Note: I always wear a helmet when I ride my bike! I didn’t put one on when posing for this picture. (which was taken in the middle of the day for this blog post, not while riding)
Know of a bike commuter with a great story to tell? Email Jessica at email@example.com.
It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but it finally happened. I finally biked to work! It only took six months of working at the bike coalition before I thought, “hey, it’s time!”
That’s a bit of an oversimplification of things, to be honest.
I moved to San Jose from Los Angeles in April to start my job at SVBC. While my boyfriend warned me that my new place didn’t have great bike infrastructure nearby, I ignored him and thought I’d find a way to bike to work anyways.
Without giving away the finer details of where I live, it looked like I would have to take Santa Clara Street in San Jose for two miles to get to work. For those of you familiar with Downtown San Jose, you know that Santa Clara is a stressful place to ride a bike and in fact, the City’s preference is to discourage people from riding on this road. (Read more about that here.) I ended up taking the bus to work (thanks, VTA!) and figured after a few weeks I’d find the bike route that was just right for me and start my journey as a bike commuter.
Yet after six months of taking the bus to work every day, I still wasn’t riding my bike. I was riding on weekends and with friends—and even with colleagues for work—but still hadn’t gathered the courage to ride to work.
What finally got me to do it was a few good kicks in the butt.
Two weeks ago, I found myself in a bike shop thinking about how much I’d like an upright bike to commute on. And then I thought to myself, “How can I justify dropping so much money on a bike when I don’t even ride the one I have?” I walked out of the store empty-handed.
The next week I told myself every day, “I’m going to ride my bike to work next week.” I wasn’t sure if I believed myself, but I knew I had to try. I told my boyfriend, I told my friends, and I told my coworker’s dog that I would ride to work. Then, fate intervened.
I stopped by our Executive Director Shiloh’s office to chat about an upcoming ride, the POW! WOW! mural ride hosted by POW! WOW! San Jose, which highlights beautiful murals downtown. She encouraged me to go on the ride with a stern “Jessica, it’s really not that far” and I decided to take the plunge. I might as well, right?
The ride highlighted some of the infrastructure in downtown San Jose. I knew about the Better BikewaySJ project and had seen the changes outside of our office, but I hadn’t put my wheels on them. It was just my luck that the ride passed by the SVBC office and I saw all the different ways I could get to work from my house.
There are bike boulevards with low traffic and low speed limits. There are traffic diverters that make clear which streets are for cars and which are for bikes. There are glorious green bike lanes. I felt safe exploring downtown with a crowd, and I felt confident I could make the trek on my own.
So on Monday, I geared up and hopped on my bike. It just felt right to be in the crisp morning air. As I cruised down my street, I waved to my neighbors and said hi to one of the neighborhood dogs. I passed by a mural highlighted on the POW! WOW! Ride. I remembered one of the many things I love about biking—the slow, human speed of rolling through a neighborhood and seeing new things.
I’d brought my bus pass in case I wanted to ride home, but I quickly realized that the ride was shorter than I expected and I could definitely do it again. It doesn’t hurt that bike commuting is 20 minutes faster than my bus ride.
The next morning, I woke up eager, energized, and excited to ride to work again. One ride is all it took.
What I’ve learned is this: If you’re thinking about riding your bike to work, just do it. Today is the perfect day to start. And if you have a friend who wants to start riding, take them on a slow, snoozy cruise through their neighborhood or around their office. Practicing with a friend is a great confidence-booster for many riders.
Thank you to my coworkers, my friends, and the POW! WOW! ride for kickstarting my journey as a bike commuter!