lock it up and leave the parts (lights, basket, saddle, etc.) attached. Though, don’t get me wrong – if it ever got stolen, I sure would be upset. And it would be pretty easy to steal the trailer, since it’s only attached to the saddle – just detach the saddle, and one could walk away with the entire trailer. But…I’m not going to let myself worry about that. I need to make sure my bicycle is covered by my insurance and just trust that everything else will be okay!
The coolest thing about bicycling is that when you are committed to it, and people see your commitment (by seeing you ride every day, or by seeing you use your bicycle to shop or do other things that would usually require a car), it is something they will remember. It suddenly becomes possible to, say, haul a kiddie pool across town on your bicycle, instead of using a gas-guzzling SUV. (I know it’s possible because I did it!) People take notice of that – kids, especially. My nephews have come to associate me with bicycles. In fact, at our town’s 4th of July Parade, I was holding my 2-year-old nephew on my hip when a bunch of bicyclists rode by. He yelled, “Is that Auntie?!” I said, “No, silly, I’m right here!” He laughed and said, “Oh, yeah,” and in that moment, I realized how strongly he associated me with bicycles. And when they see my trailer, they are so fascinated by it. Kids take notice of what we do, especially if it is different than what other adults do. Imagine the seeds we can plant in their minds if more and more of us eschew our cars for bicycles.
So how about you? Have you made any changes in your commuting habits?