I’ve lived in Fort Collins for just over a decade now. In that time I have never owned a car. In that time I have also never worked in Fort Collins. Both jobs I’ve commuted to over these years have been in Loveland, and between a few different residences and a couple of workplaces, I’ve been able to count on a 12-15 mile one-way commute twice a day, 5 or 6 days a week.
Everyone you tell that you’re an all season commuter asks the same well-meaning questions, so here’s a quick FAQ:
1. You didn’t really ride today, in this?
If I’m here, the bike is here.
2. What about when it’s cold?
If you can dress to ski/board, you can dress for just about any weather conditions a Colorado commute can throw at you.
3. What about sweating up your clothes before work?
This one is a little tricky and has a few different answers depending on your circumstances. In my case, I have my own office and I can close the door and change when I get there. Sweat, by itself, doesn’t smell. It’s just that the places we sweat the most are the warm dark places where bacteria that cause B.O. like to grow, so commonsense good hygiene (shower right before leaving the house, change out of damp base layers as soon as I get to work) give me some confidence that I’m not offending my coworkers.
Chances are your commute would be shorter than mine and you could probably afford to ride slowly enough to avoid building up much of a sweat. There’s also choice of materials, which is its own article, but the short version is avoid cotton and use wool and fancy wicking materials as much as possible.
4. What about traffic and cars?
This is one I’ve been grappling with lately. The death of Fort Collins cyclist Ernesto Wiedenbrug, who was hit and left to die by a driver who later received a plea deal for an astonishingly light sentence, occurred on my commute route. He died on a stretch of frontage road south of town that doesn’t usually see a lot of traffic, where there is now a roadside memorial that reminds me daily of the bias our legal system has against cyclists and in favor of drivers. It makes me feel helpless and angry and vulnerable in a way I never used to. If you ever want to murder someone in the US and get away with it, run them over in a car and toss a bike next to the body. Not only will you get off, but the article about will mention that your victim wasn’t wearing a helmet and the comments will rant about how it was their fault.
The good news is Northern Colorado is one of the areas in the country where cyclists are getting organized and speaking up and trying to change the bias, by asserting our rights, educating the public, and holding other cyclists accountable for bad citizenship. It’s gonna be–to put it mildly–a long haul.
We’ve also got more bike lanes and multi-use paths, and more bike-friendly businesses and safe drivers than most of the US. It’s a good place to be a cyclist and a great time to be here.
And in my case, in what’s gotta be well over 80,000 miles by now, my most serious commuting incident in all those years was slamming into a delivery van that cut me off coming out of a driveway. Still kicking myself I didn’t let the company’s risk department make me an offer. I was working at a hospital at that point, so I straightened my handlebars, did a quick tooth check, and rode straight to work, locked up the bike and told my boss I needed to run to the ER real quick. They immobilized my shoulder for a couple of weeks but nothing was broken.
Scared? Don’t be. My commute is my gym membership, my therapy session, my antidepressant, my yoga, my meditation. It’s my buffer between the stresses of work and the sanctuary of home. And sometimes vice versa.
The truth is, not everyone’s lifestyle is suitable for bike commuting. There are some circumstances that rule it out, but not many. And most of our excuses have solutions that are easier than we might have thought, if we’re serious about it.
If you’re interested but concerned or unsure, feel free to drop me a line at NoCoCyclingEvents@gmail.com with your questions.