John setting out on a recreational bike ride
Although many people support recreational bicycle trails, bicycle commuting is the important sustainability goal.
Recreational bicycle paths are often located in areas where people strap their bike to the car, get to the recreational destination, bicycle, put their bicycle back on the car, then drive home.
Bicycling is a great recreational activity, but this isn't strictly the goal!
Even in snowy Central New York, before he retired, John bicycled to work almost every day. His only restrictions were that it be over 20° and that it not be raining.
Bicycling to work in winter
A different problem was that in winter the days were short, so it got dark before he could get home. On those days, he would bicycle to work, then put the bike on the front of the bus (each bus can hold two bicycles).
Our city doesn't have an extensive bicycle commuting system yet, so he had to choose his route carefully to avoid traffic hazards.
Other practical matters: He kept two suits in his office at work and had them cleaned downtown. He carried his lunch and clean underwear in his backpack. He also joined the YMCA downtown so he would have access to showers.
Also, note that he has fastened his trouser leg with fluorescent velcro straps for added visibility at dusk and to keep his pant legs from getting caught.
And he keeps a small can of pepper spray for any dogs who don't like fast-moving objects.
Bicycling is great exercise
The result of this commuting? He saved fossil fuel energy, but also many miles avoided on the car and therefore saving money on gas as well as car maintenance.
Another bonus: It didn't take much more time to bicycle to work than it would have taken to drive, so it was free exercise in terms of time spent. Besides, he enjoyed his commute. He arrived at work relaxed and alert, and he burned off any stress accumulated by his stressful job on his way home.
The beginning of a long journey
Bicycle travel doesn't have to be short distances. After graduation from college, our son put his bike on the train, got off in North Dakota and bicycled to his Cob Cottage workshop in southern Oregon. (This turned out to be against the wind going across the Rocky Mountains, so it was more of a challenge than most bike rides.)
The next year, he bicycled from Central New York to our daughter's home in North Carolina.
This is not all that unusual. While at the train station on his first adventure, we spoke to a family who were also putting their bicycles on the train to have a long-distance adventure of their own.
All the safety gear
Our grandson is starting his bicycling with all the safety equipment and rules.
John's pet peeve is bicyclists riding on the side of the road against traffic, rather than with it. He also notes all those bicyclists who don't wear helmets. Seems pretty foolish.
In general, he follows all the traffic rules that cars follow.
What a difference a few years make! When our daughter was learning to ride a bike, no one thought of wearing helmets.
A hybrid bike-car
John tries out the ELF
Since we participated as a backer in Organic Transit's Kickstarter project, John had the opportunity to test-drive a prototype of this bike-car hybrid.
You can pedal this as a bike or use the power assist, powered by solar. And of course, you're protected from the weather. There's also a truck version.
A sign in Durham
Cities are beginning to realize that a citizen on a bicycle is just as entitled to use public roads as a citizen in a car. Bike lanes and signage are important.
John is on a citizen's committee in Syracuse working with the county transportation board advocating for more bicycle routes.
A protion of the American Tobacco Trail
John loves bicycling on the American Tobacco Trail when we visit our children in Durham, NC. It's a lengthy trail (a rails-to-trails project), much of which is devoted to car-free activities.
Another section of the American Tobacco Trail
Sections that intersect with cars are well-marked. (Note the bicyclist on the other side of the trail behind the car.)
Part of the ATT trail goes through natural areas
This part of the ATT trail is similar to the roads John rides in Central New York, BUT it's dedicated to non-automobile use, making it much more pleasant to use.