I had an epiphany recently. Three things converged. I visited Amsterdam and saw how a bike-centric city operates. I saw a TV program about maintaining a healthy heart that recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day, and the U.N. came out with another doomsday report on climate change, finding that unless we end the use of fossil fuels by the year 2100 we will commit global hari kari.
This led me to think: I should start commuting by bike to the Loop. I had been thinking about this for years, but several things put me off. Killjoys in my office refused to let bikes in the building.
Another issue was riding next to gum chewing, texting nutso drivers. Is it safe? Likewise, I was concerned about riding through neighborhoods where lads sell drugs. Some years ago on the West Side, a bike commuting friend had a two by four swung at his head by some men who wanted to borrow his bike.
But everything in life has risks. Sitting on a couch at night with "Skinny" but buttered popcorn and Haagen-Dazs is at least as risky as riding to the Loop.
And I had this thought too: change occurs on a global scale through billions of individual actions. In the forties, nearly half the U.S. population smoked cigarettes and today less than twenty percent do. What changed? Millions made individual decisions to quit.
Bike commuting is my decision, my way of advancing my health and the planet's.
I did not want to commute on a fancy bike a thief might pinch, so I equipped my fifteen year old Schwinn Moab.
I added lights. Lots of lights. I bought a headlamp for my helmet with a blinding LED. I added a rear light which easily snaps off so it won't get stolen. (Don't ask me why but thieves are attracted by flashy bike lights). And I bought Bontrager commuting tires designed to ride through glass, nails, and Armageddon.
The first day I commuted it was 45 degrees and sunny with a breezy tail wind. Perfect. I headed down Augusta towards the city.
The ride from Austin to Pulaski was on new asphalt. I stopped at a red light where a group of young men, who looked up to no good, were on a street corner. As I pedaled, one mumbled "come back here and I'll kick your ass." Not today!
When I reached West Humboldt Park, there was a dedicated bike lane and I picked up speed as well as other commuters wending their way.
I hit Milwaukee Avenue - aka the Hipster Highway - and was awash in a sea of twenty-somethings riding their bikes. They wore trendy boots and BMX helmets. I felt out of place with my grey hair.
Even Dearborn Street in the Loop now has dedicated bike lanes, in the middle of downtown, and I thanked the biking gods for my good fortune.
I arrived at State and Jackson in one piece, locked up the steed on a bike rack and headed in to a busy day at work. And the commute time? Faster than my door to door commute via the Greenline. Take that global warming.
Answer Book 2019
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