Posts Tagged ‘ city living

Identity Crisis

Though I suffered a bit of a hiccup in the last couple months before moving, I managed to carve out at least a decently earned reputation as someone who spent the past two years biking to work (at least when I medically could). And it was most certainly earned when I spent enough time to accrue roughly 4,000 miles on my bike, though, in fairness, a lot of that was because of trips to Stillwater or Prescott or wherever else you’d be amazed you can actually reach on a bike with a strange minimum of road riding. I spent a lot of time on my bike, going to work, going to shows, even going to a Thanksgiving one year (good way to work off what you eat). But the biggest part of that identity was that I was a bike commuter, whether I really was that much or not.

Reputations have a habit of sticking with you once you develop them. We all know that. So even when I was barely riding the past couple months due to, well, the chaos of trying to plan a cross-country move that I didn’t necessarily think was realistically going to occur when I applied for the job, I still got a lot of questions about whether I biked that day, where to park a bike at the WFHM campus, and such. Not that these were unwelcome, mind you. I’d rather have the reputation of a bike commuter than a lot of other things, even if I didn’t feel like I was earning it all that well recently.

And now that I’m here in San Francisco, I’m barely earning it at all. Sure, I have biked to work, but it takes almost the same amount of time it took me to go 11 miles in the Twin Cities just to go slightly over 5. Bike infrastructure here could, uh, how do I say this politely…use some work? Rolling down Valencia is all fine and well, and depending on the time of day, Market’s okay, but it can also feel like a death trap as you dodge myriad other bikes in various states of attention, pedestrians, runners, buses, cars, taxis, and whatever other deathtraps MUNI can throw at you. It’s really taxing to ride here. And that’s not even getting into the hills.

Of course, some of the greater length is also just simple geography. I knew it was hilly here. But where I’m currently staying? Let’s just say the view is nice, and the climb is possible, but not the most thrilling in the world. Plus, there’s a stop sign or light every couple blocks, and short of the bike lane on Valencia being timed, I haven’t had a whole lot of luck hitting any of that stuff at a time where it’s nearly as quick as rolling down Summit was most mornings. But hey, at least there’s bike parking in the garage under my building…just don’t leave the bike overnight or you might not see it again. Not because of theft, but because of the garage rules. I’m not sure I want to test that one out, either.

But the final problem is just that BART is so easy. And it lets me do things I haven’t been doing nearly enough of recently, like read! It’s actually kind of nice to just stand on the train for 20 minutes a day and flip through a book. Of course, I’m not getting exercise other than the incessant walking that this city inspires all of us to do. But the real kicker of taking BART is that it’s really easy, not all that expensive, and not time-consuming. Or at least not any more time consuming than any other way I’d get to work, and as opposed to wondering who might hit me, I just hop on, hop off, and roll down Montgomery. I want to keep being a bike commuter in the one sense that it’s cheaper and easier. But there’s something to be said for the ease of good public transit.

Some of it may change. I may ultimately decide no matter what the troubles that bike commuting is still just a nice way to go. Probably not quite the same level of exercise it was before just by simple virtue that it’s a shorter ride, but still something that’s better for me. Because if I’m not doing it then, I’m gonna have to remember to carve out time to exercise. The converse is I’m going to have to carve out time again to keep reading if I want to keep that up.

Perhaps, though, I’ve just reached a point where I’m no longer much of a bike commuter to work. We all look at things as immutable in the sense that we believe we are going to do our regular activities at some unchanging pace. You think because you do something every Thursday that you will keep doing it every Thursday. And then you don’t. And then it’s like it never happened. Things fill in the other spaces in our lives so quickly. It doesn’t mean I won’t miss being a bike commuter if I suddenly find that I’m really never doing it to anything anymore. I will. But there will also be justifiable reasons, and I will fill things in around it. I’ll figure something else to do to get the endorphin rush, whether that’s as simple as running more or making time for longer evening and weekend bike rides once again. Perhaps, though, after a little more getting used to the city, I’ll realize that is how I want to get around, because I’ll be wanting to hit things up that aren’t easily done on the BART and it’ll give me greater flexibility. I shall see. For now, though, I hang up my mantle as a bike commuter and hope to pick it up again one of these days. It joins a collection of a lot of other things still hanging in that same place that I thought I might pick up again some day. Might be time to go through those again, see which still fit, and whether it’s time to pull any of them out again. Like any wardrobe, some pieces are done after a short while, but some, you just need to put away for a bit to appreciate.

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