Lessons learned on the bike ride to work

For the past two years, I have biked or walked to work almost every single day.

My photographer colleague John McCormick was kind enough to try making me look cool on a bike.

My photographer colleague John McCormick was kind enough to try making me look cool on a bike. I don’t give him much to work with…

One of my favorite aspects of the job at Lynchburg was the possibility of a green commute. My office is just over half a mile from my house, walkable in less than ten minutes. So I walked to work through freshly fallen snow in late February 2015 for my first day on the job. I walked to campus almost every workday until April, when I got my old bike repaired at the LC Bike Shack and started riding to work. I have biked or walked to work more than 400 days since then. When you count multiple trips in a day (because I usually go home for lunch with my family, and I bike back for MBA classes two evenings per week), I’ve biked that half-mile trek well over 1,000 times.

My family has ditched the second car, too, because my wife and I rarely need use of a vehicle at the same time. Consequently, I’ve started biking almost anywhere I need to go within a few miles.

In honor of my recent two-year-anniversary with LC, I decided to write up some life lessons I’ve learned during my carbon-free commute.

1. If you can bike down a hill at 20 miles per hour without pedaling, you’re going to hate going back up.

This lesson comes more from my pre-LC days, when I worked four miles away in a city that definitely fits its “Hill City” nickname. But it’s true here, too. There are several slopes on and around campus that make me wish I could grab hold of a truck’s bumper to hitch a ride up the hill.

Likewise in life, sometimes things seem easy. Enjoy those times, enjoy the breeze and the thrill of accelerating downhill. But remember that you have to climb again eventually. Use the easy moments to rest and rejuvenate, and use the difficult climbs to build your strength.

2. Trust people

When I first started biking to work, I kind of got frustrated when people yielded their right of way to me, such as when someone would arrive at an intersection several seconds before me and would refuse to go through first, even when I would stop my bike and wait.

I joked about needing to wear a sign that says, “In the amount of time it takes for me to start trusting that you won’t race forward and run me over as soon as I breeze through this intersection, you could drive through it five times.”

But I decided the sign would increase wind resistance too much.

People gain my trust much faster now. I approach the intersection, make eye contact with a driver who arrived a few seconds before me, and we have this moment where I know he or she won’t run me over.

So far, so good. Thanks, everyone, for letting me keep my momentum and save some wear on my breaks.

3. Let them laugh

Biking to work (while dressed) for work has nothing to do with looking cool or impressing anybody. I remember biking up College Street one afternoon and hearing laughter from a car where some students were looking at me. I can’t say I blame them. It’s not a usual experience to see someone in business-casual attire zipping around on a bike. I might have even had a binder clip on my pant leg to keep it from snagging on the gears, and perhaps I was wearing some of the zanier socks my mom has given me for Christmas in the past few years. But that’s alright, and I laughed with them.

If biking to work were more common in our society, it wouldn’t look quite so funny. And it could never become more common if those of us who bike to work dropped the habit. If biking to work is possible for you, please consider doing so every now and then. Eventually, we can strengthen the green commute trend.

The same applies to anything else we are doing that stands out from the crowd. You can’t stand out and do something different if you want to blend in and avoid the occasional joke at your expense. Just keep pedaling and moving up the hill.



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