Friday, May 7, 2010

good for me, good for you

What's the best way to relieve the stress of your day, reconnect with nature, and squeeze in a little bit of exercise between work and the rest of your life? What's the best way to see a new part of your neighborhood you didn't know existed? What's the best way to notice the small details of life for once? What's the best way to reduce your carbon footprint, support your local economy, and help protect our air quality? Active transportation - biking and walking - comes with all of these benefits. It's easier, faster, and more convenient than you think. It doesn't have to involve scary things like spandex biking uniforms, clipless cycling shoes, or Camelbaks. And the best part? It's not just good for the world around you, the environment, the community - it's really good for you, too.

I am an occasional bicycle commuter, riding approximately two miles from my home in West Asheville to my office on Leicester Highway whenever I can get the stars aligned enough to do so. I am not an avid cyclist - no cycling uniform, no clipless shoes. I get nervous on group rides. I climb hills slowly, in the easiest gear possible, checking out the flowers and trying not to worry about how hard it is to breathe sometimes. The great thing I've discovered about bike commuting is that, for a little bit of effort and planning, I get a great return. Working full-time and balancing all of the responsibilities of life often leaves me feeling like there is no time for myself. Bike commuting feels like a little indulgence, a tiny piece of my day carved out just for me. The bonus is that the benefits of doing it extend beyond to my life to the world around me. How better can one spend 40 minutes a day?

My bike commute begins in my West Asheville neighborhood, riding along quiet residential streets, enjoying the emerging spring flowers and picking up landscaping tips along the way. There's a short stint on Haywood Road, which is busy but wide enough to feel comfortable even on busy mornings and afternoons. Next up is a long, relaxing, easy downhill ride - not so relaxing and easy on the way home, of course. Then I have another brief climb through the woods on a rarely traveled side road, which opens up into a beautiful, rolling hayfield. Would you believe that between West Asheville and Leicester Highway, there's a bucolic, fence-lined scene like this?

Next it's back through more suburban development and a bit of narrow, more heavily traveled Old County Home Road to make things interesting. Pass the brown and white horse, climb one more big hill, and I'm there.

The return trip is just as nice - the birds singing, the smell of fresh cut grass, the high trees above, the brown and white horse. The azaleas in bloom right now are magnificent. By the time I turn onto my street, I've had 20 minutes of sun, fresh air, and exercise to wash away any stress left from the office. I can turn my attention to other things, time with family, making dinner, walking the dogs. Riding up my street, past the corner house with the amazing flowers, the sounds of piano lessons floating out of the open windows of my house, I know bike commuting isn't just a good thing to do for the world - it's really good for me, too.