I gave up my main car last summer and decided that I would ride a bike to work. I wanted to use that time that was normally very stressful to get some exercise, get back in shape and save some money. I sold my car for $4,000, and since it was paid off, I used the money to pay off credit cards and then kept enough to purchase a good mountain bike from the bike shop a few blocks from my house. (For the record, I have another older car for the longer day trips, grocery shopping and visiting family and those days when biking was downright dangerous.)
In the summer, the 11-mile drive that had taken me about 15 minutes now became an hour and 10 minute commute. I averaged about 9 miles per hour, often riding far off on the gravel because people weren’t used to seeing bikes along that stretch of highway. Over time, I got in better shape, and by the fall, I was averaging a respectable 15 m.p.h., and I could do the commute in about 45-50 minutes. I changed the way I rode from hugging the ditches to hanging closer to the pavement, riding on the paved surface of the highway whenever I could to save energy.
I live in a very cold climate six months out of the year with lots of snow so, for me, the real challenge was going to be biking in the winter. People I knew said it was dangerous. “Surely you can’t bike to work!” was the response I got from most people I knew. A few offered to give me a ride. I declined, saying “thank you”, but that I’d rather not be dependent on anyone else, although there were at least a few days I had deemed it too dangerous and cold.
In winter, when I needed the exercise more than ever, biking to and especially from work to home became the most enjoyable part of my day. I really got to see things most people miss in their cars, speeding by too fast to notice. For two months, it was dark both on the ride in and on the ride home and those were probably the most difficult. Snowplows would come up behind me literally forcing me to jump off the bike, throw it over my shoulder and jump into three to four feet of snow to avoid getting blasted by a wall of snow. I think I came to have nightmares about the sound of the plow blade coming behind me. I took a lot of precautions to avoid being hit, from bright clothes to lights. I would see the same cars go by me every day, and I suppose most of the people thought I was crazy. I certainly would have a year ago. What I felt instead was a sense of freedom, confidence and adventure.
If you’ve ever considered ditching your car, the benefits go far beyond saving money. You’ll look and feel better, be more disciplined, and enjoy the things others miss. Plus, you won’t be hopelessly dependent on those expensive gas prices.The best part is that now, instead of a daily grind, getting in the car is a rare treat!