A Challenge

I have been writing about and promoting the annual Bicycle Commute Challenge for years without much of a response. We usually have about 5-10 people sign up and some percentage of those who actually ride their bikes to work in September. I would guess many people are like me in that they like the idea of bicycle commuting but find the reality to be more challenging.

Here are the best reasons I can think of at the moment to keep doing it:

  1. I need more exercise.
  2. I need to lose weight.
  3. The President just visited a glacier in Alaska that, unlike me, is shrinking.
  4. Troy has taken the time to organize our team in addition to riding his bike a trillion miles or so, and I would be embarrassed to wimp out after all his effort.
  5. I continue to believe I should set a good example, despite the fact so few have followed it over the years.
  6. I watched a movie last night that showed a future where all our coastal cities are under water. I particularly like Newport and Boston.
  7. We need rain, and my decision to start riding to work has apparently ended the drought.
  8. Gas tax revenue is not keeping pace with the need for funds to maintain our streets. I will do my bit to preserve pavement.
  9. I can now legally run some red lights and stop signs.
  10. I have an emotional bond to the bike I purchased nearly ten years ago from Stan Smith, and I want to get my money’s worth out of it.

I do not mean to make light of the climate change issue; and regardless of how anyone feels about it, I think most of us would agree that reducing automobile emissions benefits the environment and our health. Unfortunately, riding a bike feels more dangerous now than it did when I first took the challenge a few years ago.

Mortality rates for cyclists have risen dramatically in the United States over the past 30 years, and Oregon ranks eighth among the top ten most dangerous states. The death of a friend who was killed while riding his bike this year also contributed to my unease. I assume the reason for the increase in deaths and for Oregon’s ranking is an increase in the number of cyclists. The rates in the recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study are based on population, not miles ridden. http://www.cdc.gov/MMWR/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6431a1.htm.

Raising safety concerns is just a reminder to me and all of us who are participating in this year’s Challenge to ride with caution. I am using a reflective vest and, of course, always wear a good helmet.

I will also continue to stop at most red lights and stop signs, even though cyclists now have some greater latitude. I would prefer my last words not be something like, “But it was legal.”