Friday, June 6, 2014

Taking the Lane: Places to be, people to see, things to do! Getting it all done on my bicycle!

I have been car-free for quite some time now, coming up on nearly 5 years. I often wonder how I lived life with a car. Whenever I borrow someones car to carry something "heavy" or awkward home I regret it. When I did have a car it was constantly ticketed, towed, and then died. And that is where my life by bicycle began.

I was half-way through my college career in Iowa City. I was mainly walking and using the bus lines, but I had an awesome bike. A Surly Long Haul Trucker, that I neglected to ride for probably a year. Once I moved out of the dorms and was living off campus I was faced with the issue of getting to class and work. I tried the car thing, and as mentioned before it did not work out. The car died and I was almost forced to use my bike.

It was scary at first. I vividly remember my first ride, flat tires, sidewalk riding, and a sweaty backpack were the highlights. But I continued on, and slowly I found others who commuted by bicycle.  I learned the lingo, the proper way to lock up my bicycle, and how to carry my things using a milk crate strapped to a rear rack. There were a couple days of wet shoes and grease on the pant leg, but I persisted. This was a new lifestyle and my understanding was that this was just how it was going to be. I couldn't afford a car, and relying on public transportation in Iowa just wasn't going to cut it.

Slowly but surely I started meeting others who commuted by bicycle. I became a member of the Iowa City Bike Library and got first hand experience changing flat tires and lubing chains, among other things. They answered a million questions and I felt more confident on my bike every single day.

Purple is my favorite color...

I also joined the local triathlon club and started doing longer road bike rides, gaining more fitness. This also helped me feel safer and like I could hold my own on the road. I also started investing in proper lights and started investigating more back roads and neighborhood routes. I learned about planning my ride and pre-thinking the safest routes to my destinations. It also helped that I now had people to bounce ideas off of.

You can go anywhere!!!
Finally my second year of commuting I invested just around $700 into a commuter bike that I wanted. Outfitted with a generator light, a rear rack, a Brooks saddle, fenders, and every color of the rainbow I finally had a bike I loved. I also acquired a job at Jimmy John's delivering sandwiches on said bicycle. I racked up nearly 4,000 miles around the streets of Iowa City.

 Let's just say that commuting was the easy part of my day. In all honesty commuting has become the best and easiest part of my day. I get to zone out, breathe the fresh air, and take my time. My commute has become one of the only parts of my day that is my own, no phone calls to answer, no emails to read. Simple and easy, the commute can be easy to over think. The best advice I have ever gotten is to keep going. There are going to be good times and bad, but you will never be stuck sitting on your butt in a car. You will be using that butt to pedal yourself so many places, to the store, the library, or just to the park.  I now participate in many different kinds of cycling, but I will always consider a commuter and will preach just how important that commute is to the other types of cycling I do. It makes me stronger physically and mentally! You should see just how dorky my wet weather clothing is..and I will flaunt that outfit all over the grocery store. Whether you are walking a flat home or going 4 miles a hour up a giant hill, you will get there eventually if you really want to be there!

Even in the snow, I have places to be!


  1. Enjoyed reading your story, happy pedaling.

  2. I hope you're enjoying biking around Iowa! I guess you can thank the car for dying on you. At least you got to meet different people and see different places. The photos you took look great. Anyway, I hope that nothing is delaying you from getting your car fixed. Better get it repaired, at least for emergencies. Take care, Andrea. All the best! :)

    Felicia Simmons @ Brandon Auto Repair