Saturday, March 17, 2012

The kindness of strangers

Reprinted here is a message I received this morning, from a member of my local bike group The Bad Ass Bicycle Ride(rs).  I asked Layne if I could share it on my blog to not only highlight his experiences but also the kindness that can be found within the bicycle community.  Enjoy!

Hello and greetings from a fellow BABRer.

I just finished reading your latest blog post and I wanted to take a minute and encourage you as you continue your journey of making your bicycle your primary means of transportation.

About 3 years ago, as I drove home from work my car stopped running. Just stopped. I pushed it to the curb, and called my wife who came and used our other car to push it home.

I know nothing about cars, but I new that I needed to get to work the next day and that my wife needed our working car. So the next morning I became a bicycle commuter. I was out of shape and my work is just under 3 1/2 miles from our house and my shift began at 545am.

It was September, and I had no idea what was wrong with the car. So the next morning I woke up, and bicycled to work.

We did not have a lot of disposable income to pour into fixing the broken car. So I continued bicycling to work. At the time my wife and I worked out a deal where I bicycled 3 to 4 days out of the week, and I used our lone car the other two days.

And Winter approached I wondered how I would get to work. I explored how long it would take me to walk to work. I also went online looking at groups in the Midwest who bicycle all year 'round. These website were helpful, and one person even wrote me back personally and was very helpful in the advice she gave. So I entered Winter as a bicyclist.

And I made it through my first Winter.

As time went on I began biking 5 days a week. It got easier, I felt healthier. --And the broken car sat. I used it as a greenhouse of sorts to try and start plants for my garden. I also used it to dry basil from my garden.

Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Spring. Summer. And then my Mom, who lives in Southern California, called saying she bought a new car and asked if I wanted her old one. So August of last year my son and I flew to Long Beach and picked up the car.

My only regret in getting the car is that I no longer bicycle commute. I know, I know... I could-- oh, but it makes life so much easier (i.e. lazier.)

I never did get the broken car fixed; I ended up giving it to a friend who had a need for it--and new how to fix cars.

Actually I hope to return to the bicycle commute this Spring--I felt better when I was bicycling and loved being on it.

My time as a daily bicycle commuter I discovered some things:
-Our weather is not as extreme as some people like to think it is.
-Riding in snow is FUN! It makes me feel like a little kid again.
-I can push myself through life obstacles.
-You see things on a bicycle that you miss while driving a car.
-Bicycling isn't really that inconvenient, it just makes you move a little slower... and that is not such a bad thing.
-I can get to work just as face on a bicycle as I can driving a car. Even faster, if I have to scrape windows.
-The bicycle community is diverse and there are so many fun facets to it.

Have fun. You are doing great. And yes, there will still be days where it feels miserable... But don't give up, it gets easier. And you will probably find that on those occasions where you do not bicycle that you miss it.

And as you bicycle commute you will find that there are others getting around that way too, and there is a sense of camaraderie as you wave at each other.

-Layne Schroeder

What can I say?  The bicycle community is in general just a superior bunch of people and the community that we all need can be found within it. I feel encouraged and renewed by the spirit of people that reach out to me.

Thank you! 


  1. Great post. Lindsay, this is Norm Tedford. I read the seminal book, "Living on Two Wheels", in 1990. It inspired me to live car-free for a couple of years. I even went on a two hundred mile bike trip from Long Island to PA during this time. But, like Layne, it's just more convenient to revert back to an automobile-based existence, although life is much simpler when you travel via bicycle. Since my initial experiment in car-free living, I have used my bicycle lots of times, although not at my primary means of transportation. Thanks to cargo cyclists like you, I have re-committed myself to making another go at lessening my dependence on automobiles.

  2. Hey Norm! I am so excited about your recent bike purchase, I know you will love it! What I like about the bicycle world is it moves slower because in general life moves way too fast. Looking forward to hearing about your travels! Lindsay

  3. What a great letter! I found bicycling for transport in a similar way. In 2004 I moved to Boulder, CO for graduate school. About a week after I moved my car broke down. Graduate students don't often have a lot of extra money and I was worse off than some because I couldn't find a job for 4 months. The job I did find I lost in 2 months because they lost their contract and shut down. It was a full year before I was able to fix my car. When my car broke down I started riding my bike, I didn't really have a choice, and before long I was hooked.

    1. Luke- It is great hey? Bicycling came to me the first time because I got thrown from my horse and was told I couldn't ride for at least 2 years until my back got stronger. So my mum got me a mountain bike (I was 13) and I started riding everyday, fell in love. Lost it over the years but its coming back. Lindsay

  4. Boy, I sure second Layne's comments! As you have no doubt discovered, biking is so much more fun and nicer in so many ways! That's one thing that I like about having moved down from the mountain to Walla Walla, that I can ride my bike places- it does get to be a little bit more of a challenge with 4 kids, though! Once the twins get a little bigger (don't need carseats- cause only one fits in a 2-kid trailer), it will be easier to take them all with us on bikes. I would love to get to a point where I can ride a bike regularly for my work as a general contractor! Occasionally I use my bike when I'm shuttling vehicles or equipment around town (so I don't have to have someone come and get me when I drop off a backhoe or a dumptruck)- a great excuse to take a ride in the middle of the work day.

    1. Nat-
      Sounds like you guys will need a few mundos lol. I've told other local peeps if you ever want to try one out just let me know:)
      My brother is a contractor and uses his bike to run to and fro, but he has a box van too for the big stuff. Seems like its getting more and more popular. I know Joe Bikes in Portland had a blog post about a contractor that uses a trailer and a cargo bike.

  5. When I started trying to find a form of exercise that I could stick to, I discovered Xtracycle and the Radish they had. I think it ultimately is what inspired me to keep trying a bike. I don't have one, but I DID get my current bike as a birthday present, and I love it. I started riding loops during lunchtime, and now that we've moved I can commute the 3 miles to work. I also really like snow, but I can't handle rain yet.

    I wonder if that's why my mood is so sour lately? We just got back from a 7 day road cross-country moving trip (bringing the rest of the family to us)crammed in the car like sardines- I haven't ridden since... Tuesday morning. Hmm.

    1. Red-Eyed Tree Froggy-
      Your name always makes me smile;) I'm the opposite, I have no problem with rain- although I desperately need some rain gear- but snow scares me, especially with Jack on the back- I feel so responsible and nervous. I hope that after a full year of riding, by the time next winter rolls around I will be easily able to deal with it and more confident in my abilities. I always feel like confidence is the most important part- which is why I worry about myself right now- I'm just not confident enough. But that will come with time.
      A seven day, car cramped journey with family might put anyone in a sour mood! Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my family- but that is asking a lot!


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