I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately. I hate it. I also like it. I hate that I like it. You know why I like it? It’s easier. I can lock all my stuff in the trunk. I usually can find a place to park. (Yes, even downtown.) Impulse purchases fit in it. I have air conditioning. Of a sort, the car is 17 years old. The infrastructure is made for it. It’s easy to drive, it’s easy to park in this city. I don’t have to plan routes going around spots where other people may try to kill me. I’m not really afraid of other motorists hitting me, unless they’re in an oversize vehicle. (Again, it is 17 years old. You want to trade paint, go right ahead, I have nothing to lose.) I can wear what I want and not be sweaty when I get somewhere. I can carry my gym clothes, I can go to the mall, I can go for lunch all in one trip and not have to carry everything with me. Also, I fit in. I am sure most of us can identify times when you’ve stepped even fractionally outside cultural norms and felt an immense weight on the back of your neck. I don’t think I know anyone who bikes regularly in this city who hasn’t been met with a diatribe or defensiveness from ordinary drivers.
I hate it. Hot car smell is the worst. I have to go back and move it whenever I meet someone there and we want to go to a second location. It costs a lot of money to maintain. I feel like a lump when I get home, a road-raged lump who hasn’t stretched their legs. You know how you get, when you are avoiding doing a thing that you must do, and you get irritable and bitey and mutinous and you Do Not Want To Do It but at the same time you know you’ll feel better once you’ve done it? (I was brought up with a strong Protestant ethic which wars continually with my strong procrastination ethic.) Anyway, this is me, driving. I hate that it’s easy and I hate that I’m doing a lot of it. If you want to ask me why I’m killing the planet etc. etc. and voice out loud the thousands of criticisms I am already replaying on a loop in my head, please do so on Twitter so I can tell you publicly it’s for health reasons, health reasons that are sadly aggravated by cycling at this juncture.
However. I have lived in this city since 2002. In that time my transportation profile has morphed wildly. Mode choice is not inevitable; it is not fate; and it is subject to change. There were several cycling summers where we used the car maybe once a week between April and October (the year we got the cargo bike was especially gratifying.) I had two years where I roller-bladed almost everywhere, and in my spare time between classes. In first year university I didn’t start taking the bus until well into my first year here, my previous experiences with buses being the large yellow rural kind that have only one route.
I know enough about bikes now to intimidate some people, but I can assure you I didn’t express the faintest interest in getting to know bicycles from 2002 to about 2008. I had an old, entirely too large mountain bike that I oiled with chainsaw oil and locked up with a $15 cable lock. I rode it on the sidewalk with grocery bags hanging off the handlebars, despite having a very good rear rack. I did this for six years! Six years. I had other priorities (boys, mostly, and Smirnoff Ice, although if my parents are reading this, school.)
People would ask me how I biked to work every day. It was quite easy, I didn’t decide every morning. When I wake up and start to negotiate with myself things like how I am going to work, or even if I am going to work, I have already lost. I get up and I go. This is how I started biking to work regularly. I missed the bus and was late. So I got on my bike and went. Then I just kept doing it. This also applies to things like going to the gym or flossing my teeth. I negotiate, and all is lost. I skipped an awful lot of class in university (hi Mom) by not realizing this about myself. Deciding every time whether I have to do a routine thing exhausts my willpower. So I make it non-negotiable, which frees up decision-making bandwidth for whether I should get sour jujubes or peanut M&M’s.
I really would like to live to see the day where you can just bike somewhere here and nobody comments on it. Sometimes when I cycle or take the bus to meet someone I’ll gloss politely over the fact of how I got there, because I am tired of the pessimistic bromides. In the end it doesn’t really matter what I am using, I am just a person trying to get somewhere. In a reasonably non-sweaty fashion.