This year marks my 10th year of year-round bicycle commuting. By a rough estimation, that means I’ve probably ridden around the Earth (just shy of 25,000 miles) going to and from work in Seattle.
Typically when I tell people this I’m met with some form of these questions: “Why? Isn’t that really dangerous? Aren’t you scared of getting hit?”
Fair questions. I had to ask myself them today as I rode in 30 degree weather to the office and had one of my closer calls as a driver rolled through his stop sign on a neighborhood greenway while I must have been in his blindspot. We both braked hard, and my front wheel came to a stop within a few inches of his bumper with my heart rate elevated.
Speaking of which, that’s why I ride—to get my heart points. By bicycle commuting, I get 90 minutes of exercise at least four days a week. It has gotten to the point where not bicycling comes with a host of side effects: trouble falling asleep, restless legs, and feeling crummy.
So yes, bicycle commuting is risky. But like anything, you can manage your risk. I wear high visibility safety gear, use bright headlights and taillights, and ride a meandering route to utilize bicycle infrastructure and avoid traffic or bad intersections.
Meanwhile people in the U.S. are 16 times more likely to die from heart disease than a motor vehicle collision, 72 percent of adults are overweight, only 24 percent get enough exercise, and “sitting is the new smoking.”
Bicycle commuting is my way of managing those health risks and enjoying the mental health benefits of exercise. This morning I just grinned and waved at the driver who almost hit me.
As I rode away, I heard him roll down his window, groan and call out, “Man, I absolutely apologize!” Stay classy, sir.
To another 10 years of pedaling.