Saturday, March 11, 2006


I receive a fair amount of email from other cyclers who'd like to give up the car or at least go as "car-lite" as possible. About 1/10th of the time the obstacle is "roads too dangerous." About 4/10ths of the time the problem is a long, difficult commute. Surely there are impossible cases, but most of the time those 5/10ths of the obstacles can be overcome. At worst, it may be time for a move. This leaves the other 5/10ths of the cases: wife/husband/partner is not willing to give up the car.

Having had only 3 years of experience, I'm in no position to act as marriage counselor. My typical response is something like "There are many more important things in life than being carfree, and a spouse/partner is way closer to the top of that list!" That said, living without a car in the US is a huge experience, and I really can't imagine not sharing it with Rachel. Helmets off to those of you who live the carfree/car-lite half of a marriage.

When we first went carfree for a winter about 3 years ago, Rachel had only ridden in traffic for about 6 months. I remember one of our first outings--Super Bowl Sunday--during a fiercely cold night with blowing snow everywhere. Challenging conditions for anyone. Rachel noticed how the streetlights glowed through the snow swirls. She gave a big laugh at an intersection as we accelerated easily, quietly, while the truck next to us spun itself in a slow, helpless circle.

She's had falls that would make grown men whimper, but she's always back on the bike the next day. This winter, she slid out on an icy curve in traffic. Seeing a car sliding toward her, she yanked her bike out of the way and then comforted the frightened driver, who had been following too closely and only saw Rachel and the bike disappearing behind her hood. They hugged and Rachel rode on in to work.

Rachel is my bicycling hero. While I worried, she took living carfree in stride. She transitioned from practically zero bicycling to the most graceful cycler I've ever seen. No one spins as effortlessly through 3 miles of rush hour traffic, carrying a basket full of gear, and then shows up looking like nothing happened. Messengers maybe, but they don't wear skirts and heels. Rachel commutes on her bike year-round in all weather, rides home in the middle of the night after performing at the local theter, and generally makes it all look fun and easy. I love bicycling, but I sometimes complain and hem and haw about equipment, or the cold, or the wind. Rachel just rides.

I hope to get Rachel to write some guest columns here to share her commuting secrets. I'm too proud to ask her directly, and maybe I can read them here and show up places looking less like a hobo. Yeah, maybe.


Anonymous TG said...

nice posting, nice pix!

10:57 AM  
Blogger gC said...

Nice post, Joe. I am one of those 1oths who wishes he could do the commute thing. Alas, I have a 50 mile one way commute. Oh well. I enjoy reading your posts. Keep up the good work and safe commuting!

7:10 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Woohoo, Rachel! Nice ode, Joe. :)

1:44 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home