If I hadn’t been so exhausted from lack of sleep, I would have stayed awake last night, haunted by my guilty conscience.
I confess. I’m a Bike to Work Day fraud.
Yesterday, in addition to failing to post, I misled numerous bicycle advocates, my newspapaper colleagues and my family into believing that I was living up to the spirit of the observance.
A front. That’s all it was. A front designed to experience the day from the perspective of a participant so I could write about it., make my colleagues feel guilty for not biking and scam a free ride on the Oakland-Alameda Ferry.
But the scam was on me. I got to experience most of the downsides (except maybe the sweating and exhaustion) and barely any of the upsides (except the camaraderie of the Bicycle Mafia).
The downsides were many.
First, there was the danger: As I left my Central Valley home at 5:30 a.m., I immediately noticed that my chain had come off, as it does frequently on the $69 models. I can sometimes fix this while pedaling and adjusting the front derailleur. This time, my sleepy attempt put me on a collision course with the mirror of my neighbor’s full-sized pickup. I won’t even begin to complain about the sunburn.
Then, there was the embarrassment: Expecting to be one with my bicycling brothers and sisters on the 6th floor of the Tribune Tower in Oakland, I was a revolution of one in shorts and a London Underground T-shirt that has been washed too many times for one who doesn’t bike much.
To his credit, East Bay Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Robert Raburn (a cycling deity if ever there was one) sported a tux yesterday, partly to convince people that they don’t have to dress down to ride to work. I’m not so convinced that I’d feel comfortable at work in a sweaty shirt and tie, however. Hats off to upper-echelon cyclists who have a shower and a place to hang up their suits at work.
And of course, there was the time issue. To begin doing my job, I had to catch the ferry at 8 a.m. With a 67-mile commute, I felt compelled to take the Capitol Corridor (Amtrak) train all the way to Jack London Square, which left me about three blocks to ride in the actual area I write about. As fate would have it, however, I failed to anciticipate the 15-degree temperature difference between the Bay shore and Central Valley, so I pedaled like a madman 14 blocks to my office, fetched an extra T-shirt and pedaled back.
Time also foiled my attempt to redeem myself at the end of the day. I was to file my story early and pedal 16 miles from Oakland to Richmond to catch my train home. Only I didn’t file until well after 6, forcing me to jump on BART instead. By time I got to the Amtrak station in Richmond, I was so frustrated that I rode my bike to the end of the platform about 20 times until the train came.
At the end of the day, I could still count the 1.5 miles between my house and the train station and the 14-block dash to the office. I felt, however, as if I did my regular commute with a bike along for the ride.
Still, I now know how much my backpack weighs with my XXL-sized laptop (19 lbs.). I also know where the bike rack is in my garage and, thanks to Raburn, the best way to ride to Richmond.
Most of all, I know that despite all of those difficulties, I could make that hour’s ride each way and would be better off for doing it. When that finally happens, I’ll let you know.
And all you first-timers who did it right? I sheepishly salute you.