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A week without a car: Day One

By rmyers
Tuesday, December 12th, 2006 at 9:33 am in Randy Myers.

The pounding rain woke me up at 3:30 in the morning. What had I gotten my fool self into???? My first day without the gas guzzler looked like it would be a real doozy.

Monday night I stayed up late to catch the weather on TV: Showers, the weatherman promised; rain overnight, then tapering off to showers in the a.m. Back to meterology school for you, pal.


Randy Myers arrives at newsroomI suited up in astrobright yellow rain gear that made me resemble the offspring of Big Bird.

I made lunch, grabbed some DVDs to drop off at the video store and hopped on my bike. The time: 7:33 a.m.

Juggling the video camera to chronicle this lunacy, I took those slick corners carefully and then skidded to the front of the video store. Only a few folks were out and about on College Avenue in Berkeley. Those who were milling about stared at me like I was a canary-yellow crazy man.

I arrived to Rockridge BART around 8 and introduced myself to this really cool Oakland commuter on the platform. He’s been biking to work to Walnut Creek for more than 5 years.

I told him about my mission and he said something like “You picked quite the day to start.” No kidding.

He scrutinized my attire and recognized I was a novice to this no-car thing. He proceeded to dispense with helpful tips. I HAD to get some some “fenders,” he said. Note to self: Google “fenders” after filing this entry to find out what in the heck they are.

I had my first near accident as I was boarding BART, my front tire nearly getting jammed in the closing doors. Focus, focus.

I snatched my bike from the trap and waited – with a hint of wounded pride – for the next Concord-bound train.

I found only four or so other drowsy types on it. They weren’t in the communicative mood; one was snoozin’, one chatted quietly on her cellphone, one tuned the world out via her IPOD, and another man avoided all eye contact with me. Must have been the neon yellow.

I arrived at Pleasant Hill BART quite soggy and cold. I beelined to the Iron Horse Trail just as the rain intensified. It was quiet and serene , the water rising along the path.

Randy Myers arrives at newsroomOnly a few others were on Iron Horse: a determined jogger, two lovebirds holding hands and a man bundled up and walking with a sense of purpose. But the one who stood out was the man pushing around a grocery cart on Bancroft. He was homeless and cold; all of his belongings crammed in a car. I had on the right gear, and this poor guy was just struggling to survive. Doesn’t seem right.

I arrived at work just before 9, even logging on before my editor.

I hope the weather behaves better this evening. But I gotta admit I had a great time riding my bike in the rain. It reminded me of being a kid once again.

By the way, my commute normally takes about 30 minutes.

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  • JDB

    Due to my irresponsibility, I also am now going with out a car for the next year. Ironically enough, My commute is from PHill Bart to Rockridge. I start next monday so I look forward to reading your blog and will add any tips of my own as I learn my commute thru trial and error! I do about fenders though…it save you from having a stripe of mud and snail guts going up your back!

  • sarah

    Great insight & congrats! However, you’re lucky you were on the Pittsburg train where bikes are allowed at the time you travel.

    Unfortunately, I think more people would commute by Bart (like me) if they were allowed to take their bikes during commute hours into the City (or even into Oakland). Have you seen how much folding bikes are? (dahon.com) My question is why do we have to shell out another $500 if we already have a perfecly good bike that’s usable? Or can people afford to have one bike each for work, road & mountain?

    Have fun & good luck the rest of the week!

  • Chris

    Welcome to my world! I’ve been commuting to work by bike (weather permitting) since 1991. Most of the time, it’s a great wake-me-up, and generates enough endorphins to get the morning off to a good start.

    By the way, I’m originally from Minnesota, and there you could see cyclists out all year round, even in the dead of winter. But not me. Biking is supposed to be *fun*, after all.

    There’s many good reasons to bike to work (health, economics, environment, traffic), but really, the only reason to do it is for the pleasure and satisfaction of being outside exerting oneself.

    I got really wet this morning too! I hope the weather lightens up a bit.