Hurricane Ike, gas prices, downward economy – there just isn’t a lot of good news lately. Since I can’t control the news or the weather or the economy, I am at least trying to control how much of my income goes to fueling my car. Thankfully, I have the option of a flex schedule, which means nine hour workdays, but every other Friday off, translating into 60 miles less per two weeks. It may not sound like a lot, but it does all add up and make a difference, especially when I’m driving around 275 miles per week. Instead of filling up my car’s gas tank every week, I can go every eight days or so.
I’ve decided to ride my bicycle whenever possible. Sadly, this is not possible for the grocery store because I do not own one of those buggies for children that attach to the bike. (Someday I will!) However, I can easily ride my bike to the coffee shop, post office, and the bank. And I have been. For the record, I could walk, but I’m not a fan of walking; it’s either running or biking for me. And once again, the environment and preservation go hand in hand.
Mail: Riding to the post office is a much better option than driving for many reasons. 1) It takes the same amount of time due to the speed limit downtown, yield signs and trying to find a parking spot; hence it’s quick and easy. 2) I can just park on the sidewalk and lock my bike. Yes, I lock it because I’m paranoid that someone will steal it even though I’m in the building for about two minutes. Yet, on Friday, as I’m locking up my bike, someone parks his car, leaves it running and dashes into the post office. No one else was in the car. Huh? That was one of those I live in a small town moments. I’m still locking my bike.
Coffee: After the post office, I got back on my bike and headed to the coffee shop. Feeling extra environmentally friendly, I brought along my travel coffee mug. Once before I had seen a fellow customer fill up his mug rather than use the store bought cup. I figured that I could at least ask. To my surprise, the coffee shop worker was more than happy to allow me to fill up my travel mug. And an even better surprise: it only cost me $1.00 for a large 16oz coffee (my travel mug is 16oz.) Normally, coffee is $1.25 for a 12oz and $1.50 for a 16oz. This happens to be the cheapest and the best tasting coffee in town. I’m not sure how much it would cost if my mug were more than 16oz, but I’m sure it would still be cheaper than buying coffee and a cup.
The other exciting part about this coffee discovery was the fact that my coffee mug handle fits perfectly over the handlebars on my bike and it will not spill a drop because it is the superwoman of coffee mugs (it’s pink, by the way.) This convenience allows for my coffee to stay warm longer, for me to save money and trees, and for me to ride my bike rather than walking to the coffee shop. (Also, I don’t look like a dangerous fool trying to hold my coffee mug and steer my bicycle without dying.) Moral of this adventure: bring your own coffee mug and get one that fits over handlebars or in your water bottle holder!
ATM: Today I decided that after riding to the post office, I would continue the extra .75 miles to the bank so I could deposit a check. If it were during business hours, I probably would have gone inside the bank, but rarely do I make it there before 5pm. Thus, I figured that I could use the ATM. I got in line behind two cars and waited my turn, thinking about how much gas I was saving, how much pollution I may have inadvertently breathed in, and how I felt slightly awkward at a drive through ATM on my bike. But really, close enough. Motorcycles can go to ATMs, so why not bicycles. I continued to feel awkward as someone pulled in behind me, but this person was gracious enough to keep his car at fair distance. When it was my turn I rode up to the ATM and went about the usual business. It was nothing out of the ordinary. I think I’ll do that more often and get over the weirdness, which has to be just a societal construction anyway.
Biking notes: Saturday I repeated the mail-coffee routine but added in the farmer’s market. My best advice is to ride with some form of backpack so there isn’t anything swinging at your wheels. Most importantly, I obey traffic laws as if I were driving a car and pay extra attention since I know that people aren’t expecting me to be in certain places. Granted, I do have the advantage of living in a small town with a 25-35 mph speed limit downtown, one way streets, and a cycling population, but I still have to be careful. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to bike places, but if you do, you should try it. One more thing, I ride a mountain bike around town, not a road bike because I’m not confident enough to clip in and out of pedals whenever necessary. Being able to put my feet on the ground at a moment’s notice and not fall off my bike is much more comforting.
Here’s to using my bicycle for errands! I’ll see what I can come up with next.