Whenever my friends learn that I’ve been commuting via bike, most of the time, I’m met with a perplexed face and a resounding, “Why?”
“It’s really hot out there. Don’t you sweat like crazy?”
“The reckless drivers are going to kill you.”
“The road smoke and dust doesn’t bother you?”
“What happens when it rains?”
Most of the time, I respond by lamenting against our insane car culture, our general lack of physical exercise, how it is faster to bike, how much more convenient it is, how it is safer than you think, etc. etc. etc.
But the simple truth is, I bike because I enjoy it. I look for any excuse to get out there. The other day, the wife wanted dinner from Matias which was only a few kilometers away, so I volunteered to pick up the food. My commute back and forth was less than 15 minutes. If you’ve ever tried to visit Matias on a weekday in the middle of dinner, you know how it can be a hassle to drive there. You need to brave the traffic on the way there, then navigate the crowded intersection, and finally look for a parking spot. With the bike, I was in and out. Simple easy and fast.
That said, I can’t use the bike everywhere. There are still many instances when using a car is much more convenient.
So here are my rules for when to bike and when to drive.
If it’s a reasonable distance, bike.
Most of my commute is to a construction site in Minglanilla. That’s about twenty kilometers per way. That’s too far for my ability. On the other hand, the rest of my commute is only a few kilometers away. Work at the office? Bike. Buy something at the corner store? Bike. Withdraw cash at the bank? Bike. Play basketball at the gym? Bike. Easy peasy.
If it’s one destination, bike.
Most of us go to one destination every day. Then we stay there the whole day and then go back home. For many people, biking to one destination isn’t so bad. You might get a little sweaty, but then that just means you bring an extra shirt and maybe take an alcohol bath while at work. This isn’t an unheard of solution. Here’s an excerpt from an article that came out two years ago in GMA News called On two wheels: Biking in Metro Manila.
“For corporate employees, the dress code is a concern, but nothing that can’t be dealt with. ‘You’re supposed to be an executive and look all nice and spiffy. But sometimes leather shoes don’t work well with bikes. So you have to redefine the corporate image. Instead of leather shoes, I wear leather boots, something more comfortable. I just learned to wear an undershirt, change clothes, get to work earlier and take an alcohol bath,’ Oliver says.
It requires some adjusting, but the benefits are more than worth it. ‘If we’re talking about practicality, the argument in favor of biking writes itself — you avoid the traffic, you don’t have to spend anything for gas or parking, and you sneak in some cardio while you’re at it,’ Amanda says when asked how she would encourage others to bike.” – On Two Wheels
If I’m carrying stuff that is too much for a bag, drive.
Sometimes there’s no way around it. A car is especially useful for bringing things around. This is especially true when I have to haul construction material to Minglanilla. Gallons of paint and sacks of cement are impossible on a bike.
If I’m the only passenger, bike.
It frustrates me when I hear drivers talk about how motorcycles or jeepneys cause traffic. Next time you are stuck in traffic, look around. Most of the vehicles stuck with you are private vehicles. Most of these vehicles take up space that could fit four people, but many of them are carrying one person. I’m guessing that the number of people in private vehicles take up a vast majority of the road area compared to people on motorcycles or jeepneys. Look at the jeepney next to you, how many people are in there? How much space is the jeepney taking? How many people are in the private cars? Look at the motorcycle, how much space does it take?
Bikers do their part to ease traffic simply by taking up less space.
Have you ever seen this photo?
If the family is all going out with me, drive.
I’ve got a family of four. The other three don’t bike… yet.
If I want to exercise, bike.
In today’s modern lifestyle, we can go through a whole day without moving our body. The typical work day for most people is wake up, walk to the car, drive to work, park, walk to the cubicle, sit down. There’s hardly any movement there. The human body was not made to stay still in front of a computer in a cubicle. Back in the stone ages, we were moving much much more. We used to crouch, run, climb and hunt for our food. We used to do a lot more physical activity than we do now. The lack of physical activity is one of the main causes for many of the ailments we complain about, like coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer, and even depression. Bike because it is good for you.
If I want freedom, bike.
One of the most gratifying feelings about biking is the ability to go anywhere anytime. It’s refreshing to go out of our neighborhood, hit the streets, and explore. A few years ago, there was one lazy Sunday afternoon at our house. No one was doing anything. I was bored and needed to get out. This was before I got into biking. So I wandered to the backyard and saw a beat up old bike. I decided to give it a go. I ended up biking all the way to the Cansaga Bay Bridge. I marveled at the beautiful scenery, the water, the boats, and the horizon. Under the bridge, I discovered a group of skater kids trying out tricks. I sat there for a good thirty minutes just watching them do their thing. The bicycle made an otherwise boring day into a day of adventure and freedom.
If it rains, drive.
Singing in the rain, fun. Biking in the rain, sucks.
If I want to be happy, bike.
“Every time I’m on a bike, I smile.” – Anthony Desnick
In the Ted Talk by Anthony Desnick called The Amazing Way Bicycles Change You, he ends by gushing about how a bike makes him feel. It’s impossible to be sad on a bike. That feeling is real. There’s no other way for me to explain it, even if the bike conditions in Cebu are less than ideal, I always enjoy my experience. It makes me happy. That alone is worth as much time on a bike as I can afford.